David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy


PHIL 4101-001/PHIL 5101-001/HUM & SSC 5101-001

Dr. David Hildebrand
Fall 2011, MW 2:00- 3:15 P.M.
Honi Haber Library, Plaza M-108

Description: Perhaps the three most important questions for our nation of immigrants have been: Who are we? What do we believe? Should we accept the views of our forefathers? In addressing these questions, American philosophers have both accepted and rejected their intellectual heritage. In their most critical moments, American philosophers argue that philosophy must reassert itself as an active, constructive, and ethical force in human life. Doing this means shaking and breaking many traditional philosophical distinctions including those between: mind and body, fact and value, appearance and reality, self and society, probability and certainty, and language and world. This course will survey the classic philosophical themes developed and sustained by prominent 19th and 20th century philosophers, with a focus upon American Pragmatism. We'll begin right away with classical American Pragmatism (including Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey) and proceed to look at how these major thinkers' pragmatic themes both influenced and were echoed by a range of 20th century thinkers including Rorty, Putnam, West, Quine, and others.

Course Objectives: Ideally, by the end of this course students should gain the following skills:

Familiarization. Gain a good sense of what is at stake in issues of course.
Comprehension. Be able to comprehend the arguments offered by various philosophers.
Critical analysis. Be able to criticize those arguments by pointing out where they lack evidence, make an unreasonable leap, hold a false assumption, etc.
Demonstration of the above through writing.
Verbalization. Be able to summarize and criticize a philosophical position, without notes, using your own words.
Conversation and Debate. Be able to discuss issues in a focused and informed way with others in the class. This will involve listening closely to their points, then responding in a way that moves the discussion ahead.

Required Texts
: Available at bookstore and, if you desire, online (see, for example, http://used.addall.com). If you buy your book online, make sure (1) that it is the correct edition, and (2) that you have it in time for class. 

1.     William James, Pragmatism (Hackett, 978-0915145058)
2.     John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (Beacon Press; enlarged edition, 1971; ISBN: 978-0807015858)
3.     Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (Penguin)
4.     Robert Talisse and Scott Aikin, eds. The Pragmatism Reader (Princeton University Press)


  1. Hildebrand, David. Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld, 2008)
  2. Hildebrand, David L., Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists by (Vanderbilt U. Press, 2003), ISBN: 0826514278

Online. Occasionally there will be readings or resources at one of the following places:             


Blackboard/Website: There are two online sites related to this course. Familiarize yourself with them right away. Both will offer you access to information about the course such as study questions, announcements, grades, extra credit assignments.

  1. The first and most important one is our course Blackboard site: https://blackboard.cuonline.edu. On this page are INSTRUCTIONS TO ENROLL. Please make sure you enroll right at the beginning of the class.
  2. The second site is my home page at http://www.davidhildebrand.org. Here there are a variety of general study tips and resources in philosophy.

Readings: It is expected that you have done the readings before we discuss them. As you read, copy out important points and questions you have onto a separate sheet of paper. (These will help you with your short reflection papers.) You may also want to note problem passages (e.g., with a "?" or "Q.") in your text as you read. These are good points for class discussion. You should come to each class able to discuss the main issues of the reading and you could be asked during class to present the main points to the class. If I find people are not prepared, I will start giving quizzes to test basic understanding. Your well-prepared participation is crucial for a successful class. Please see the tips section of my website.

Very important: please set aside about 10 minutes shortly before class to look back over (skim-review) the readings and whatever you have written for that day.

Course Requirements/Evaluation:   Maximum points possible: 1000 points

(1) Participation/presentation/quizzes                                   200 points or 20%                 
(2) Short Writings (10 total)                                              150 points or 15%
(3) Exam #1       max: (1000-1500 words)                           300 points or 30% (due Oct. 10 in class)
(4) Take home exam #2:

  • graduate students: 2500-3250 words                 350 points or 35% (due: NOON, 12/13, phil. department office)
  • undergraduate students: 1500-2000 words 35%  (due: NOON, 5/12, phil. department office)

Graduate students: besides the different length exams for exam #2, expectations will be set at a higher level than undergraduates. If you have questions about this, please let me know.

Grades: There are 1000 possible points for this class. I use the plus/minus system. An "A" will be a body of work achieving at or above 930 points; an "A-" will be 900-929 points; a "B+" is 870-899 points, etc. Values for those letters, as well as the policies regarding other grades such as Incomplete, are available in the CU Academic Policies and Regulations section of the handbook. I have set out my standards of what a grade means on my FAQ section of my website.

