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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Pragmatism Reading Group is held on Mondays at 11am–12noon in the Board Room and on Zoom.

Organisers: Niall Roe (nrr32), Damon Kutzin (dtk23), Ruward Mulder (ram202)

Easter Term 2024:
What's your problem? Reflective thinking and problem-solving from a pragmatist perspective

"A problem well put is a problem half-solved" – John Dewey

After focusing last term on the pragmatists Peirce, James and (perhaps?) Wittgenstein, we will now look at research directly or indirectly inspired by John Dewey and his conception of the reasoning skill of reflective thinking as a structured method for individuals or (small) groups to approach decision-making and problem-solving. We look at Herbert Simon's distinction between 'well-structured' and 'ill-structured' problems, Noam Chomsky's view of 'intelligibility' and the essentially human practice of 'concept formation', and Patricia King and Karen Kitchener's 'Reflective Judgment Model'. During the reading group we will explore the nature of problems and the ways of inquiry to address them.

Please join us – but only if you are ready to create some problems!

29 April

John Dewey (1915). 'The logic of judgments of practise'. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 12 (19), 505–523.

6 May

Noam Chomsky (2013). 'Lecture II: what can we understand?' The Journal of Philosophy 110 (12), 663–684.

13 May

Oscar Westerblad (2022). 'Deweyan conceptual engineering: reconstruction, concepts, and philosophical inquiry'. Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

20 May

Patricia King & Karen Kitchener (1994). Developing Reflective Judgment. Jossey-Bass. Available through iDiscover. 'Chapter 3: The Seven Stages of Reflective Judgment' (pp. 44–74).
Background: 'Chapter 1: Reflective Judgment: A Neglected Facet of Critical Thinking' (pp. 1–19).

27 May

Céline Henne (2023). 'Framed and framing inquiry: a pragmatist proposal'. Synthese 201 (2), 1–25.

3 June

Herbert A. Simon (1973). 'The structure of ill structured problems'. Artificial Intelligence 4 (3–4), 181–201.

10 June

Thomas Nickles (2018). 'Bounded rationality, scissors, crowbars, and pragmatism: reflections on Herbert Simon'. Mind and Society 17 (1–2), 85–96.

More on the structure of problems: