American Philosophy and Its Contemporary Relevance

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American Philosophy and Its Contemporary Relevance

Topics in the History of Philosophy (PHI 556)

Fall Semester 2021, Monday 1-3:40pm

Venue: Park 141 (including on September 25-26, Park 141)

Registration: Class#: 24202

Course Description: This course will provide an introduction to the pragmatist tradition of American philosophy. It will focus on the philosophical ideas of the leading figures of this movement, including Peirce, James, Mead and Dewey. At the same time it will explore the influence and contemporary relevance of pragmatist philosophy, particular as concerns developments in psychology, and in the social sciences. The course will include a two-day intense weekend session focusing on the influence of American pragmatism on 20th-century German philosophy.

Instructors: Barry Smith and Jobst Landgrebe, with contributions by Harry Heft, John Sowa and Frederik Stjernfelt

Prerequisites: Open to all persons with an undergraduate degree and some knowledge of philosophy.

Office hours: By appointment via email at phismith@buffalo.edu

The Course

Course Description: This course will provide an introduction to the pragmatist tradition of American philosophy. It will focus on the philosophical ideas of the leading figures of this movement, including Peirce, James, Mead and Dewey. At the same time it will explore the influence and contemporary relevance of pragmatist philosophy, particularly as concerns developments in psychology and in the social sciences. The course will include a two-day intense weekend seminar focusing on the influence of American pragmatism on 20th-century German philosophy.

Course Structure: This is a three credit hour graduate seminar.

The final sessions will be structured around powerpoint presentations by the students in the class. These presentations will be recorded.

Target Audience: The course is open to all interested students with an undergraduate degree and some knowledge of philosophy.



August 30: Pragmatism: An Overview

Introduction to this Course

Methodology for the history of philosophy
The four phases of philosophy
Peirce and The Monist

Introduction to American Philosophy

Charles Sanders Peirce
William James
John Dewey
George Herbert Mead
Richard Rorty
Susan Haack

Slides

Video (with apologies for poor quality)

Reading:

Cornelis de Waal, Introducing Pragmatism, Taylor & Francis, 2021
Susan Haack, "Pragmatism Old and New" (2006).
C. Legg, "Pragmatism", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

September 6: Labor Day Observed

September 13: No class

September 20: The Metaphysics of C. S. Peirce

An introduction to truthmaking
The metaphysical realism of Duns Scotus
Peirce's metaphysical realism
Peirce and chemical diagrams
Peirce on modality
Peirce on the continuum
Peirce and mereology
Peirce and Brentano on the medievals

Slides

Boler, Peirce and the Medievals
Campbell, The Chemistry of Relations
Pihlström, "Truthmaking And Pragmatist Conceptions Of Truth And Reality".
Rorty, Review of Boler
Smith, "Characteristica Universalis"
Stjernfelt, Diagrammatology
Stjernelt, "Mereology and Semiotics"

Peirce on the Classification of the Sciences

What is science?
What is logic?
What is mathematics?
The taxonomy of scientific models

Readings:

Torjus Midtgarden, Peirce’s classification of the sciences
Denis Fisette, Stumpf and the classification of the sciences

September 25-26 Weekend Course: Pragmatism and German Philosophy

Venue: 280 Park Hall

Saturday Morning

9am Pragmatism and Positivism

F. C. S. Schiller and William James
Reading: Mulligan "How to Marry Phenomenology and Pragmatism"

10:30am Peirce, Truthmaking, and Kantianism

Presentation by Frederik Stjernfelt, Copenhagen

Readings:

F. Stjernfelt, "Peirce as Truthmaker Realist"
F. Stjernfelt, "The Riddle of Dependences: How to connect entities, across pragmatism, phenomenology, and structuralism"

Saturday Afternoon

1pm Pragmatism and Neopositivism

2:45pm The History of Psychology in Germany and America

Gestalt-graph.png

From Barry Smith (ed.), Foundations of Gestalt Theory

Leipzig School, Wilhelm Wundt
Hugo Münsterberg
Oswald Külpe
[Karl Bühler]
E. B. Titchener
E. G. Boring
George Herbert Mead
C. S. Peirce
[Karl Bühler]
Harvard School, William James
Edwin B. Holt
J. J. Gibson
Behaviorism
E. Thorndike
J. B. Watson
Edwin Bissell Holt
B. F. Skinner
Ernst Mach
Vienna School, Franz Brentano
Edmund Husserl
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
J. J. Gibson
Carl Stumpf
Wolfgang Köhler
Max Wertheimer
Kurt Koffka
Kurt Lewin
Roger Barker
Fritz Heider
Prague School, Christian von Ehrenfels
Graz School, Alexius Meinong,
Fritz Heider

