David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy



PHIL 4101-001/PHIL 5101-001

Fall 2017, T 5:30 - 7:50 P.M. 

Plaza M108: Haber Library




Dr. David Hildebrand




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 a little background (Thoreau, Emerson, Descartes) then move into classical American Pragmatism (including Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey) before looking at Richard Rorty’s neopragmatism and developments which combine pragmatism with analytic philosophy and with feminism.

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. Comprehend the arguments offered by various philosophers.
Critical analysis. 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. 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 Physical 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. POW: Pragmatism and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by William James (Author), Giles Gunn (Editor, Introduction) ISBN-10: 0140437355 | ISBN-13: 978-0140437355
  2. RIP: Reconstruction in Philosophy by John Dewey (Beacon Press; enlarged edition, 1971; ISBN: 978-0807015858)
  3. PSH: Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty (Penguin)


Required Online Texts: Readings and resources will be posted on CANVAS.

  1. UCD Canvas site https://ucdenver.instructure.com (CANVAS) 



Recommended Physical Texts:

  1. Dewey: A Beginner's Guide by David Hildebrand (Oneworld, 2008) [A general introduction to Dewey’s major areas.]
  1. For those interested in neopragmatism, especially: Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists by David Hildebrand (Vanderbilt U. Press, 2003), ISBN: 0826514278 [An analysis and critical contrast of Dewey's philosophy of knowledge and reality with those of of both Dewey's philosophy as well as neopragmatists Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam.]


Recommended Online Texts: will be posted on Canvas.


Canvas/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 Canvas site: https://ucdenver.instructure.com/. On this page are LOGIN INSTRUCTIONS. 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 (active/coherent engagement in class discussion): 200 points or 20%

(2) Short Writings (see below; 8 total; 1st 4 done by end of class on 10/31) 150 points or 15%

(3) Exam #1 (pre-structured take home essay, due 10/31 in class) 300 points or 30% 

(4) Exam #2 (similar to midterm; due by NOON, 12/9) 350 points or 35%

  • graduate students: Exam length: 2500-3250 words
  • undergraduate students: Exam length: 1500-2000 words 


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. Because each class is equal to a week of material, only one unexcused absence over the course of the semester is permitted without penalty. Each additional absence will lower your final course grade, approximately 60 points per absence. (E.g., having a total two unexcused absences would lower a cumulative 900 point course average by 60 points [because the first absence is “free”] to 840—effectively a reduction from an A- to a B — and then each additional absence would take 60 more points off. And so on.) 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.


(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 (8 total — first 4 done by end of class on 10/31) 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 8 critical papers total and you may not hand in more than one paper on the same date. FOUR papers must be done by the course midpoint, Oct. 31. Students who have not done 4 papers by this point will only be permitted to do 4 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 by the end of the first or second deadlines.
  • 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, phone (303) 315-3510, fax (303) 315-3515. 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 : 303-315-7218 Canvas course site: ucdenver.instructure.com

E-mail:david.hildebrand@ucdenver.edu Additional website: davidhildebrand.org

Office: Plaza M108 Hours T/Th 2 - 4 p.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 of Readings and Assignments 

(A rough guide—I will update you in class and on Canvas as to where exactly we are)





Readings and Assignments

  • ONLINE = found on Canvas
  • POW = Pragmatism and Other Writings
  • RIP = Reconstruction in Philosophy
  • PSH = Philosophy and Social Hope

Notes/Themes for the Day



Suggested pre-class assignments: 

(a) WATCH: lecture by Richard Bernstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtc2SdIWErc 

(b) READ: Thoreau, “Walking” [ONLINE]

(c) READ: Emerson, “The American Scholar” [ONLINE]


Suggested pre-class assignment: Watch lecture by Richard Bernstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtc2SdIWErc [ONLINE]

Famous essay by Thoreau reflecting about how we relate to nature, society, and ourselves; the lecture by R.W. Emerson is effectively a declaration of intellectual independence from European forebears.



(a) Descartes Meditations 1-3, [ONLINE]

(b) Handout: “Cartesian Doctrines Peirce Rejected” [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:———————

(c) Anderson, “Peirce and Cartesian Rationalism” [ONLINE]

(d) Peirce: “Some Consequences” [ONLINE]

The Cartesian Foe. We will begin by examining key sections of DescartesMeditations as well as Peirce’s attack on this approach to philosophy. Especially targeted is the reliance on individualistic introspection (as an adequate method for gaining knowledge of mental states) and the claim that certain knowledge can be founded upon the “intuitive” knowledge such a method supposedly provides.

Peirce v. Descartes. Peirce’s sustained attack on Cartesianism. Note: The Peirce paper is a very difficult; read the Anderson and skim Peirce to gauge his general attack on Cartesianism and leave it at that. As one might expect, these writings are not purely critical; present here are Peirce’s early views regarding scientific method, reality, and his claim that all thoughts are signs.



(a) Peirce: “The Fixation of Belief” [ONLINE]

Recommended: Hookway, “Peirce and Scepticism,” Chapter 1 to Pragmatic Maxim book. [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:———————

(b) Peirce: “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” [ONLINE]


* Pihlström "Peirce's Place in the Pragmatist Tradition" from Cambridge Companion to Peirce, [ONLINE] 

* Peirce 1897 “Autobiographical note.” [ONLINE]

Peirce. Peirce’s positive answer to Descartes regarding the proper method for finding knowledge, or “fixing belief” results in his pragmatic principle. This principle is presented as a way to clarify the meaning not only of scientific concepts, but of philosophical ones (“truth”, “reality”) as well. In direct opposition to the correspondence (or “spectator”) view of knowledge, Peirce argues that knowledge is more profitably conceived as “inquiry.” Unlike “knowledge, ” inquiry is a process that is situated, fallible, and appraised by consequences, and “truth” is best seen as regulative ideal which serves as a lure for our hypothesizing. (continued)

Peirce. Inquiry, Peirce argues, is social; it proceeds not by isolated, individual deductions but by communal activities such as experiment, discussion, and induction.