Attendance: Attendance is required. Two unexcused absences over the course of the semester are permitted without penalty. Each additional absence will lower your final course grade, approximately 30 points per absence. (E.g., having a total three unexcused absences would lower a cumulative 900 point course average by 30 points to 870—effectively a reduction from an A- to a B+—and so forth. An excusable absence is a medical illness or emergency that is completely unavoidable. It is the student's responsibility to talk to me about excusable absences ASAP after the absence.

(1) Participation/Presentation/Quizzes: Course participation grades are not automatic. They are based on oral contributions to the collective learning experience of the class as a whole in terms of asking pertinent questions, answering questions correctly or, at least, provocatively, making insightful observations, and offering other meaningful expressions of interest in the material that help encourage learning. Shyness is not an excuse—oral participation is part of your evaluation. There will be ample opportunity for active and well prepared participation, which I value.

I will measure your participation by a variety of components: informed dialogue, presentation of your short papers in class, participation in any group work, and your performance on any quizzes. It is possible, but not certain, that there will be comprehension quizzes given during the semester. These may be given in class or online. The point of them is to help give you a "reality check" on how well you're understanding significant issues in the class. Poor performance on quizzes will subtract from your final grade.

Important: part of this grade will be determined by your presentation of your short writings (see below): when called upon in class, you must demonstrate that you know what you wrote and why you wrote it; in other words, show clarity of thought, effective communication, and ability to field questions on your paper will all contribute to the participation portion of your grade. (I suggest looking over your short papers briefly before class to prepare.)

(2) Short Writings (10 total) The purpose of these assignments is to help you clarify your understanding of the readings and to help you think critically about the issues. Follow these instructions carefully, please.

What to write on short/critical reaction papers:

  • Short papers should be: one-page, typewritten reactions or questions about some specific issue which you find compelling in the readings. Your paper must not simply sum up the reading or repeat points made there. (I.e., no book reports, please.) Rather, you must try to raise a question or discuss some original insight. You may use these papers to demonstrate your application of a concept/idea in the readings to an experience you have making or experiencing art, but the connection to the reading must be significant (and not a mere "jumping off" point. See the website link "Writing short, critical papers" for further hints about how to write a good paper.
  • The first paragraph should state in 1-2 sentences a summary of what the paper is about.
  • Only papers written on a reading or topic that will be discussed in the class immediately coming up are acceptable.

When to write short papers:

  • You must do 10 critical papers total and you may not hand in more than one paper on the same date. FIVE papers must be done by the course midpoint. Students who have not done 5 papers by this point will only be permitted to do 5 more papers.
  • You must come to class for a paper to be accepted.

Grading on short papers

  • Grade: This will be a "graded" assignment only in a loose sense; in other words it will be either S-satisfactory (full credit or 15 points) or U-unsatisfactory (half credit or 7.5 points). A zero (0) will be awarded if nothing (or next to nothing) is turned in.
  • TWO MAKE-UPS: If you get a Unsatisfactory on up to two papers, you may revise and resubmit them. The old grade will be dropped in favor of the revised paper's grade.

(3) Longer Exams: There will be two longer exams required for this class. They will likely be take home, but may contain an in class portion. They will likely contain a mixture of shorter and longer parts, as well as objective and essay formats. NO late exams without prior and absolutely justified permission. You may email me at any time to discuss your progress on ALL papers/assignments or we can discuss them in office hours. Only hard/paper copies will be accepted. I will not print out papers for you nor accept electronic copies as a way of meeting the deadline.

Plagiarism/ Academic Dishonesty Plagiarism is a form of stealing. It occurs when an author uses the words or ideas of others as if they were the author's own original thought. (It may include word-for-word copying, interspersing one's own words with another's, paraphrasing, inventing or counterfeiting sources, submitting another's work as one's own, neglecting quotation marks on material that is otherwise acknowledged.) Plagiarism is often unintentional. It can be avoided by always acknowledging one's debt to others by citing the exact source of a quotation or paraphrase. Since plagiarism is such a serious violation of academic honesty, the penalty for it will be an automatic F for this course.

Academic dishonesty is the intentional disregard of course or university rules. This may include (but is not limited to) collaborating with others when rules forbid or using sources/experts not permitted by an assignment. The CU handbook has a more complete description of plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Access, Disability, Communication: The University of Colorado Denver  is committed to providing reasonable accommodation and access to programs and services to persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities who want academic accommodations must register with Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 177 Arts Building, 303-556-3450, TTY 303-556-4766, FAX 303-556-2074. I will be happy to provide approved accommodations, once you provide me with a copy of DRS's letter. [DRS requires students to provide current and adequate documentation of their disabilities. Once a student has registered with DRS, DRS will review the documentation and assess the student's request for academic accommodations in light of the documentation. DRS will then provide the student with a letter indicating which academic accommodations have been approved.]

