Second Paper Topics for Professor Hauptli’s PHH 3700  American Philosophy Fall 2014


     Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli


You are to critically respond to one of the following topics.  Such a critical examination should: (1) indicate the nature of the position being examined; (2) clarify the argument for and/or against the position; (3) examine the strength of the argument by considering possible responses, counter-arguments, or counter-examples; and (4) offer your own critical assessment of where the arguments for and against the position being considered leave us—should we accept, reject, or remain neutral regarding this orientation, view, or position? 


One of my purposes in having you write these papers is to offer you the opportunity to perfect your ability to describe carefully a complex position and argument to others.  Toward that end, I require that you consider your intended audience for these papers to be other philosophy students who have not read exactly the material you have read or heard exactly the lectures which you have heard.  They can not be expected to immediately know the intricacies of the positions you are discussing, and must first have the central aspects of the position which are relevant to your paper clarified to them.  They must also be presented with carefully elaborated arguments for and against the position if they are to be able to follow your critical assessment of it. 


Another of my purposes here is to provide you with the opportunity to engage in critical reflection upon the readings (or upon related readings and issues), and to provide you with feed-back on your critical scrutinies.  This goal can not be met if you confine yourself to a neutral exposition of the views under consideration.  In my supplement “Writing Philosophy Papers” (available on the course web-site), I describe a number of different sorts of papers which might be submitted to fulfill this requirement (as well as a number of other points regarding composition and grader’s marks.  The detailed characterization of such papers in that supplement should help you understand my expectations (those desiring high grades will endeavor to approach the highest ideal, while those who are not so motivated may choose to set their sights somewhat lower). 


Your papers should be approximately 2000 words long (eight double-spaced typewritten pages of 250 words per page).  This indication of length is meant as a guide to the student—papers much shorter than the indicated length are unlikely to have adequately addressed one of the assigned topics.  Papers may, of course, be longer than the indicated length.  The papers should


address an assigned topic in a manner that clearly displays its purpose, thesis, or controlling idea,

clarify the relevant elements of the philosopher’s theory so that they can be understood by other students taking such philosophy courses,

support the thesis with adequate reasons and evidence,

show sustained analysis and critical thought,

be organized clearly and logically, and

show knowledge of conventions of standard written English. 


The papers should be “typed” and are due by 4:15 on Monday, December 1 (they may be turned in to my office [DM 341 D], the Philosophy Department Secretary [DM 347], or my mail-box [in DM 340A (room open 9:00-5:00)]).  I am giving you the paper topics now so that you have at least two weekends to work on the paper.  If you plan to wait till the last moment to write your paper, I recommend you review the Course Syllabus regarding penalties for late papers.  Please review my policy on extensions, late papers, and plagiarism (contained in the course syllabus). 


I will be happy to read rough drafts and to discuss your ideas for your papers with you (I will not read drafts after 4:00 P.M. on Wednesday, November 26 however). 




1. Critically assess the criticism of Dewey’s metaphysics offered by Richard Rorty in his “Dewey’s Metaphysics” (in Steven Cahn’s New Studies in the Philosophy of Dewey [Hanover: Univ. of Vermont, 1977] which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 44  N 48]).  Also in this collection is Joseph Margolis’ “The Relevance of Dewey’s Epistemology” which briefly discusses Rorty’s critique. 


2. Critically assess the criticism of Dewey’s epistemology and metaphysics offered by Joseph Margolis in his “The Relevance of Dewey’s Epistemology” (in Steven Cahn’s New Studies in the Philosophy of Dewey [Hanover: Univ. of Vermont, 1977] which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 44  N 48]). 


3. Critically assess the criticism of Dewey’s naturalism offered by George Santayana in his “Dewey’s Naturalistic Metaphysics.”  Dewey replies to this criticism in his “Half-Hearted Naturalism.”  Both articles appear in Sidney Morgenbesser’s Dewey and His Critics which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 44  D 49 1977].  Santayana’s article is also collected in P.A. Schilpp’s The Philosophy of John Dewey which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 41  1989].  Dewey offers some responses to it pp. 530 ff. of that volume. 


4. Critically assess Arthur Murphy's “Dewey’s Epistemology and Metaphysics” which appears in P.A. Schilpp’s The Philosophy of John Dewey which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 41 1989].  Dewey replies to this criticism on pp. 556 ff. of that volume. 


5. Critically assess William Sheldon’s “Critique of Naturalism” which appears in Sidney Morgenbesser’s Dewey and His Critics which is on reserve in the Green Library [B 945  D 44  D 49  1977]. 


6. In the chapter on Dewey in his History of Western Philosophy [B 72 E 8—also available from the Green Library as an ebook] which is on reserve in the Green Library, Bertrand Russell criticizes Dewey’s views on truth.  Critically consider Russell’s criticisms.  You may find the discussion of the objections dealing with truth/satisfaction and with knowledge of the past in H.S. Thayer’s Meaning and Action (pp. 200 ff.) [B 832 T 48] which is on reserve in the Green Library] helpful here—indeed this discussion could itself be the focus of a critical consideration of Dewey’s epistemology. 


7. Critically consider the possibly negative “consequences of instrumentalism” regarding theory preference and common sense objects which are discussed by H.S. Thayer on pp. 381-182 of his Meaning and Action [B 832 T48] which is on reserve in the Green Library. 


8. Critically consider A.O. Lovejoy’s criticisms about the relationship of Dewey’s epistemology to the realism/idealism issue (as they are presented on pp. 134-149 of his Thirteen Pragmatisms and Other Essays [B 832 L 6] which is on reserve in the Green Library). 


9. Write a short essay answering one question from each of the sections in the “Study Questions on Experience and Nature(that is, on one of the “Overall Questions,” one of the “Questions on Chapter 1,” etc.).  For three of the eleven responses you write, go beyond characterizing Dewey’s orientation and critically consider the adequacy of Dewey’s views on the topic, problem, or issue. 


10. You may choose to write on any of the topics from the list for the first paper assignment which you did not write on already.  Those topics are available on the course website.  


     Other topics should be cleared with me before you begin writing and must be cleared with me before submission. 


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File revised on 11/19/2014