NO CLASS — will be made up






(a) John Dewey, Ch 1, 2 [RIP]

Recommended: Hildebrand, Cambridge Companion to Pragmatism (ONLINE)Hildebrand, Chapter, "Introduction," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) John Dewey, Ch 3, 6 [RIP]

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

Dewey. Introduction to Dewey. Overview of how philosophy has changed over millennia, especially the turn during the modern period which conceived of knowledge as a new kind of power.


Dewey: Inquiry Transformation of both science and philosophy. Rather than “discovering” “reality” we “inquire” into “nature,” which is dynamic, changing, and evolving.



(a) John Dewey, Ch 4 [RIP]

————— 2nd half:———————

(b) Hildebrand, Chapter, "Experience," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE]

(c) Hildebrand, “The Paramount Importance of Situations and Experience in Dewey’s Democracy and Education” [online]

Dewey. Changing conceptions of reason and experience in this new, dynamic model. Critique of a variety of past schools of philosophy.

Dewey. Continuing our investigation of “experience" as a central idea in Dewey's philosophy, especially as it pertains to educational methods.



(a) Dewey, Reconstruction, Ch 7 [RIP]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) Dewey, 1932 Ethics: Chapter 10 “The Nature of Moral Theory”

Recommended: Hildebrand, "Morality, " from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE]

Dewey. Inquiry into the world of values we all inhabit. Morality as both dynamic and situated, rather than categorical and principle-bound.



(a) Chapter 11 “Ends, the Good and Wisdom”

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) Dewey, Reconstruction, Ch 8 [RIP]

Recommended: Hildebrand, "Politics: Selves, Community, and Democratic Life, " from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE] 

Dewey. Morality as manifesting in society, publics — as politics and democratic arrangements.




NO CLASS — will be made up




(a) McDermott, Brief Introduction to James (from Stuhr anthology) [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) “Habit” from Principles of Psychology;[ONLINE]

Recommended : Longer biographical sketch: John McDermott "James: Person Process and the Risk of Belief" [ONLINE]

James. Introduction to William James: scientist, artist, philosopher, and cosmopolitan intellectual. We’ll look at some introductory overviews and some early writings on habit which would prove to be important for his philosophical work and for pragmatism.



(a) “World of Pure Experience" [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) James, Pragmatism, Ch 1 [POW]

James’s “radical empiricism” and his view of experience.

James introduction to his theory of pragmatism and its application to various philosophical problems, which he claims it can dissolve.



(a) James, Pragmatism, Ch 2 [POW]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) James, Pragmatism, Ch, 3 [POW]





(a) Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief” [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:—————————

(b) “The Will to Believe” [POW]; 

Recommended: Girel on Clifford

MIDTERM DUE; deadline for 1st batch of short papers.

James vs. Clifford Clifford argues that to believe without sufficient evidence is wrong, ethically. James counters with an ethics of belief which seeks to make room for religious faith.

Course Midpoint: (a) last of 4 Short Papers due by end of this class; (b) MIDTERM DUE



(a) Rorty “Relativism:Finding & Making” [PSH]

(b) Rorty, “Truth without Correspondence to Reality.” [PSH]; 

————— 2nd half:—————————

(c) Rorty, “A World without Substances or Essences.” [PSH]


RECOMMENDED: Rorty, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids” [PSH], “Intellectual Autobiography” [ONLINE] 

Rorty. Introduction to one of the most influential philosophers of the last 100 years and an extraordinarily important force in world-wide revival of interest in Dewey, James, and pragmatism, generally.

Rorty. Rorty reviews his basic, antifoundationalist and antirealist approach and how he defends it against the charge of “relativism.”

Rorty’s neopragmatist theory of truth and his description of how to philosophically describe the world without using metaphysics.



Chapters from The American Pragmatists (Oxford) by Cheryl Misak (Author); 

Ch. 12. Fellow Travellers

Ch. 13. Richard Rorty

Recommended Ch. 3. Peirce [ALL ONLINE]

Analytic Philosophy and Pragmatism: We’ll investigate some of the ways pragmatism developed in the 20th and 21st century, especially in connection with analytic philosophy of language.







Seigfried, chs. 2 and 9, Pragmatism and Feminism [ONLINE]

————— 2nd half:—————————

Seigfried, “Validating Women's Experience Pragmatically,” Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture, Stuhr

FINAL PAPER TOPICS OUT; Deadline for last of 4 Short Papers, second half. 

Feminist Pragmatism. Applying pragmatism to feminism, with special attention to the question: Does the “experience” of being feminine or a woman make a difference to arguments about ethics and fairness in the larger social sphere?



Thoreau, “Life without Principle” [ONLINE]; ————— 2nd half:—————————WRAP UP

Returning to the roots.Via Thoreau, a return to the course’s roots — a deep questioning about what drives us, and whether it reflects the journey we each need.



Final assignments due to my box by NOON.



Last updated Aug 28, 2017 01:10:PM