Phil  333 Sec. 01                     American Philosophy                       MWF 10-10:50      SCI 112

Prof. David Vessey                                                                             Office Hours: MWF 11-12 (caf)                                                                                         MW 1-2:30 (office)

                                                                                                and by appointment


In this course we will be reading the works of a group of philosophers who saw themselves as doing explicitly American philosophy, that is, philosophy that embodies the ethos and intellectual values of the United States.  The main philosophers we will read will be the American Pragmatists Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Pragmatism remains the only uniquely American philosophy, even thought it was influenced by nineteenth century German philosophy and, especially, Darwin.  In addition we will read to thinkers who tried to apply pragmatism to the central social issues of the day: William James' student W.E.B DuBois, and John Dewey's collaborator (and Chicago's own) Jane Addams. Finally we will look at three thinkers who are reviving the main themes of pragmatism as a critique of contemporary philosophical practice, Richard Rorty, Richard Bernstein, and Hilary Putnam.


This will be a discussion based course with lectures filling in the background necessary for the evaluation of the readings. To facilitate discussions, there will be weekly two-page papers (double-spaced, 12pt. Times/New Roman, 1" margins) due every Monday. Since these papers are to facilitate discussion there is no point in handing them in late. The papers will be graded A, B, C, F and only the highest seven grades will be counted in the final grade. The focus of the course is a larger research paper (8 pages) a presentation draft of which is due the Monday before Thanksgiving break. For this paper everyone will pick an issue or figure in American pragmatism of particular interest to him/her. In keeping with the emphasis on discussion, the student will formally present the paper and we will discuss these papers as a class for the last two weeks of the course. A revision of the paper based on the class comments is due at the time of the final exam. The typo policy applies to all graded, written work. As a minimum standard for university level writing, all work submitted for a grade should be well proofread and must be one's own work. For every four typos the grade will be lowered one step (i.e. A- to B+); typos include spelling errors, grammatical errors, improper use of gendered pronouns, and failure to properly reference quotations. Failure to properly reference is different from plagiarizing. Plagiarism is a sign that one has so lost track of their proper role as a student that there is no point in them continuing in the class (much less in college) at this point in their lives. Finally since discussion is the focus of the class (and discussions can not be made up if missed) attendance and participation are central parts of the grade for the class. It is always expected that the student will have read and digested the material before coming to class and will come to class with a hard copy of the reading to refer to during discussion. The daily attendance and participation grade is: F-Absent; D-Present but unprepared (either not having read it, not having brought it to class, or both); C-Present, prepared, but not participating in discussion; B-Present and participating in discussion; A-Present and significantly contributing to discussion.


Grade Breakdown:

Attendance and Participation: 25%

Weekly Papers:                       35%

Presentation:                            10%

Presentation Draft:                  10%

Final Research Paper:             20%


1. Mon. Aug. 29         Introductions


2. Wed. Aug. 31          Emerson          "Self-Reliance"


3. Fri. Sept. 2              Emerson          "Experience"

                                    Paper 1 Due



Mon. Sept. 5               No Class/Labor Day


4. Wed. Sept. 7            Dewey             "Philosophy and Civilization"


5. Fri. Sept. 9              Emerson          "American Scholar"



6. Mon. Sept. 12         Peirce              "The Fixation of Belief"

                                    Paper 2 Due


7. Wed. Sept. 14          Peirce              "How to Make our Ideas Clear"


8. Fri. Sept. 16            Peirce              "What Pragmatism Is"



9. Mon. Sept. 19         Peirce              "Pragmaticism"

                                    Paper 3 Due


10. Wed. Sept. 21        James              "The Self"


11. Fri. Sept. 23          James              "Stream of Thought"



12. Mon. Sept. 26       James              "Dilemma of Determinism"

                                    Paper 4 Due


13. Wed. Sept. 28        James              "What Pragmatism Means"


14. Fri. Sept. 30          James              "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth"



15. Mon. Oct. 3           James              "Will to Believe"

                                    Paper 5 Due


16. Wed. Oct. 5           James              "Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"


17. Fri. Oct. 7              James              "Conclusion" Varieties of Religious Experience



18. Mon. Oct. 10         James              "The World of Pure Experience"

                                    Paper 6 Due


19. Wed. Oct. 12         Dewey            "The Reflex Arc Concept in Philosophy"


20. Fri. Oct. 14            Dewey             "Does Reality Posses Practical Character?"



21. Mon. Oct. 17         Dewey             "The Pattern of Inquiry"

                                    Paper 7 Due


22. Wed. Oct. 19         Dewey             "Having an Experience"


23. Fri. Oct. 21            Dewey             No Class



24. Mon. Oct. 24         Dewey             "Aims in Education", "Natural Development and Social

Efficiency as Aims"

                                    Paper 8 Due


25. Wed. Oct 26          Dewey             "Search for the Great Community"


26. Fri. Oct 28             Dewey             "I Believe", "Creative Democracy—The Task Before Us"



27. Mon. Oct 31          DuBois            Souls of Black Folk, Chp. 1

                                    Research Paper Proposal Due


28. Wed. Nov. 2          DuBois            Souls of Black Folk, Chps.2 & 3


29. Fri. Nov. 4            DuBois            "Souls of White Folk"



30. Mon. Nov. 7         Addams           Long Road of Women's Memory, Chps 1, 2 & 6

                                    Paper 9 Due


31. Wed. Nov. 9          Addams           "Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements"; "The Objective

 Value of Social Settlements"


32. Fri. Nov. 11          Addams           "Charitable Effort"



33. Mon. Nov. 14       Addams           "A Modern Lear"

                                    Paper 10 Due


34. Wed. Nov. 16        Rorty               "Pragmatism, Relativism, Irrationalism"


35. Fri. Nov. 18          Rorty               "Solidarity and Objectivity"   



36. Mon. Nov. 21       Bernstein         "Pragmatism, Pluralism, and the Healing of Wounds"

                                    Research Paper Due


37. Wed. Nov. 23        Putnam            "Pragmatism and the Contemporary Debate"






38. Mon. Nov. 28       Presentations


39. Wed. Nov. 30        Presentations


40. Fri. Dec. 2             Presentations



41. Mon. Dec. 5          Presentations


42. Wed. Dec. 7          Presentations


43. Fri. Dec. 9             Presentations



44. Mon. Dec. 12        Conclusions and Evaluations