Dewey’s work is peppered with references to the centrality of method (and especially the scientific method). Indeed, his Quest for Certainty includes a chapter titled “The Supremacy of Method.” After lengthy criticism of philosophers’ obsession with metaphysical certainty, he presents the scientific method in salutary contrast.
“A disciplined mind takes delight in the problematic, and cherishes it until a way is found that approves itself upon examination. The questionable becomes an active questioning, a search; desire for the emotion of certitude gives place to quest for the objects by which the obscure and unsettled may be developed into the stable and clear. The scientific attitude may almost be defined as that which is capable of enjoying the doubtful; scientific method is, in one aspect, a technique for making a productive use of doubt by converting it into operations of definite inquiry. No one gets far intellectually who does not “love to think,” and no one loves to think who does not have an interest in problems as such. Being on the alert for problems signifies that mere organic curiosity, the restless disposition to meddle and reach out, has become a truly intellectual curiosity, one that protects a person from hurrying to a conclusion and that induces him to undertake active search for new facts and ideas. Skepticism that is not such a search is as much a personal emotional indulgence as is dogmatism. Attainment of the relatively secure and settled takes place, however, only with respect to specified problematic situations; quest for certainty that is universal, applying to everything, is a compensatory perversion.”
Clearly, Dewey does not believe any method to be sufficiently “supreme” to avoid uncertainty altogether. The scientific method is no exception; quite the opposite. It permits for the sustaining of skepticism without collapsing into paralytic skepticism. It should be noted that this cheerful treatment of uncertainty seriously threatens the all-too-common account of Dewey as a technocratic scientific absolutist.
(Whether or not this equates to Oakeshott’s political “conversation” is another question entirely…a question that I will be wrestling with all afternoon.)