AP/PHIL4400 3.0 M: Seminar in Pragmatism

Offered by: PHIL


Summer 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An intensive examination of one of more authors or topics from classical Pragmatism or contemporary Neo-Pragmatism. Prerequisite: At least nine credits in philosophy. Course credit exclusion: AP/PHIL 4400 3.00 (prior to Fall 2012). PRIOR TO FALL 2009: Prerequisite: At least nine credits in philosophy. Course credit exclusion: AS/PHIL 4400 3.00.

Course Website

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    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Course Director: H. Jackman

Office: 434 South Ross

Office hours: T, TH: 5:30-6:30

Course Time: T, TH: 2:30-5:30

Office phone: 736 2100 x77575

E-mail: hjackman@yorku.ca

Web Page: www.jackman.org

    Expanded Course Description

Pragmatism emerged as a major philosophical movement at the turn of the last century and has experienced a resurgence at the turn of this one. This course will focus on the work of the most influential of the Pragmatists, William James.  James's distinctive critique of traditional philosophy flowed from both his naturalistic streak and his emphasis on the relation between thought and action, and we will be investigating how the combination of these led James to suggest a number of radical revisions to our concepts of truth, meaning and reality.

    Required Course Text / Readings

McDermott (ed): The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition

    Weighting of Course

Seminar participation: 15%

Pre-Class Assignments: 20%

Term Paper (500 word abstract & 1-page outline): 10%           (Due July 25)

Term paper (final version, 3000 words): 55%    (Due August 9)

    Organization of the Course
Organization of the Course:


June 18: Introduction: James’s life and Background

“Personal Depression and Recovery” (3-8), “The Present Dilemma of Philosophy” (362-376), “The Sick Soul” (online)


June 20:   Psychology and Philosophy I: Habit and the Stream of Thought


“The Stream of Thought” (21-74), “Habit” (9-21)



June 25: Psychology and Philosophy II: Conceptions and the A Priori


“Conception” (online),  “Necessary Truths and the Effects of Experience” (74-133)


June 27: Rationality, Belief and Faith I


“Remarks on Spencer’s Definition of Mind as Correspondence” (online),  “The Sentiment of Rationality” (317-345),

C. S. Peirce: “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities”, “The Fixation of Belief” (online)



July 2: Rationality, Belief and Faith II


“The Will to Believe” (717-735),  “Faith and the Right to Believe” (735-740), “The Dilemma of Determinism” (587-610)


July 4: Pragmatism Meaning


C. S. Peirce: “How to Make our Ideas Clear”, “The Doctrine of Chances”

“Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results”(345-362), “What Pragmatism Means” [first part], “Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered” (390-405).



July 9: Pragmatism and Reference


“Review of Royce’s The Religious Aspect of Philosophy” (online), “The Function of Cognition” (136-152), “The Essence of Humanism” (304-310), “Tigers in India” (online), “The Relation between Knower and Known” (online), Letter to Renouvier (online)



July 11:  Pragmatism  and Truth I: Belief and the Nature of Truth

“What Pragmatism Means” [second part], “Pragmatism and Common Sense” (418-429), “Pragmatism’s Conception of truth” (429-443), “Pragmatism and Humanism” (449-461), “[Pragmatism and Radical Empiricism]” (311-317), “A Dialogue” (443-448),   “Interview in [The] New York Times, 1907” (448-449), “Notes from James’s 1908 Harvard discussion of Pragmatism” (online)



July 16: Pragmatism  and Truth II: Conceptions and Truth


“Percept and Concept – The Import of Concepts, The Abuse of Concepts, Some Corollaries” (232-258), “The Compounding of Consciousness”, “Bergson and His Critique of Intellectualism”



July 18: Ethics and Religion I: Ethics 


“The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” (610-629), “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings”, “What makes Life Significant”, “The Moral Equivalent of War”



July 23: Ethics and Religion II: Religion


“[Experience and Religion: A comment]” (740-741), “Circumscription of the [Religious] Topic” (741-758), Conclusion & Postscript to The Varieties of Religious Experience (758-787), “Pragmatism and Religion” (461-70), “Faith and the Right to Believe” (735-740), “Answers to Pratt Questionair on Religious Belief” (online).



July 25: Radical Empiricism,  Reception, and Legacy


“Radical Empiricism: 1897” (134-136), “Radical Empiricism: 1909” (136), “Does Consciousness Exist”, “How Two Minds Can know One thing”, “A World of Pure Experience” (194-214), “The Knowing of Things Together”(152-169).





    Course Learning Objectives


  1. To introduce students in detail to the philosophy and intellectual context of at least one major figure in the Pragmatist tradition.
  2. Master the writing of a substantial philosophy research paper.
  3. To develop a familiarity with Pragmatism as a philosophical approach.
  4. Learn how to present philosophical ideas to others in a seminar setting.
    Relevant Links / Resources