This course will focus on a set of debates that has structured the reception and extension of pragmatist philosophy over the past few decades--namely, the tensions between the experience-centered pragmatisms of William James and John Dewey on the one hand and the linguistic-turn pragmatisms of Richard Rorty and some of his contemporaries on the other. These debates are important not only for philosophical pragmatism, but they are also at the heart of recent work in other philosophical traditions (for example, phenomenology, hermeneutics, critical theory and feminist theory) and in other disciplines (most notably in political science, history, anthropology, and of course literary theory).
In the first half of the course we will begin our exploration of these debates in pragmatism with a tour through central texts in both the classical pragmatisms of James, Dewey, and others (with a focus on the weight these thinkers placed on the concept of experience) and the neopragmatisms of Rorty, Brandom, and others (with a focus on their contrasting emphasis on language as the primary field for philosophical inquiry).
In the second half of the course we will leverage our study of these key texts in classicopragmatism and neopragmatism into explorations of the sharp disagreements between these two families of pragmatisms concerning the relative priority of experience or language in two different areas of philosophical inquiry where pragmatism has roamed. First, we will look at continuing epistemological debates concerning the respective roles of experience and language and their relation in a viable account of processes of knowing. Second, we will consider contemporary issues in pragmatist political philosophy with an eye toward the ramifications for political theory of a prioritization of either language (leading to, among other positions, deliberative democratic theory) or experience (leading to, as one main option, communitarian democratic theory).
1. Participation, Attendance and Discussion: 15% of total grade
A good portion of your grade depends on attendance and participation. Be active. Be confident. Participate. You know the drill. (Note that my attendance policy this term will be flexible in keeping with the recommendations of the university administration concerning the H1N1 flu--please do not come to class if you have flu symptoms.)
2. In-Class Presentation: 20% of total grade
Each student will introduce one class session with a brief presentation of that session’s material, or secondary literature related to that material, or on a relevant topic in which you have interest and expertise (e.g., you may wish to present on deliberative democratic theory or on the linguistic turn in the context of other philosophical traditions such as critical theory or phenomenology). You should aim for a presentation that is concise, engaging, and demonstrative of both your confidence as a speaker and your strength as a thinker. I urge you to approach this assignment as a practice session for conference presentations. Accordingly, I recommend that you stand up at the front of the room, perhaps prepare a handout or slideshow, and take it upon yourself to make a presentation and leave time for a question-and-answer dialogue of the sort you will enjoy/suffer at a professional conference. We will work together to develop a presentation schedule at some point during week 1 of the course.
3. Short Argumentative Essay (20%) plus annotated bibliography (5%): 25% of total grade
You will write a short argumentative essay of about 2000 words (or 7-8 pages) that will be due at the beginning of week 9 on Tuesday, November 24th. This should be a well-written quality paper which clearly lays out its thesis (be it a philosophical thesis or an interpretive thesis) at the outset and then provides a rigorous argument on behalf of this thesis. Even though this short essay will become a draft for your final research paper, please try to think of this as a polished piece of writing and not as something that assumes the form of a draft. You will be graded accordingly. You will also produce an accompanying annotated bibliography mapping out a space for further research and inquiry. I will provide you with extensive written feedback on your essay and you will be expected to revise this essay in light of both my comments and your own further research.
4. Final Research Essay (35%) plus abstract (5%): 40% of total grade
You will write a final research essay that will be a suitable conference-paper length (i.e. about 3000 words or 11-12 pages). This will due by email (and possibly by hardcopy [tba]) on Monday, December 7th. This is expected to be a revision of, and significant improvement upon, your short argumentative essay from the few weeks previous. This essay should engage with the assigned primary literature and relevant secondary literature which I can help you to locate. You must include at the head of your essay a short 150-word abstract that would be suitable for submitting your paper to a conference or journal call for papers.
