Dewey and the Double-Movement of Reflection
One of Dewey’s greatest contributions to our conception of reflection is his labeling of this dialectic as the “double movement of reflection.” In his chapter “Systematic Inference: Induction and Deduction,” he describes this double movement as a shuttling between facts and meaning: “There is thus a double movement in all reflection: a movement from the given partial and confused data to a suggested comprehensive (or inclusive) entire situation; and back from this suggested whole—which as suggested is a meaning, and idea—to the particular facts” (79).
The “double movement to and from a meaning” constitutes the fundamental dynamic of reflection (80). The discovery of induction pieces together meaning from facts or data, while the testing of deduction takes conclusions or premises and checks them against the facts or data: “The inductive movement is toward discovery of a binding principle; the deductive toward its testing—confirming, refuting, modifying it on the basis of its capacity to interpret isolated details into a unified experience” (82). Judgment remains crucial to this double-movement of reflective thinking, both at the level of selecting and making sense of facts and at the level of assessing how well this larger understanding fits back with the facts. Genuine judgment, Dewey believes, involves the weighing of facts and the withholding of conclusions until they have been thoroughly examined. Discussing his understanding about the importance of judgment, he states: “But if the meaning suggested is held in suspense, pending examination and inquiry, there is true judgment. We stop and think, we de-fer conclusions in order to in-fer more thoroughly” (108). Thinking that shortcuts the resolution of the perplexity by accepting a suggested meaning without examining it carefully, or that accepts uncritically a dogmatic belief, involves no judgment and for Dewey involves no reflective thinking.