Syllabus for PHH 3700 American Philosophy

Fall 2014  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:00-2:50 in PC 432

Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli


Course Description:


This course will examine the development of American philosophical thought, with particular attention to the 19th and 20th centuries.  It will consider the traditions and initiatives of the prominent American philosophers, in the light of problems such as the relationship between theory and practice. 


Course Objectives:


In this course students should become familiar with the problems, positions, and methodologies of the philosophers studied.  Students should also become familiar with the interpretation texts; they should enhance their ability to provide balanced exposition and examination of philosophical problems, positions, and methodologies; and they should come to understand the philosophical activity of criticism of doctrines and things commonly taken for granted.  In addition to introducing students to various philosophical thinkers, this course is intended to help students enhance their critical reading, writing, and speaking skills. 


The course focus attention on inquiry and analysis; seeks to develop the students’ abilities to adopt critical perspectives; and endeavors to connect the philosophical problems, positions and methodologies studied with the concerns and methodologies of other disciplines and our culture generally.  The readings, lectures, papers, and exams are integrated in a manner intended to promote these objectives.  In all of these activities students will be encouraged to interact analytically with, and respond critically to, the primary and secondary texts studied.  Students will also be encouraged to endeavor to assimilate the ideas studied with those they have previously studied. 


Texts (all required):


John E. Smith, America’s Philosophical Vision (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1992) ISBN: 9780226763682—available in the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus Bookstore. 

Classic American Philosophers, ed. Max H. Fisch (NY: Fordham Univ. Press, 1995) ISBN: 9780823216581—available in the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus Bookstore. 

John Dewey, Experience and Nature (N.Y.: Dover, 1958) USBN: 0486204715—available in the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus Bookstore. 




  Introductory Background:


General Introduction: The Classic Period in American Philosophy,” Max Fisch [in Fisch]

“The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy,” John Dewey [in Fisch]


  Charles Sanders Peirce:


Background Reading: “Introduction,” Arthur W. Burks [in Fisch]

1. “The Fixation of Belief” [in Fisch]

2. “How To Make Our Ideas Clear” [[in Fisch]

3. “The Architecture of Theories” [in Fisch]

4. “The Doctrine of Necessity Examined” [in Fisch]


  William James:


Background Reading: "Introduction" Paul Henle [in Fisch]

5. "What Pragmatism Means" [in Fisch]

6. "The Will to Believe" [in Fisch]

7. “Does ‘Consciousness Exist?” [in Fisch]

8. “The Continuity of Experience” [in Fisch]

9. “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” [in Fisch]


  John E. Smith:


Background Reading: "Introduction" by Smith [in Smith]

10. “The Reconception of Experience in Peirce, James, and Dewey” [in Smith].

11. "The Pragmatic Theory of Truth: The Typical Objection" [in Smith]

12. "Two Defenses of Freedom: Peirce and James" [in Smith]

13. “The Reflexive Turn, The Linguistic Turn, and the Pragmatic Outcome” [in Smith]


  John Dewey:


Background Reading: “Introduction Gail Kennedy [in Fisch]  

14. “The Supremacy of Method” [in Fisch]

15. “The Construction of Good” [in Fisch]

16. Experience and Nature  


  Additional Recommended Readings from John E. Smith:


     “The Critique of Abstraction and the Scope of Reason”·[in Smith]

     “Receptivity, Change and Relevance: Some Hallmarks of Philosophy in America” [in Smith]

     “Two Defenses of Freedom: Peirce and James” [in Smith]

     “The Reflexive Turn, The Linguistic Turn, and the Pragmatic Outcome” [in Smith]


Requirements and Policies: the following requirements and policies will apply for this course, and students should read them carefully.  I do not accept claims to ignorance in their regard. 


1. Regular class attendance is required: after the first three class meetings attendance will be taken via a roll sheet which will be passed around the class ten minutes after class has begun—the roll sheet will quickly circulate and students who arrive later than ten minutes into the class period will need to explain (immediately after class) their lateness to have their attendance count that day.  Students must attend for the whole class period, and those who leave before the class period is over may be counted as absent.  Students who have no more than one unexcused absence will have their course grade raised by one third of a letter grade (B to B+, etc.).  Students who have three unexcused absences will have their course grade lowered by one third of a letter grade (C+ to C, etc.), students who have five unexcused absences will have their course grade lowered by two thirds of a letter grade (C+ to C-, etc.), students who ha e seven unexcused absences will have their course grade lowered by one letter grade (C to D, etc.), additional absences will be treated according to this progression. 


