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Instructor: Devin Lane. This course meets MWF 9:05 – 9:55 a.m. in PE 2060.

This is a course on American pragmatism. Pragmatism is a philosophical approach according to which, very roughly, our intellectual inquiry is inextricably connected to what’s practically important. This is, again, a very rough sketch. Much of our work in this course will be devoted to trying to pin down precisely what it means.

Here are some questions we will try to address, questions for which pragmatism has interesting and controversial answers:

  • What do we mean when we say some claim is ‘true?’
  • How do we unpack the meaning of the concepts that we use in our thought and talk?
  • How should we respond to the skeptic, who claims that we can’t know anything?
  • To what extent can practical considerations affect the rationality of our beliefs?

This list is not exhaustive. As we work through these topics, many more interesting questions will arise. We will spend much of our time focusing on the work of the classical pragmatists: William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey. But we will also spend time reading their critics as well as their intellectual descendants in an attempt to trace the broader influence of American pragmatism.