Students called for military duty: If you are a student in the military with the potential of being called to military service and /or training during the course of the semester, you are encouraged to contact your school/college Associate Dean or Advising Office immediately.

Course Communication: In addition to announcements made and written handouts distributed in class, I may need to contact you between classes, which I'll do through individual and group email messages. One of the requirements for this course is that you maintain an email address, check it regularly for messages, be sure it is working, and let me know if you change your email address. You are responsible for any messages, including assignments and schedule changes, I send you via email. You also may contact me via email, in addition to seeing me during office hours or calling me.

Civility and Technology: Turn off beepers and cell phones during class. Text messaging, web surfing, and other electronic distractions may result in expulsion from class and will be counted as an absence and against the class "participation" grade. Students who are speaking deserve your attention and respect as much as I do. Listen to one another. Adherence to the Student Conduct Code is expected.

Contact Information and Office Hours

Phone : 303-556-8558
E-mail: hilde@yahoo.com;                       
Website: http://davidhildebrand.org
Office: Plaza M108
Hours MW 10—11 a.m. or by appointment.
Purpose of office hours: I strongly encourage you to participate by dropping by during office hours. We can talk about the class readings and lectures, exams and papers, your progress, or just philosophy in general. Note: If you are a student with a disability, I will make myself available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations. Before accommodations will be made, you may be required to provide documentation. Students with disabilities will be accommodated. Students with disabilities are required to register disabilities with the UCD Disability Services Office, and are responsible for requesting reasonable accommodations at the beginning of the term.

NOTE: All course requirements subject to change at discretion of the instructor. 

Course Schedule (a rough guide—you will  need to keep track of where exactly we are)


Readings and Assignments

Suggested background reading and/or focal questions

22 Mo



24 We

Charles Peirce, “The Fixation of Belief”

Recommended reading over next 6 weeks or so:

  • de Waal, chapter 4, 5 from On Peirce ONLINE
  • Pihlström "Peirce's Place in the Pragmatist Tradition" from Cambridge Companion to Peirce, PDF ONLINE

29 Mo

Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”


31 We

William James, Pragmatism, Ch 1       

Suggested: John McDermott "James: Person Processand the Risk of Belief", PDF ONLINE




5 Mo



7 We

James, Pragmatism, Ch 2


12 Mo

James, Pragmatism, Ch 3, 4


14 We

James, Pragmatism, Ch 6, 7


19 Mo

John Dewey, Reconstruction, Ch 1


Recommended: Hildebrand, Chapter, "Introduction," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, 2008) ONLINE; draft of Hildebrand's Dewey chapter for Cambridge Companion to Pragmatism, ONLINE

21 We

Dewey, Reconstruction, Chapters 2, 3


Recommended: Hildebrand, Chapter, "Inquiry," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, 2008) ONLINE

26 Mo

Dewey, Reconstruction, Chapters 4, 5

Recommended: Hildebrand, Chapter, "Experience," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, 2008)




28 We

Dewey, Reconstruction, Chapter 6

Take home exam questions available

3 Mo

Dewey, Reconstruction, Chapters 7, 8

Recommended: Hildebrand, "Morality," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, 2008)

5 We

Richard Rorty, Social Hope, Ch 2


10 Mo

Rorty, Social Hope, Ch 3

Take home exam due in class.

12 We


Rorty, Social Hope, Ch 4

Course mid-point; 5 short papers should be done by now.

17 Mo

C. I. Lewis “A Pragmatic Conception of the A Priori”


19 We

Nelson Goodman, “The New Riddle of Induction”


24 Mo

W.V.O. Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”


26 We

Quine, “Natural Kinds”


31 Mo

Quine, “On What There Is”






2 We

Rudolf Carnap, “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology”


7 Mo

Hilary Putnam, “Meaning and Reference”


9 We

Donald Davidson, “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”


14 Mo

Huw Price, “Truth as Convenient Friction”


16 We

Cheryl Misak, “Making Disagreement Matter”


21/23 Mo/We



28 Mo

James, “The Will to Believe””


30 We

Rorty, Social Hope, Ch 11; Cornel West, “Dispensing with Metaphysics in Religious thought


5 Mo

Dewey, “Creative Democracy”; Sidney Hook, “The Democratic Way of Life”





7 We

Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy”


12 Mo




Last updated Aug 12, 2011 02:40:PM