Although John Dewey believed there was an "esthetic" component to all "vital" experiences, he also held there was something unique to aesthetic experience per se:
. . .The most elaborate philosophic or scientific inquiry and the most ambitious industrial or political enterprise has, when its different ingredients constitue an integral experience, esthetic quality. For then its varied parts are linked to one another, and do not merely succeed one another. And the parts through their experienced linkage move toward a consummation and close, not merely to cessation in time. This consummation, moreover, does not wait in consciousness for the whole undertaking to be finished. It is anticipated throughout and is recurrently savored with special intensity.
Nevertheless, the experiences in question are dominantly intellectual or practical, rather than distinctively esthetic, because of the interest and purpose that initiate and control them. In an intellectual experience, the conclusion has value on its own account. It can be extracted as a formula or as a "truth" and can be used in its independent entirety as a factor and guide in other inquiries. In a work of art there is no such single self-sufficient deposit. The end, the terminus, is significant not by itself but as the integration of the parts. It has no other existence. A drama or novel is not the final sentence, even if the characters are disposed of as living happily ever after. . . . (Art as Experience, Perigree, p.55)
"Philosophic or scientific inquiry" does enable the kind of dynamic, fully aware and integrated experience that Dewey values and that does have, precisely because it is dynamic, an aesthetic character. The artist is no more "alive" at his work than the philosopher or the scientist (or the engineer or the scholar). But the work done by the artist does have a different character, at least in its subsequent use-value. When the philosopher and scientist have completed their work (to the extent it can be completed), the "conclusion" is literally at issue--for the work to be valuable, the "truth" that results must be "extracted" to be used in subsequent inquiry. The "parts through their experienced linkage" no longer matter, however much they were "recurrently savored" while the work was ongoing. Only the conclusion retains significance for other scientists and scholars.
No such "truth" emerges from the creation and experience of art. The experience itself is all. "The end, the terminus, is significant not by itself but as the integration of the parts. It has no other existence." The "end" of the experience--and with fiction, this means the "end" of the work as well--means returning to the beginning, and to the middle, and to the end again. It means "the integration of the parts" both to complete and enhance the experience and to continue the process of re-creating the work which is the reader's part of the job in producing an aesthetic experience. The reader who settles for "the end"--whether this involves accepting "happily ever after" or the solution of the crime as the "truth" of the work, its reason for being--has not had an aesthetic experience, is in practice denying the existence of the aesthetic where fiction is concerned. If a work of fiction is to be taken as art, the conclusion of the story "has no other existence" except as the remaining piece to be integrated into the whole.
"A drama or novel is not the final sentence. . ." Ultimately Dewey is questioning the dominance of "story" in fiction. To the extent that story encourages us to ignore the "experienced linkage" of narrative parts, to read headlong for that "cessation in time" when the story reaches its fulfillment and offers up its until then concealed "truth," precisely to that extent is story actually the enemy of art in fiction. This is not to say that story must be eliminated in the name of art--probably there is a point beyond which the abandonment of story in its most rudimentary sense (the sense that something is happening) would mean abandoning "fiction" as a meaningful part of the conjoined term "prose fiction." But it is to say that story should be understood as merely the vehicle the writer of fiction moves on to produce more encompassing aesthetic effects, to provoke the reader into an aesthetic experience that transcends the formulaic appeal of storytelling.