Essay #2

Due: May 9th

In five to seven pages, discuss one of the following four topics*:


The correspondence theory of truth suggests that truth is a property of some of our beliefs -- the property of corresponding to the way the world is. According to this theory, truth is a matter of being "objective", of having beliefs that accurately describe the structure of the world.

Sometimes Pragmatists seem to reject this theory -- especially James and sometimes Dewey. But at other times they are shocked when philosophers critique them for "throwing out the world" -- for pretending that the world exists only insofar as it satisfies human desires and needs and goals. Why are they so misunderstood? What is their position(s)?


The word 'experience' is used and abused in all sorts of ways. It seems to be used quite loosely, sometimes referring to what a person literally senses, and at other times referring more broadly to what a person "goes through". The first usage is rather narrow in scope, while the latter usage is quite broad.

Explain how Peirce and Dewey use the term experience. Discuss the philosophical importance that these two thinkers attribute to the notion of experience. Why is it important? That is, what types of philosophical questions or problems do they think that focusing upon this notion can help us solve? What do their perspectives share? How do they differ?

Self and Society

Pragmatists are famous for their advocacy of democracy. It is essential, from their perspective, that individuals think for themselves and develop the critical, emotional, and practical skills to contribute to society in their own unique way. We are, as the cliche suggests, as unique "as each snowflake". (Yech!)

Uniqueness and the democratic ideal, however, seem to the contemporary mind to be in opposition to the notion of a "socially constructed self." If a self is the creation of others, of shared practices and ideals and habits, of goals and desires that are inherited from the culture around us, then how can we be so unique? Compare James and Mead on these issues.

*If you would prefer to come up with your own topic, discuss it with me at your earliest possible convenience.