David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy

Spring 2016 PHIL 4101-5101 Pragmatism: Classical American Philosophy



PHIL 4101-001/PHIL 5101-001

Spring 2016, TTh 12:30 - 1:45 P.M. 

Plaza M108: Haber Library

CANVAS SITE: https://ucdenver.instructure.com/


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 (Descartes, Emerson) then move into classical American Pragmatism (including Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey) before looking at how pragmatism is both harmonious with and applicable to Native American and Feminist areas. We’ll finish the course by looking closely at prominent 20th century neopragmatist, Richard Rorty.

Course ObjectivesIdeally, 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 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)  NOTE: YOU MUST PRINT OUT ANY REQUIRED ONLINE READING AND BRING IT TO CLASS. 


Recommended Physical Texts:

  1. Dewey: A Beginner's Guide by David Hildebrand (Oneworld, 2008) [A general introduction to Dewey’s major areas.]
  1. 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/quizzes 200 points or 20%

(2) Short Writings 150 points or 15% (10 total; 1st half done by 3/8)

(3) Exam #1 (1200 -1500 words) 300 points or 30% (due March 8th in class)

(4) Exam #2 (take home): 350 points or 35% (due by NOON, 5/13/14)

  •  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. 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 (because the first two absences are “free”) to 870—effectively a reduction from an A- to a B+—and then each additional absence would take 30 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 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, March 8. 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 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, 303-556-3450, TTY 303-556-4766, FAX 303-556-2074I 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 Canvas course site: ucdenver.instructure.com

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

Office: Plaza M108   Hours T/Th 11:00 - 1200 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)



Day Date Readings and Assignments

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


T 1/19 Introduction Suggested pre-class assignment: Watch lecture by Richard Bernstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtc2SdIWErc [ONLINE]

Th 1/21 Emerson, “The American Scholar” [ONLINE] Famous lecture by R.W. Emerson effectively declaring American intellectual independence from European forebears.


T 1/26 (a) Descartes Meditations 1-3, [ONLINE]  (b) Handout: “Cartesian Doctrines Peirce Rejected”  [ONLINE]

Th 1/28 (a) Anderson, “Peirce and Cartesian Rationalism” [ONLINE] (b) Peirce: “Some Consequences” [ONLINE]  (b) Review “Cartesian Doctrines Peirce Rejected Summary” [ONLINE]


T 2/2 Peirce: “The Fixation of Belief” [ONLINE] Recommended: Hookway, “Peirce and Scepticism,” Chapter 1 to Pragmatic Maxim book. [ONLINE] 

Th 2/4 Peirce: “Fixation of Belief” (continued);  plus, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” [ONLINE] Recommended: Hookway, Chapter 9 in Pragmatic Maxim, “The Principle of Pragmatism Peirce’s Formulations and Examples” [ONLINE] 


T 2/9 (a) Pihlström "Peirce's Place in the Pragmatist Tradition" from Cambridge Companion to Peirce, PDF ONLINE  (b) Recommended: Peirce 1897 “Autobiographical note.” [ONLINE]

Th 2/11 (a) McDermott, Brief Introduction to James (from Stuhr anthology) [ONLINE] (b) “Habit” from Principles of Psychology;[ONLINE]  Recommended (longer) biographical sketch: John McDermott "James: Person Process and the Risk of Belief" [ONLINE]


T 2/16 (a) “World of Pure Experience" [ONLINE]

Th 2/18 James,  Pragmatism, Ch 1 [POW] 


T 2/23 James, Pragmatism, Ch 2 [POW]

Th 2/25 James, Pragmatism, Ch, 3 [POW]  Take home exam #1 questions given out in class.


T 3/1 (a) James, Pragmatism, Ch 6  [POW] (b)  Hilary Putnam, “James Theory of Truth” [ONLINE] 

Th 3/3 NO CLASS — READING DAY. Please read for next class: (a) Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief” [ONLINE]


T 3/8 (a) “The Will to Believe” [POW];  (b) Review: Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief” [ONLINE] MIDTERM DUE; also last of 5 Short Papers due by end of class

Th 3/10 (a) Rorty, “Religious Faith, Intellectual Responsibility and Romance” [PSH] (b) Review “The Will to Believe” [POW] and Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief” [ONLINE] 


T 3/15 (a) John Dewey, Ch 1, 2 [RIP] *** Recommended: Hildebrand, Cambridge (b) Companion to Pragmatism piece on Dewey (ONLINE), (c) Hildebrand, Chapter, "Introduction," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE]

Th 3/17 John Dewey, Ch 3 [RIP] Recommended: Hildebrand, Chapter, "Inquiry, " from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, 2008) [ONLINE] 


T/Th 3/22&24 SPRING BREAK 


T 3/29 John Dewey, Ch 4 [RIP] Recommended: Hildebrand, Chapter, "Experience," from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE] 

Th 3/31 (a) Review: John Dewey, Ch 4 [RIP] (b) Hildebrand, “The Paramount Importance of Situations and Experience in Dewey’s Democracy and Education” [online] 


T 4/5 John Dewey, Reconstruction, Ch 5, 6 [RIP]

Th 4/7 John Dewey, Reconstruction, Ch 7 [RIP] Recommended: Hildebrand, "Morality, " from Dewey: A Beginner's Guide [ONLINE] 


T 4/12 (a) Rorty, “Intellectual Autobiography”  [ONLINE];  (b) “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids” [PSH] 

Th 4/14 (a) “Relativism: Finding and Making” [PSH] 


T 4/19 Pratt/McKenna, “American Philosophy from Wounded Knee” selection [ONLINE] 

Th 4/21 Pratt, “Pratt-Indigenous Agencies” [ONLINE]  PLEASE ATTEND HIS LECTURE TODAY. DETAILS TBA.


T 4/26 Seigfried, “Validating Women's Experience Pragmatically,” Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture: Pragmatic Essays After Dewey, John Stuhr (ed.), Albany: State University Press.

Th 4/28 (a) Rorty, “Truth without Correspondence to Reality.” [PSH]; (b) Rorty, “A World without Substances or Essences.” [PSH]


T 5/3 (a) Rorty, “Ethics without Principles.” (Ch. 4 in Social Hope.) [PSH]  (b) “Religion as Conversation-Stopper” [PSH]   TAKE HOME FINAL: QUESTIONS OUT

Th 5/5 (a) Bernstein, “Prologue” in The Pragmatic Turn  [ONLINE]  Last Day to turn in Short Papers for 2nd half.      END OF CLASSES



Last updated Jan 16, 2016 09:31:AM