Coordinates Wednesdays from 10 (sine tempore!) to 12 PM in room 021 of Ludwigstrasse 31.
Lecturer Tom Sterkenburg. Contact me at; visit me in room 126 of Ludwigstrasse 31.
Course description

Pragmatism is a major tradition in philosophy, that can be set apart from the analytical and the continental traditions in its emphasis on the practical understanding, uses, and consequences of philosophical ideas and notions. Pragmatist epistemology, in particular, substitutes the traditional concern with the static notion of knowledge and its justification for an analysis of the norms governing knowledge-seeking inquiry. In this course we will study classic texts in the pragmatist tradition, with special attention for the contrasts and meeting points between pragmatic and analytic epistemology.

Contents and material

We will read a number of classic texts in the pragmatist tradition. See the below schedule for details. (This schedule is provisionary; depending on participants' interests, we might make some changes as the course progresses.)


The course is worth 9 ECTS. Your grade will be determined by a term paper at the end of the course. The term paper treats of a theme we have discussed in the course, and has a length of about 5000-6000 words.

In addition, everyone who is taking the course for credits will be required to give a brief presentation about the readings in one of the meetings.

Finally, you are required to submit at least two questions for discussion by noon of the day prior to each lecture. A discussion question ideally comes in the form of indicating some aspect of the text that you find problematic, implausible, and/or confusing; and a brief motivation why you think so.


Date Topic Material Assignment
Wed Oct 16 Introduction. Background: SEP entry on Pragmatism.
Wed Oct 23 Peirce. "The fixation of belief";
"The scientific attitude and fallibilism".
Wed Oct 30 Peirce. "How to make our ideas clear";
"What pragmatism is".
Wed Nov 6 James. "Philosophical conceptions and practical results";
"The will to believe".
Wed Nov 13 James. "What pragmatism means";
"Pragmatism's conception of truth".
Wed Nov 20 Schiller. "The definition of pragmatism and humanism";
"The making of truth".
Wed Nov 27 Dewey. "Escape from peril" (The Quest for Certainty);
"Common sense and scientific inquiry".
Wed Dec 4 NO CLASS.
Wed Dec 11 Lewis. "A pragmatist conception of the a priori";
"Logical positivism and pragmatism".
Wed Dec 18 Ramsey. "Truth and probability."
Wed Jan 08 Quine. "Two dogmas of empiricism";
Godfrey-Smith: "Quine and pragmatism."
Wed Jan 15 Putnam. "Is there still anything to say about reality and truth?" (The Many Faces of Realism);
Cormier: "What is the use of calling Putnam a pragmatist?", with reply by Putnam.
Wed Jan 22 Davidson; Goodman. Davidson: "On the very idea of a conceptual scheme";
Goodman: "Words, works, worlds."
Wed Jan 29 Rorty. Rorty: "Universality and truth";
Haack: "«We pragmatists»; Peirce and Rorty in conversation."
Mon Mar 30 Deadline term paper.


Further reading