Sunday Morning

9am Peirce's Semiotics

Presentation by Frederik Stjernfelt, Copenhagen

Reading: F. Stjernfelt: "Co-localization as the Syntax of Multimodal Propositions: An Amazing Peircean Idea and Some Implications for the Semiotics of Truth"

11:00am American Philosophy in Germany

Scheler, Gehlen, Habermas

Sunday Afternoon

1pm American Philosophy and Positivism (part 2)

2:30pm Pragmatist Theories of Truth

Truth as Successful Action (Mead: When somebody has a problem and the solution of the problem is the truth)
Truth as Successful Group Action and the Developing of the Self through Communication (Royce, Mead and Habermas)
Habermas: Truth Emerges When People Speak Long Enough to Achieve a Consensus

September 27: Peirce on Logic and Diagrammatic Reasoning

John Sowa: Natural logic is diagrammatic reasoning about mental models

followed by discussion with Jobst Landgrebe and Barry Smith

Reading:

John Sowa, "Peirce, Polya, and Euclid: Integrating logic, heuristics, and geometry"
John Sowa,"Reasoning with diagrams and images", 2018
John Sowa, "Natural logic is diagrammatic reasoning about mental models", 2020

Peirce on Logic and the Theory of Signs

Peirce on logic
Peirce and the theory of signs
Peirce and mereology
Peirce and chemical diagrams

Reading:

Campbell, The Chemistry of Relations
Smith, "Characteristica Universalis"
Stjernfelt, Diagrammatology
Stjernfelt, "Mereology and Semiotics"
Sowa Peirce's Contributions to the 21st Century

October 4: No class

October 11: No class

October 18: No class

October 25: Ecological Psychology in Context

Presentations by Harry Heft, author of Ecological Psychology in Context: James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the Legacy of William James's Radical Empiricism:

1: Radical empiricism and the ontology of affordances

2. Behavior settings as emergent relational structures in everyday life

Readings:

Heft, "Perceptual Information of 'An Entirely Different Order'"
Heft, "Places: Widening the Scope of an Ecological Approach to Perception"
Heft, Ecological Psychology in Context

November 1: From Pragmatism to Radical Embodiment / Peirce on Habit

Anthony Chemero (University of Cincinatti) Enactivism, Embodiment, Ecological Psychology

Readings:

A. Chemero, Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, MIT Press, 2009
A. Chemero, "An Outline of a Theory of Affordances", Ecological Psychology, 15(2), 181–195
Rob Withagen and Anthony Chemero, "Affordances and classification: On the significance of a sidebar in James Gibson’s last book", Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 4, August 2012, 521–537

Peirce on Habit

Dispositions, Habits and Capabilities
Intelligence as Habit and Capability
Primal vs. Objectifying Intelligence

Readings:

Legg and Black
Caruana and Testa
Maria Brinker, "The Backside of Habit

November 8: The Crisis of Psychology

1: Behaviorism, the Ideal of Objective Psychology and the Replicability Crisis

2: Peirce's Idea of Objective Truth and the Reasons for Its Failure

Reading: Bitterman, Classical Conditioning Since Pavlov

November 15: Richard Rorty: The Last Pragmatist

Reading: Munz, Philosophy and the Mirror of Rorty

November 22: Student Projects

Suggested themes

Peirce's Ontology and the Metaphysics of Duns Scotus
Peirce on Habit and the Ontology of Dispositions
Peirce on Speech Act Theory
American Pragmatism and Its Reception in Germany: Scheler and Gehlen
E. B. Holt and J. J. Gibson: Pragmatism and the Origins of Ecological Psychology
Kurt Lewin's Field Theory and Roger Barker
Gibson's Theory of Perception and the Ontology of Affordances
Roger Barker and the Ontology of Behavior Settings
Mead's Influence on German Sociology (Gehlen, Habermas, Joas) (JL)
Ecological Psychology in Context: James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the Legacy of William James's Radical Empiricism
Pragmatism and the Origin of Speech Act Theory
Rorty as the Last Pragmatist