Readings & Seminar Schedule:
(9/29) Introduction and Plan of the Course
James, "Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?" in Essays in Radical Empiricism [link]
James, "The Continuity of Experience", Lecture VII of A Pluralistic Universe [link]
Recommended (highly): James, "A World of Pure Experience" in Essays in Radical Empiricism [link]
Recommended: James, Pragmatism, Lecture VI, "Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth"
Dewey, "The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism" in The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy [link]
Dewey, "The Logic of Judgments of Practice" in Essays in Experimental Logic [link]
Recommended: Dewey, "On Qualitative Thought"
(10/8) - Christy Reynolds presenting
Dewey, Experience and Nature (Ch. 1, pp.1a-39) [link]
Recommended: the rest of Experience and Nature
Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (Intro & Ch. 1: pp.5-9, 11-34, plus pp. 78-9) [link]
(10/15) - Jonathan Langseth presenting
Sellars, Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (Chs. I, III-VIII, & X, plus Rorty's Introduction) [link]
Recommended: Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" [link]
Recommended: Davidson, "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
(10/20) - John Taylor presenting
Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Chs. 3 & 4, pp.131-212) [link]
Recommended: the rest of the Mirror book
Recommended (highly): Rorty, "The Linguistic Turn: Twenty-Five Years Later"
Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Ch. 1, "The Contingency of Language", pp.3-22) [link]
Rorty, "Dewey between Hegel and Darwin" in Truth and Progress, Phil Papers vol. 3 [link]
Recommended: the rest of the Contingency book
Recommended: Rorty, "Dewey’s Metaphysics" in Consequences of Pragmatism
Brandom, Articulating Reasons ("Introduction", pp.1-44) [link]
Brandom, "The Pragmatist Enlightenment" [link]
Recommended: Putnam, Pragmatism: An Open Question [link]
Recommended: Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally
(10/29) - No Class: Instructor Presentation at SPEP
(11/2) - Optional Make-up Session - Monday 12p-2p in PLC 248
Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Ch. 4, pp.73-95 and Ch. 9, pp.189-98) [link]
Recommended (highly): Rorty, "The Philosopher as Expert" [link]
Debates in Pragmatist Epistemology over Experience and Language
(11/3) - Jason Jordan presenting
Bernstein, "The Resurgence of Pragmatism" [link]
Kloppenberg, "Pragmatism: An Old Name for Some New Ways of Thinking" [link]
Recommended: Jay, Songs of Experience (chapter 7: "The Cult of Experience in American Pragmatism")
Recommended: Livingston, Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy (chapter 4: "Narrative Politics: Richard Rorty...")
Recommended, Bernstein, "Philosophy in the Conversation of Mankind" [link]
Recommended: Bernstein, "American Pragmatism: Conflict of Narratives" [link]
Gouinlock, "What is the Legacy of Instrumentalism?" (w/ Rorty reply) [link]
Haack, "Vulgar Pragmatism" (w/ Rorty reply) [link]
Recommended: Rorty, Sleeper, and Edel exchange in Peirce Transactions (1985)
Recommended: Alexander, "Richard Rorty and Dewey’s Metaphysics of Experience"
Recommended: Stuhr, "Rorty as Elvis: Dewey’s Reconstruction of Metaphysics"
Recommended: Hildebrand, Beyond Realism and Anti-Realism
Allen, "What Was Epistemology?" (w/ Rorty reply) [link]
Habermas, "And to define America, her athletic democracy..." [link]
Recommended: Fraser, "Solidarity or Singularity? Richard Rorty between Romanticism and Technocracy"
Recommended: Habermas, "Richard Rorty’s Pragmatic Turn" (w/ Rorty Reply) [link]
Recommended: Brandom, "Synthesizing Naturalism and Historicism" (w/ Rorty Reply) [link]
Recommended: Shusterman, "Reason & Aesthetics...: Habermas and Rorty" [link]
Debates in Pragmatist Political Philosophy over Community and Deliberation
(11/12) - Jessica Hejny presenting
Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Ch. 5, "Search for The Great Community")[link]
Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (selections, pp. 98-9, 116-120) [link]
(11/17) - George Fourlas presenting
McDermott, "An American Angle of Vision, Part 2" in The Drama of Possibility (pp.60-89) [link]
Pappas, John Dewey’s Ethics (Ch. 1, pp.20-25; Ch. 12, pp.260-299) [link]
Recommended: Green, Deep Democracy (esp. Ch. 1)
Recommended: Smith, "The Value of Community"
Recommended: Gouinlock, "Dewey and Contemporary Moral Philosophy"
(11/19) - Greg Liggett presenting
Rorty, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity (Ch. 3, "The Contingency of Community", pp.44-72) [link]
Putnam, "A Reconsideration of Deweyan Democracy" [link]
Recommended: Fraser, "Abnormal Justice"
Recommended: Bernstein, "Rorty’s Inspirational Liberalism"
Recommended: Voparil, Richard Rorty: Politics and Vision
Recommended: Anderson, "The Epistemology of Democracy"
Recommended: Westbrook, Democratic Hope
Recommended: Misak, Truth, Politics, & Morality
Recommended: Talisse, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy
"American Philosopher" video screening at Colin's House, 8pm
Dewey, "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" [link]
Rorty, "The Linguistic Turn: Twenty-Five Years After" [link]
Rorty, "Introduction" to Dewey, The Later Works, vol. 8 [link]
Rorty, "Preface" to Philosophy as Cultural Politics: Philosophical Papers vol. 4 [link]
Recommended: Dewey, Experience and Nature, Chapter X
Recommended: Rorty, "The Philosopher as Expert" [link]
[First Paper due as Hardcopy and by Email on Tues 11/24]
(11/26) - No Class: Thanksgiving Break
Johnson, The Meaning of the Body (selections from Pref., Chs. 4, 5, & 9) [link]
(In-class discussion with Mark Johnson as guest discussant)
Margolis, Reinventing Pragmatism (n.b. focus on pp.1-23, 41-47, 51-53, 159-160) [link]
Recommended: Koopman, "Three Waves of Pragmatism", Chapter 3 of Pragmatism as Transition
(I will discuss central ideas from the book, especially this chapter, in order to sum up our discussions together this quarter)
[Final Paper due by Email on Tues 12/8]
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