In this excellent read, John Dewey further exploits his concept of "experience" as foundational to human knowledge. Dewey's concept of "experience" represents a breakthrough in empiricism, as "experience" for Dewey is not merely "sense impressions" as it was for earlier empiricists. Dewey's "experience" is an iterative process and thoroughlly embodied; the qualities of each individual experience become functioning parts of one's experience in a larger sense, serving to transform the qualities one will experience under certain conditions in the future. Fot the sake of illustration, consider a child's first experience of fire: it is beautiful, exciting, and enticing, until the child gets burned: then each subsequent experience of fire contains an element of fear and danger, as the previous experience transforms the experiences to come.
Dewey uses this concept of experience to provide a theory he calls "naturalistic empiricism"; a pragmatic theory of knowledge that provides a basis for his later inquiries into knowledge and human experience. His treatment of the ontogeny of knowledge provides a compelling, thoroughly materialistic, and Darwinian account of the development of thinking in the human animal without lapsing into an isolating solipsism or into a fanciful dualism. The prevalence of Hegelian philosophy in Dewey's earlier philosophic work and his training as a psychologist provide him with an eye for solid methodology, a powerful sense of the role of social structure in human thinking, and a talent for synthesis.
Experience and Nature is therefore a profoundly social text as well, where Dewey explores the role that social experience plays in the development of knowledge and communication as human attributes, or more to the point, as human activities. I have found this book to be a profound antidote to the despair and irony in writers such as Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, and Rorty; the meaning and scope of existence is redeemed on an extremely individual level through community and relationships. This book is highly recommended for those with an eye for postmodern philosophy and theories of embodiment (Dewey is frequently compared to Maurice Merleau-Ponty), as it shares much with the hermeneutic tradition, while remaining grounded in a very scientific perspective.