November 29: No class

December 6: No class

Background Reading: Primary Sources

Barker, Roger "On the Nature of the Environment", Journal of Social Issues, October 1963.
Brock, Jarrett, "An Introduction to Peirce's Theory of Speech Acts", Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 17 (4), 1981, 319-326.
Dewey, John. (1884). "The new psychology". Andover Review, 2, 278-289. [Possibly the first use of the phrase "new psychology."]
Dewey, John. (1894). "The ego as cause". Philosophical Review, 3, 337-341.
Dewey, John. (1896) "The reflex arc concept in psychology". Psychological Review, 3, 357-370. [The article that defined the modern concept of the reflex.]
Dewey, John. (1938) Logic. The Theory of Inquiry
Gibson, James J. (1966) The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems
Gibson, James J. (1979) The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception
Holt, Edwin Bissell (1931) Animal Drive and the Leaning Process. An Essay Toward Radical Empiricism
Holt, E. B. et al. (1912) The New Realism
James, William (1890). The Principles of Psychology.
James, William, "Pragmatism, a New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking", in: Popular Lectures on Philosophy, Longmans, Green, and Co (1907)
Langfeld, Herbert (1931) "A Response Interpretation of Consciousness", The Psychological Review, 38(2), 1931, 87-107.
Mead, George H. (1913). "The social self". Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 10, 374-380. [Major article by the "social behaviorist"]
Mead, George H. (1934) Mind, Self and Society
Parsons, Talcott (1951) The Social System
Peirce, C. S. "How to Make our Ideas Clear"
Schiller, F. C. S. Humanism: Philosophical Essays
Schiller, F. C. S. Studies in Humanism,
Skinner, B. F. (1935). "Two types of conditioned reflex and a pseudo type". Journal of General Psychology, 12, 66-77. [Major statement of operant behaviorism.]
Skinner, B. F. (1937). "Two types of conditioned reflex: A reply to Konorski and Miller". Journal of General Psychology, 16, 272-279. [Reply to major critique of Skinner (1935).]
Skinner, B. F. (1950). "Are theories of learning necessary?", Psychological Review, 57, 193-216.
Thorndike, Edward Human Learning, 1931
Watson, John B. (1913). "Psychology as the behaviorist views it". Psychological Review, 20, 158-177. [The classic manifesto of behaviorism.]

