Pragmatism

PHIL 4480/5480. Ohio University, Spring 2022. Thursdays 3:05-5:55pm, Ellis Hall 014.

For my office hours, click the menu on the left.

Course Description

In this course, we discuss American pragmatism in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Our discussion will center on the philosophical issues that animated pragmatism in these periods.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Explain important philosophical questions discussed in the readings.
  2. Explain different positions one might take in response to these questions.
  3. Think critically about and discuss the questions as well as the proposed positions.

This course is at best an introduction to pragmatism, which is an ongoing movement. The readings are selected according to their accessibility and recognized importance (i.e., seen as influential by scholars today). This selection does not mean that other things are unimportant. Indeed, we are leaving out many issues, ideas, and approaches that were important in the past or continue to be important. You are encouraged to explore these other issues in your research project.

Technology Requirements

Depending on the circumstances, this course may be offered online. If it goes online, you will need to have reliable internet and a computer with audio and video capabilities. Regardless of the mode of delivery, you will need to have Microsoft Word (or equivalent) to do assignments.

Course Policies

Note that some of the policies may not apply to this course because there may not be any relevant assignments.

Assignments and Final Grade

In addition to the assigned readings, the following assignments are required for both the undergraduate and graduate students in this seminar:

  1. Regular attendance and participation
  2. Post-seminar reflections
  3. Research project (choose one)
    a. A research paper (3000 words)
    b. An annotated bibliography (3000-5000 words)
    c. A practice-based project (portfolio with a statement or reflection of 1000 words)
  4. A 10-min presentation on your research project (to be scheduled in the last three weeks of the semester)

These assignments will count roughly equally toward the final grade.

Required Readings

All readings will be posted on Blackboard, and you are expected to do the assigned readings before class (see the schedule below).

Most of the readings are collected in the following books, in case you prefer to own hard copies:

  • Charles Sanders Peirce, The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings. Volume 1 (1867–1893). Edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel. Indiana University Press, 1992.
  • John Dewey, The Essential Dewey, Volume 1: Pragmatism, Education, Democracy. Edited by Larry A. Hickman and Thomas M. Alexander. Indiana University Press, 1998.
  • William James, The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.
  • William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.
    Note: The scholarly edition of James’s writings is The Works of William James published by Harvard University Press. The Harvard edition of The Will to Believe was published in 1979, but you can also find the Longmans, Green first edition from Dover Publications.) The Harvard edition of Pragmatism is in paperback (combined with The Meaning of Truth), and there is also a cheaper Hackett edition of Pragmatism. James’s writings are also available freely online (e.g., at Project Gutenberg), but they are not suitable for our purposes.
  • Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics. With an Introduction by Charlene Haddock Seigfried. University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Schedule of Topics

All readings listed are required, and they will be available on Blackboard. You are expected to have done the reading before each class. The approximate number of pages is indicated in the brackets [ ]. Some readings are long, and to read them quickly, first try to read for positions rather than arguments.

Week 1 (1/13): Philosophy in the United States in the 1800s

  • Stern, “Nineteenth-century philosophy” (1998), Sections 1–3 [7]
  • Stone and Alderwick, “Introduction to nineteenth-century British and American women philosophers” (2021) [13]
  • Kuklick, A History of Philosophy in America (2001), Ch. 6 (pp. 97–110) [13]

Week 2 (1/20): Peirce on Descartes

  • Descartes, Discourse on the Method (1637), parts 1–4. [20]
  • Peirce, “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities” (1868) [27]

Week 3 (1/27): Peirce on Berkeley and Realism

  • Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), Part I, Sections 1–7; 16–20. [5]
  • Peirce, “Fraser’s The Works of George Berkeley” (1871) [25]

Week 4 (2/3): Peirce’s Pragmatism

  • Peirce, “The Fixation of Belief” (1877) [12]
  • Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” (1878) [17]
  • Peirce, “The Doctrine of Chances” (1878; skip section V) [8]

Week 5 (2/10): Empiricism and James’s Psychology

  • Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sections 2–3 [8]
  • James, The Principles of Psychology (1890), Ch. IX: The Stream of Thought (pp. 219–262) [43]

Week 6 (2/17): James’s Psychology, Ontology, and Radical Empiricism

  • James, The Principles of Psychology (1890), Ch. IX: The Stream of Thought (pp. 262–278) [16]
  • James, “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” (1904) (pp. 477–486; rest optional) [9]
  • James, “A World of Pure Experience” (1904) (pp. 533–541; rest optional) [8]

Week 7 (2/24): James’s Essays

  • James, “The Dilemma of Determinism” (1884) [26]
  • James, “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” (1891) [21]

Week 8 (3/3): James’s Essays

  • James, “The Will to Believe” (1896) [20]
  • James, Pragmatism (1907), “Lecture 1: The Present Dilemma in Philosophy” and “Lecture 2: What Pragmatism Means.” [35]

Week 9: Spring Break: 3/6–3/12

Week 10 (3/17): Development of Dewey’s Philosophy

  • Dewey, The Essential Dewey, Volume 1 (hereafter ED1), “The Development of American Pragmatism” (1925) (ED1: 3–13) [10]
  • Dewey, “From Absolutism to Experimentalism” (1930) (ED1: 14–21) [7]
  • Dewey, Psychology (1887), Ch. 5, Section 1, “Knowledge as Self-Development” (pp. 156–158) [2]
  • Dewey, “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” (1896) [14]

Week 11 (3/24): Dewey’s Pragmatism I

  • Dewey, “The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy” (1909) (ED1: 39–45) [6]
  • Dewey, “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy” (1917) (ED1: 46–70; skip 57–61) [20]
  • Dewey, “Nature, Life and Body-Mind” (1925) (ED1: 134–139 and 148) [6]

Week 12 (3/31): Dewey’s Pragmatism II

  • Dewey, “Philosophy and Democracy” (1919) (ED1: 71–78) [7]
  • Dewey, “The Inclusive Philosophic Idea” (1928) (ED1: 308–315) [7]
  • Dewey, “Democracy is Radical” (1937) (ED1: 337–339) [2]
  • Dewey, “Creative Democracy—The Task Before Us” (1939) (ED1: 340–343) [3]

Week 13 (4/7): Addams I

  • Seigfried, Introduction to the Illinois Edition of Jane Addams’s Democracy and Social Ethics [26]
  • Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (1902), Introduction and Ch. 1

Week 14 (4/14): Addams II

  • Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (1902), Ch. 2 and 6
  • TBD

Week 15 (4/21)

TBD

Thursday, April 28: Research Project due by the end of the day