Acceptable excuses for the first absence are jury duty, or absence because of university sponsored events which the student must attend.  Only verifiable excuses will be accepted for the second and subsequent absences, and multiple excuses for any individual are viewed with ever-increasing skepticism.  Only verifiable excuses will be allowed, and they must be presented to me in person—messages on my voice mail do not count as excuses.  Excuses should be presented as soon after the absence as possible (students who wait till the end of the semester to offer excuses for early absences need to meet a high burden of verification for the absence to be excused).  Please note that I check with Doctors’ offices, hospitals and funeral homes; and I will only rarely accept work-related excuses (which should be offered before the absence). 


2. Appropriate conduct is expected in class: I expect students to turn off portable phones and mute any distracting alarms or laptop generated noises (including opening greetings and message announcements).  Courteous consideration others is a fundamental element in the classroom.  I expect students to refrain from engaging in private conversations, noisy snacking, and only in the case of emergencies should students momentarily leave the classroom while class is in session.  In short, students are expected to comport themselves in a manner which does not interfere with instruction and learning.  Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. 


3. Regular reading is assumed: students who do not do their readings will have difficulty with the requirements and students who do not attend class will have difficulty with their readings.  I strongly recommend that students do the readings several times—at least once before the class in which they will be discussed and once after the class.  Extensive lecture supplements are available on-line through my web-site, and I am available in my office to discuss readings, paper topics, etc. 


4. Papers, examinations, and deadlines: because writing is important to philosophy, students in this course will be required to write two critical, analytical or expository philosophy papers each of which should be approximately 2,000 words long (equivalent to 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 in class on: Monday, October 13, and Monday, December 1. 


A supplement entitled “Writing Philosophy Papers” is available on the course web-site.  It describes in detail what my expectations are as well as clarifying what critical, analytical or expository philosophy papers are like.  This supplement also provides a list of “grader’s marks” which I employ in grading papers and exams.  I provide detailed comments regarding the compositional, expository, and the critical elements of such papers, and I review the comments from earlier papers prior to reading later ones so that I can assess continuing progress and problems.  Paper topics will be distributed so that students have at least two weekends to work on their papers, and the topics will be directly related to the readings, lectures, and discussions in the course prior to the assignments. 


There will also be two closed-book and closed-notes in-class objective essay exams on Friday, October 31 (during the normal class period), and a Final Exam on Wednesday, December 10 from 12:30-1:30 during the assigned time for this course which i from 12:00-2:00).    They will be designed to assess the students’ understanding of the philosophical theories, positions, topics, and methodologies studied.  Sample study questions will be distributed in advance of the exams so that students have an opportunity to organize their thoughts and integrate the readings and lectures around sample questions designed to indicate what they are expected to have mastered.  A supplement entitled “Writing Essay Exams for Professor Hauptli” is available on the course web-site. 


Together the papers are worth 60% of the grade (30% each) and the exams are worth 40% (20% each).  Students must submit all papers and take all exams to pass the course—that is, failure to complete any of the course requirements will result in a grade of F for the course.  Therefore, students who do not turn in a paper or take an exam on time must nonetheless submit that paper or take a make-up exam if they wish to pass the course (grades higher than an F are given only for performance and accomplishment; and late papers and make-up exams may demonstrate these, while unfulfilled requirements demonstrate neither).  An incomplete will not be assigned simply because work is late. 

5. Grading Scale: in grading papers and exams, and in calculating the course grade, I use the following scale:


A          4.00 B/B+     3.16 C+/B-   2.49 C-/C     1.83 D-         0.67
A-         3.67  B           3.00 C+        2.33 C-         1.67 F           0.00
B+/A-   3.49 B-/B      2.83 C/C+    2.16 D+        1.33  
B+         3.33 B-         2.67 C          2.00 D          1.00  


The “split” grades (B+/A-, for example) are assigned when the work is between the indicated grades.  Of course, these split grades can not be used for the ultimate course grade, and thus the grades for the various individual papers and exams are calculated using the percentages indicated above (and adding or subtracting the appropriate fractional consideration in accordance with the attendance policy).  For the overall course grade the above point equivalents constitute the minimum necessary to receive the indicated grade (thus students must earn at least a 3.67 to receive an A-). 


