Philosophy 3387 American Philosophy

Cornel West

Cornel West

Dr. Cynthia Freeland

Section #10061, MW 1-2:30 p.m., 12 Agnes Arnold Hall

402 AH, 743-2993,

Aims and General Description

This course will be an advanced survey of American philosophy focusing on major developments in American Pragmatism. We will discuss the early roots of pragmatism in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. Moving on, we will review central works of the founders of pragmatism: (1) C. S. Peirce; (2) William James; and (3) John Dewey. Our historical survey will follow that given in the recent critical history and overview of pragmatism by Cornel West in his book The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. We will conclude the course with a consideration of West's "prophetic pragmatism."

Textbooks (Required)

Cornel West, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Wisconsin, 1989).

H.S. Thayer, Ed., Pragmatism: The Classic Writings (Hackett, 1982).

H.S. Thayer, Ed., Meaning and Action: A History of Pragmatism (Hackett, 1981).

Russell B. Goodman, Ed., Pragmatism: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 1995).

Textbooks (Recommended)

Charlotte Siegfried, Pragmatism and Feminism (Chicago, 1996).

Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., Rorty and Pragmatism: The Philosopher Responds to His Critics (Vanderbilt, 1995).

Hilary Putnam, Pragmatism: An Open Question (Blackwell,1995).

Out of Print, but worth buying if you can find them:

Bruce J. Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (Yale, 1977).

Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden (North Point Press, 1981).

Course Schedule

Unit One: The Pre-History of Pragmatism (Thoreau and Emerson)

Unit Two: Classical Pragmatism I (James and Peirce)

Unit Three: Classical Pragmatism II (Dewey)

Unit Four: Intermediate Figures

Unit Five: Contemporary Pragmatists and their Critics(Putnam, Rorty, West, Fraser)

Further details to be determined

Requirements and Grading

75 points Five short papers (one per unit)

10 points One independent research project.

10 points Other short projects or papers, as assigned. (G/P/F)

5 points Class participation.

Students will be expected to do an independent short research paper on a related topic or phlosopher. Research papers will be coordinated and converted into World Wide Web page projects. (No previous Web expertise is required, but each student is required to obtain a computer account. They are free to all UH students. Apply at Customer Services, 36 Heyne Building.) Individual research projects are on a topic of the student's choice. These might include more research on the precursors of pragmatism (Emerson and Thoreau); on the classic pragmatists; on some of the lesser-known figures such as C.I. Lewis; on thinkers in related fields such as W.E.B. DuBois or Stanley Fish; or more recent philosophers such as Hilary Putnam; Wilfrid Sellars; Richard Rorty; or Stanley Cavell. Another potential resource for research is the 1996 book Pragmatism and Feminism by Charlotte Siegfried, together with other recent essays analyzing links between pragmatism and feminism, by writers such as Nancy Fraser.

Attendance, Absences, Late Papers

While attendance is not required, it is expected. Each class will cover a considerable amount of material, and so missing a class will detract from a student's ability to complete the exams. Also, if the in-class discussion assignment is missed, the grade will reflect it to some extent. Absences or late papers may be excused only in cases of illness or other extreme circumstances. Late summary papers or projects will not be accepted. Late exam or unit papers will be accepted only for up to one week, and they will be marked down one half grade per class day late. Plagiarism is against University policy. All papers must be typed (word-processing is acceptable). E-mail correspondence with the professor is encouraged.

On-Line Course Resources

Off Campus

Pragmatism and Logical Positivism, Course Materials from VPI by Gary Hardcastle

On Campus

Meet other class members on the Web

There is a discussion list for the course, confined to members of the class. The address is

More resources to be created: keep watching!

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June 2, 1997 - 12:35 PM