University of Utah  Pragmatism and the Philosophy of John Dewey  Fall 1999 
Office: 118B M.B.H.  Audrey Thompson Mailbox in 307 MBH 
Office Hours:  Ed. St. 6621  Phone: 581-7158 
Tu 2:30-4:00 & We 2:30-4:00
and by appt. 
 Meets W 4:30-7:30
BU C 211 


The purpose of this course is to examine the work of John Dewey in light of several North American traditions in pragmatism: the “classical” Anglo-American pragmatism associated with Charles S. Peirce, William James, and George Herbert Mead (as well as Dewey), along with the feminist pragmatism associated with Jane Addams, Dorothy Smith, and others, and the African-American tradition in pragmatism associated with W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Carter G. Woodson, and others. Each of these forms of pragmatism offers distinctive accounts of the relation between knowledge and social change; the course will be concerned with the epistemological claims and the educational implications that emerge from the different forms of pragmatism. Among the questions that the course will ask are how “experience,” “knowledge,” “nature,” and “democracy” are interpreted in each of these pragmatist traditions.

A leading American philosopher and educational theorist, John Dewey has had an enormous impact on mainstream educational discourse — and is of increasing interest to postmodern feminist research. This course seeks to locate Dewey’s educational philosophy within a coherent political, cultural, and intellectual tradition in order to examine the conservative, liberal, and radical assumptions and implications of Dewey’s arguments.

In examining Dewey’s views on such issues as individualism and self-expression, democracy, local control, the role of experts, the nature of knowledge, the purpose of schools as democratic institutions, and the more broadly conceived purposes of education, we will also be considering the ways in which Dewey’s arguments speak to the interests of some groups to the exclusion of others — and whether his arguments can be reframed in more inclusive terms. In order to represent those arguments as fully as possible, the course considers Dewey’s work not only in his specifically educational writing but also in his discussions of political theory, scientific and intellectual understanding, aesthetic appreciation, and, to a certain extent, moral knowledge and conduct.


There are six required texts for the course; occasional short articles will be assigned as well. Written requirements will include two in-class tests, each focusing on central concepts in Dewey’s work; a journal/notebook/log that, in keeping with the experimental and experiential emphasis in Dewey’s philosophy, uses the individual and collective experience of teachers/students to interrogate particular arguments in Dewey’s work but in turn uses Dewey’s arguments as leverage on that experience; and a final paper (approximately 10 pages) analyzing a particular set of concepts in Dewey’s work with reference to some of the other readings on pragmatism used in the course. The paper should draw on at least three of the books used in the course, along with any other applicable readings.

The two tests have a largely expository purpose, which is to synthesize Dewey’s position on particular points. Each of the tests consists of 4 or 5 terms (or pairs of terms) to be discussed in light of their significance for Deweyan pragmatism. The class as a whole will generate a pool of test items, from which I will select a more limited number of items (a typical term to be defined might be “the public”). In contrast with the tests, both class discussion and the journal are expected to take a more exploratory approach, critiquing and assessing as well as elucidating Dewey’s arguments in terms of their assumptions concerning race, class, gender, and ethnicity, for example, and in terms of their implications for teachers, students, and schooling as an institution. The final paper should be both expository and critical, though this does not preclude its being emergent and exploratory.

In sum the course requirements include two short tests, a journal, and a final paper, in addition to regular attendance, participation in class discussion, and careful reading of the assigned texts.


The course has two main purposes — clarifying and synthesizing Dewey’s arguments, on the one hand, and interrogating and assessing them, on the other. The in-class tests will focus on exposition while the journals and final paper will also involve critical analysis.
Expository analyses:
First test: 20%

Second test: 25%
Critical/exploratory analyses:
Journal and class participation/discussion: 25%

Final paper: 30%


John Dewey,
The Public and Its Problems
John Dewey,
Democracy and Education
John Dewey,
The Quest for Certainty
John Dewey,
Art as Experience
Charlene Haddock Seigfried,
Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric
Carter G. Woodson,
The Mis-Education of the Negro
The above texts are available at the University Bookstore and on reserve at the University Library. Occasional articles will also be assigned. They will be put on reserve at the University Library.


Wednesday 25 August:
Introduction: Progressivism, Pragmatism, and Pragmaticism
Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”
James, “What Pragmatism Means”
Wednesday 1 September:
Liberalism and Individualism in the “New Age of Human Relationships”
Dewey, Public and Its Problems, Ch. 1, 2, 3
Wednesday 8 September:
Democracy and Community: Creating Commonality amid Social Instability
Dewey, Public and Its Problems, Ch. 4, 5, 6
Journals due
Wednesday 15 September:
Education as Growth
Dewey, Democracy and Education, Ch. 1-9
Wednesday 22 September:
Experience and Education
Dewey, Democracy and Education, Ch. 10-18
Wednesday 29 September:
Education and Value
Dewey, Democracy and Education, Ch. 19-26
Test: Concepts in Democracy and Education and The Public and Its Problems
Wednesday 6 October:
Naturalistic Philosophy: The Relation between Knowledge and Action
Dewey, Quest for Certainty, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 4
Wednesday 13 October:
Inquiry as Problem-Solving: Interestedness vs. Disinterestedness
Dewey, Quest for Certainty, Ch. 6, 7, 9
Keller, “A World of Difference”
Wednesday 20 October:
Organic Experience and the Construction of Meaning
Dewey, Art as Experience, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 4
Wednesday 27 October:
The Working of Art: Objectivism, Subjectivism, and Transactionalism
Class does not meet. Please complete the following reading.
Dewey, Art as Experience, Ch. 5, 6, 8, 10
Wednesday 3 November:
Aesthetic Transformation
Dewey, Art as Experience, Ch. 12, 14
Test on Concepts in Art as Experience and The Quest for Certainty
Wednesday 10 November:
Knowledge and Standpoint
Woodson, Mis-Education of the Negro, pp. 1 - 95
Locke, “The New Negro”
Wednesday 17 November:
Democratic Education in a Racist Society
Woodson, Mis-Education of the Negro, pp. 96 - 197
Du Bois, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?”
Journals due
Wednesday 24 November:
NO CLASS: Semester Break
Wednesday 1 December:
Where Are the Women?
Seigfried, Pragmatism and Feminism, Ch. 1, 2, 3
Journals due
Wednesday 8 December:
Inclusion and Omission
Seigfried, Pragmatism and Feminism, Ch. 4, 5, 6
Wednesday 15 December:
Final paper due
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