6. Extensions and late work: I indicate the due dates for the papers and the exam dates above.  Moreover, I hand out paper topics so that students generally have at two weekends to work on their papers, and I hand out sample exam questions in advance of examinations.  There should, then, be little call for extensions.  Before the due date I will consider reasonable requests for extensions.  Note, however, that excuses do not guarantee extensions, and excuses offered after due dates are far, far less successful than those offered before due dates.  If I grant an extension to a student, that extension will establish a new due date, and that date must be met (or in extraordinary circumstances, an additional extension may be arranged [but only when it is requested prior to the (extended) due date]).  Please note that requests for extensions must be made directly to me—neither my secretary nor your doctor may grant extensions for this course, and last minute calls to my voice-mail provide no assurance of extensions.  On and after the due date, only an extraordinary request will be accepted (acceptable examples: hospitalization on due date, extremely serious personal problem, death in the immediate family; unacceptable examples: running out of time and flat tires). 


Papers are due in class on the due date—papers turned in after class will be treated as if they were turned in the next day.  Students who turn their papers in at the Philosophy Department office rather than in class should give them to the Department secretary so that the date and time may be noted on the papers.  Papers submitted after class but before 4:30 P.M. the next day will receive a one-third decrease in grade (example: B+ changes to a B), papers turned in two days late will receive a two-thirds grade decrease, additional days will be treated according to this progression, but papers turned in between 4:30 on Fridays and 9:00 on Mondays will be counted as turned in on Monday morning, and will be assessed a “double penaltyfor each weekend day).  A paper turned in one week late, then, would receive a three grade reduction (an A paper would receive a D).  Clearly, students have a strong incentive to contact me if they are going to be unable to turn their papers in on time—failure to do so may have serious consequences in terms of the course grade.  If your paper is late, then, it makes sense to speak with me (after class, in my office, or on the phone)—when I am provided with a good reason, I will stop the penalties from continuing to pile on to those already assessed for the lateness. 


Note that unless I have explicitly granted you an incomplete, all late papers must be turned in by the last class of the semester (December 5)—assignments which are not turned in as of that time will be considered undone, and the penalty for having not done any of the requirements for the course is a course grade of “F.”  Note, also, that I will not accept any but the most extraordinary of excuses for missing or being late for the Final Exam. 

8. Plagiarism and academic misconduct:

when you engage in plagiarism you present as your work the opinions or arguments of someone else.  Plagiarism is dishonest since the plagiarist offers for credit what is not her or his own.  It is also counter-productive because it defeats a purpose of education—the improvement of the student's own powers of thinking, reasoning, and expression.  Plagiarism may even occur when one expresses another's sequence of ideas, arrangement of material, or pattern of thought in one's own words.  We have a case of plagiarism when a sequence of ideas is transferred from a source to a paper without a process of digestion, integration, criticism, and inquiry in the writer's mind and without acknowledgment (I have borrowed this statement, to a large extent, from the FIU English and Sociology/Anthropology Departments' descriptions of plagiarism).  Academic misconduct occurs when the norms of inquiry are violated.  Examples include students who present false Doctors' notes, who pretend that they have a family or medical emergency, or who seriously hinder other students' scholarly activities.  I assign a course grade of F when I confront cases of plagiarism or academic misconduct, and I bring such students before the appropriate disciplinary body (the processes are set forth in the Student Handbook).  I have found that the minimal penalty for students found guilty of plagiarism through the process is an F in the course, the provision that the University’s “Forgiveness Policy” may not be used to expunge that grade, and such students are placed on Academic Probation for the remainder of their undergraduate careers at FIU (so that a second such act usually results in expulsion from the University). 


Students should be aware that it is not hard for professors to spot many cases of plagiarism.  In the Fall and Spring Semesters of 2013-2014, for example, I caught and charged two students plagiarizing, and all it took to catch this was a simple web search!  The University’s Policies on Academic Misconduct and Code of Academic Integrity may be found on the FIU web-site at:


Contemporary web-based search engines make it easy to detect such activities, and I routinely filter passages I am suspicious of through one or more such filters. 


Office Hours: Mondays and Fridays: 3:00-4:30, and by appointment. 

Office: DM 341D. 

Mailbox Location: DM 340A (the room is open 9:00-5:00). 

     Phone/Voice Mail: 305-348-3350. 


          I check both Voice and E-Mail several times a day, and I return my calls. 

The Philosophy Department's Senior Secretary is Ms. Ivonne Carrasco, and she can be reached at 305-348-2185. 

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File revised on 06/27/2014