Background Reading: Secondary Literature

Michael K. Bergman, Hierarchy from the perspective of Peirce, Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization
M. E. Bitterman Classical Conditioning Since Pavlov, Review of General Psychology, 2006, 10 (4), 365–376
J. F. Boler, Charles Peirce and Scholastic Realism: A Study of Peirce's Relation to John Duns Scotus, University of Washington Press, I963
J. F. Boler, Peirce on the Medievals: Realism, Power and Form
Maria Brinker, "The Backside of Habit: Notes on Embodied Agency and the Functional Opacity of the Medium", in: Fausto Caruana & Italo Testa (eds.), Habits, 2020
Chris Campbell, The Chemistry of Relations. The periodic table examined through the lens of C.S. Peirce’s philosophy, University College London, 2017
Fausto Caruana and Italo Testa (eds.) Habits: Pragmatist Approaches from Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Social Theory, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
Jorge Castro and Enrique Lafuente, “All You Need is Holt”—Is the Socio-cultural Phenomenon a Problem for a Neorealist Ecological Psychology?
E. P. Charles, Seeing Minds in Behavior: Descriptive Mentalism, August 2011, Review of General Psychology 15(3):267-276.
A. Chemero, Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, MIT Press, 2009
A. Chemero, "[1] An Outline of a Theory of Affordances]", Ecological Psychology, 15(2), 181–195
Willard F. Day, On certain similarities between the Philosophical investigations of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the operationism of B. F. Skinner, Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 1969 May; 12(3): 489–506.
Christopher D. Green, "Introduction to Watson (1913)"
Bernard Guerin, Gibson, Skinner and Perceptual Responses, Behavior and Philosophy, Spring/Summer 1990, Vol. 18, Number 1
Susan Haack, "Pragmatism Old and New" (2006).
Henry Jackman, "James' Pragmatic Account of Intentionality and Truth", Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 34, No. 1, 1998, 155-181
Peter Hare, G. H. Mead's Metaphysics of Sociality, Dissertation, Columbia University, 1965
Peter Hare, Neglected American Philosophers in the History of Symbolic Interactionism [on Mead's precursors Chauncey Wright and Josiah Royce]
Harry Heft, Ecological Psychology in Context : James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the Legacy of William James's Radical Empiricism
Harry Heft, "Perceptual Information of 'An Entirely Different Order': The 'Cultural Environment' in The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems", Ecological Psychology, 29 (2), 2017, 122-145
Heft, Harry, "Places: Widening the Scope of an Ecological Approach to Perception–Action With an Emphasis on Child Development", Ecological Psychology, 30, 2018, 99-123
Hongwei Jia Foundations of the Theory of Signs (1938), Chinese Semiotic Studies 15(1): 1–14.
Catherine Legg and Joshua Black “What is Intelligence For? A Peircean Pragmatist Response to the Knowing‑How, Knowing‑That Debate”, Erkenntnis, 2020.
Willem J. M. Levelt, Speech Acts and Functions, ch. 9 of Levelt, A History of Psycholinguistics: The Pre-Chomskyan Era, Oxford University Press, 2013 [on Bühler and speech act theory]
Peter T. Manicas, "John Dewey and American Psychology", Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 32:30021–8308
Edward C. Moore, "The Scholastic Realism of C. S. Peirce", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, March 1952, 12 (3), 406-417
Kevin Mulligan, "How to Marry Phenomenology and Pragmatism - Scheler's Proposal", Pragmatism and the European Traditions: Encounters with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology Before the Great Divide, Edited by Maria Baghramian and Sarin Marchetti, Routledge, 2018, 37-64
Peter Munz, Philosophy and the Mirror of Rorty, Philosophy of the Social Sciences 14 (2):195-238 (1984)
Thomas Natsoulas Gibson's Environment, Husserl's "Lebenswelt," the World of Physics, and the Rejection of Phenomenal Objects, The American Journal of Psychology, Autumn, 1994, Vol. 107, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 327-358
Sami Pihlström, "Truthmaking And Pragmatist Conceptions Of Truth And Reality". Minerva (2005) 9:105-133.
Matthieu Queloz, The Practical Origins of Ideas: Genealogy as Conceptual Reverse-Engineering (open access) [On Peirce]
Richard Rorty, Review of Boler on Scholastic Realism
John Sowa, "Peirce, Polya, and Euclid: Integrating logic, heuristics, and geometry"
John Sowa,"Reasoning with diagrams and images", 2018
John Sowa, "Natural logic is diagrammatic reasoning about mental models", 2020
John Sowa "Peirce's Contributions to the 21st Century".
Barry Smith (ed.), Foundations of Gestalt Theory, Munich, 1988.
Barry Smith, "Characteristica Universalis", in K. Mulligan (ed.), Language, Truth and Ontology, Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer, 1992, 48–77.
Barry Smith “Objects and Their Environments: From Aristotle to Ecological Psychology”, in Andrew Frank, Jonathan Raper and Jean-Paul Cheylan (eds.), The Life and Motion of Socio-Economic Units (GISDATA 8), London: Taylor and Francis, 2001, 79–97. [On Roger Barker on behavior settings]
Frederik Stjernfelt, "Mereology and Semiotics", Sign Systems Studies 28:73-97 (2000)
Frederik Stjernfelt, Diagrammatology, Springer, 2007
Frederik Stjernfelt, "Peirce as Truthmaker Realist"Signs Conveying Information: On the Range of Peirce's Notion of Propositions – Dicisigns", in: Empirical Research on Semiotics and Visual Rhetoric, 2018 (pp.177-192)
Frederik Stjernfelt,"Riddle of Dependences. How to connect entities, across pragmatism, phenomenology, and structuralism"
Frederik Stjernfelt: "Co-localization as the Syntax of Multimodal Propositions: An Amazing Peircean Idea and Some Implications for the Semiotics of Truth"
Fumiaki Toyoshima and Adrien Barton "A Formal Representation of Affordances as Reciprocal Dispositions", TriCoLore (C3GI/ISD/SCORE), 2018
Rob Withagen and Anthony Chemero Affordances and classification: On the significance of a sidebar in James Gibson’s last book, Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 4, August 2012, 521–537
Robert H. Wozniak, "Commentary on Watson (1913)"

Background Reading: Repositories

Mead Project Inventory: see especially items by Dewey, E. B. Holt, and G. H. Mead
Peirce resources
Harry Heft: Works
Munich Schedule of Lectures on Peirce
Frederik Stjernfelt on Peirce
E. P. Charles' papers on Holt
Classics in the History of Psychology

