PHH 3701 Native American Philosophy (Fall 2009)


Prof. JL Vest


Location: Classroom Building 205

Times: TTH  1:30-2:45

Class Numbers:

Office hours: TTH 3:30-5:30 PM and W 1-4

Office location: Room 237, Philosophy Department, Psychology Building

Contact:  (407) 823-5998 or

Final Exam: Dec. 8th, 1PM


In this course, we will explore topics and themes related to the growth of a new academic field, Native American Philosophy. We will examine works written primarily by Native American authors (philosophers, novelists, historians, biographers, philosophers, scientists, and cultural critics) in order to frame our discussion in terms of the contemporary intellectual and artistic production of Native America. The focus of the course will be on critical dialogue, debate, and engagement of the key issues that arise in the theorization of Native American Philosophy.

Learning Objectives

  1. An understanding of the key topics and questions in Native American philosophy
  2. The development of a more critical stance towards your own culture(s) and the ability to evaluate ideas within a cultural and historical context
  3. The ability to think, speak, and write analytically about the ontological, ethical, political, epistemological, and metaphilosophical issues raised within the context of Native American philosophy
  4. The ability to think in terms of the interrelatedness of diverse bodies of knowledge; the development of a critical epistemelogical stance
  5. The ability to argue effectively both in oral and written form
  6. The ability to identify and critically evaluate philosophical arguments

      Required Texts

  1. Kent Nerburn. Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With An Indian Elder         ISBN= 978157731233
  2. Anthony Weston. A Rulebook for Arguments  ISBN=978087220552
  3. Moore, Peters, et all (eds) How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V.F. Cordova        ISBN=9780816526499
  4. Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land            ISBN=978089608599
  5. Anne Waters (ed.) American Indian Thought  ISBN=978063122304
  6. Course Packets      


All students will be assigned to a study-group. Group members will work together discussing readings, preparing oral assignments, and on outlining arguments.

Assignment Types and Number

Your performance in completing assignments of the type listed in the chart below will be assessed for your grade in the class. Your final grade for the course will be based on your total point accumulation. Each assignment is worth a set number of points, as outlined below:

Type of Assignment Quantity/ Format Points per assignment Total Points
Oral Arguments 6: Oral, in class 1-3:5 points each; 4-6: 10 points each 45
Lists and Outlines 4: Written, take home 5 20 points
Midterm Exam, Part II 1: Written, charts, take-home 20 20 points
Final Exam Oral 10 10 points
Group Assignments 1: TBA 5 5 points
Extra Credit 1: TBA 5 5 points
Total Course     105 possible points
Content/Assignments Preview

Week I.  Introduction to Native American Philosophy

Week 2 What Has the Environment Got To Do With Philosophy?/Draft Outline #1

Week 3. What is Native American Philosophy? Who Defines It?/Oral #1/Outline#1

Week 4 Representations, Stereotypes of Native Americans and Philosophy/ List #1

Week 5: Traditional Sources of Philosophical Thought, Part 1/ Oral #2/List #2

Week 6: Traditional Sources of Philosophical Thought: Medicine Persons/ List# 3

Week 7: Visions, Religion, Philosophy/Oral #3

Week 8: Midterm

Week 9: Epistemology

Week 10: Epistemology and Ethics/ Oral #4

Week 11: A Diversity of Modern Native American Philosophers/ Outline #2

Week 12: Modern Native American Philosophers, Part 2/ Oral #5

Week 13: Philosophies of Science

Week 14: TBA/ Oral #6

Week 15: TBA

Week 16: Finals


(reading schedule is subject to change)

Grading Scale

The grade/point breakdown is as follows:


94 - 100=A

90 - 93= A-

87 - 89= B+

84 - 86= B

80 - 83= B-

75 - 79=C+

74-76= C

70 - 74= C-

D=60 - 69

F=59 and below

You are graded on a 100 point scale.


Orals are graded on a 5-point scale. Thus a 5/5 is excellent (equivalent to an A), 4/5 is good (roughly equivalent to a low B), 3/5 is average or mediocre (equivalent to a C-). You get 2 points for showing up and doing an oral, regardless of its merits. You get 0 points for missing an oral.


Assignments are due when schedule designates. No make-ups. Extra-credit available. Outlines can be re-written for full credit.

Note: There are assignments due almost every week of the semester, thus class absence will negatively impact your grade.

Initial Readings/ Week 1    Assignments/Week 2


Deloria. "Philosophy and the Tribal Peoples."

Cordova. "Approaches To Native American Thought."

Burkhart.  What Coyote and Thales Can Teach Us”

Draft Outline: Outline the main arguments of one of the authors from week 1 to hand in and discuss in class week 2;  to be revised and re-submitted for full grade week 3