Student Learning Outcomes

Program Outcomes/Competencies Instructional Method(s) Assessment Method(s)
The student will acquire a knowledge of the history of American philosophy, of its influence on the development of psychology and the social sciences, and of its contemporary relevance. Lectures and class discussions Review of reading matter and associated online content and participation in class discussions
The student will acquire experience in using the methods employed in intellectual history, especially as applied to philosophical theories and systems Participation in practical experiments Review of results
The student will acquire experience in communicating the results of work in the history of philosophy in such a way as to demonstrate their contemporary relevance. Creation of youtube presentation and of associated documentation Review of results

How to Write an Essay

Jordan Peterson's Essay Writing Guide

Important Dates

Sep 7 - about now start to discuss by email the content of your essay or essays with Dr Smith
Sep 25 - submit proposed title and abstract
Oct 10 - submit a table of contents and 300 word summary plus draft of associated ppt slides
Oct 20 - submit first draft of essay (~1000 words) and associated powerpoint (~10 slides)
Nov 15 - submit second draft of essay (~2000 words) and associated powerpoint (~10 slides)
Nov 22 - class presentation
Dec 11 - submit final version of essay and powerpoint and upload final version of video to youtube

Grading

Grading will be based on two factors:

I: understanding and criticism of the material presented in classes 1-13

All students are required to take an active part in class (and where relevant on-line) discussions throughout the semester.

II: preparation of an essay, and associated powerpoint slides and recorded presentation.

Content and structure of the essay should be discussed with Dr Smith.

Grading Policy: Grading follows standard Graduate School policies. Grades will be weighted according to the following breakdown:

Weighting Assignment

20% - class discussions
15% - youtube video presentation
15% - powerpoint slides
50% - essay

Final Grades

Percentages refer to sum of assignment grades as listed above

Grade Quality Percentage

A 4.0 90.0% -100.00%
A- 3.67 87.0% - 89.9%
B+ 3.33 84.0% - 86.9%
B 3.00 80.0% - 83.9%
B- 2.67 77.0% - 79.9%
C+ 2.33 74.0% - 76.9%
C 2.00 71.0% - 73.9%
C- 1.67 68.0% - 70.9%
D+ 1.33 65.0% - 67.9%
D 1.00 62.0% - 64.9%
F 0 61.9% or below

An interim grade of Incomplete (I) may be assigned if the student has not completed all requirements for the course. An interim grade of 'I' shall not be assigned to a student who did not attend the course. The default grade accompanying an interim grade of 'I' shall be 'U' and will be displayed on the UB record as 'IU.' The default Unsatisfactory (U) grade shall become the permanent course grade of record if the 'IU' is not changed through formal notice by the instructor upon the student's completion of the course.

Assignment of an interim 'IU' is at the discretion of the instructor. A grade of 'IU' can be assigned only if successful completion of unfulfilled course requirements can result in a final grade better than the default 'U' grade. The student should have a passing average in the requirements already completed. The instructor shall provide the student specification, in writing, of the requirements to be fulfilled.

The university’s Graduate Incomplete Policy can be found here.

Related Policies and Services

Academic integrity is a fundamental university value. Through the honest completion of academic work, students sustain the integrity of the university while facilitating the university's imperative for the transmission of knowledge and culture based upon the generation of new and innovative ideas. See http://grad.buffalo.edu/Academics/Policies-Procedures/Academic-Integrity.html.

Accessibility resources: If you have any disability which requires reasonable accommodations to enable you to participate in this course, please contact the Office of Accessibility Resources in 60 Capen Hall, 645-2608 and also the instructor of this course during the first week of class. The office will provide you with information and review appropriate arrangements for reasonable accommodations, which can be found on the web here.

University suppert services: Students are often unaware of university support services. For example, the Center for Excellence in Writing provides support for written work, and several tutoring centers on campus provide academic success support and resources.

Available resources on sexual assault: UB is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking. If you have experienced gender-based violence (intimate partner violence, attempted or completed sexual assault, harassment, coercion, stalking, etc.), UB has resources to help. This includes academic accommodations, health and counseling services, housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and assistance with reporting the incident to police or other UB officials if you so choose. Please contact UB’s Title IX Coordinator at 716-645-2266 for more information. For confidential assistance, you may also contact a Crisis Services Campus Advocate at 716-796-4399.

Counseiling services: As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, health concerns, or unwanted sexual experiences. Counseling, Health Services, and Health Promotion are here to help with these or other concerns. You learn can more about these programs and services by contacting:

Counseling Services: 120 Richmond Quad (North Campus), phone 716-645-2720
Health Services: Michael Hall (South Campus), phone: 716-829-3316
Health Promotion: 114 Student Union (North Campus), phone: 716- 645-2837