When talking about the purpose of education, pragmatic educators will acknowledge that the school is a coordinating environment between the student’s home and the world. This allows students to exercise their intellectual and social muscles, and the teacher can guide them towards desired outcomes. For instance, students may give a “stop” sign in the United States, while in Greece it would be considered highly insulting. But how can pragmatic educators make education relevant to society at large?
Pragmatic philosophy has roots in the Metaphysical Club, a group of Harvard-educated men who met for informal philosophical discussions in the early 1870s. Members included proto-positivist Chauncey Wright and future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce and William James were also members of the club. But how did these people come up with the name pragmatism?
Pragmatic theory draws on insights from philosophy, anthropology, and sociology. Morris, who studied human social behavior, used this background to develop the theory that eventually became known as Pragmatics. He defined pragmatics in his book Signs, Language, and Behavior. Pragmatics deals with the origins of signs, their use, and their effects. It also considers subtle body movements, the tone of voice, and the way we communicate.
Although pragmatism is not a school of thought, there has been a recent revival of interest in it. A number of prominent philosophers have explored the ideas of pragmatism, including Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and Nicholas Rescher. Similarly, the Vienna Circle has been a focal point of pragmatism. The most famous neo-pragmatists include Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and Nicholas Rescher.
Another example of how pragmatics can influence meaning is the example of the “I have two sons” statement. This is not ambiguous, because the speaker of “I have two sons” might also have more than two sons. Because pragmatics takes into account the context of a statement, a sentence like “I have two sons” can take on a different meaning if the speaker asks, “Do you have any daughters?”
The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy contains an entry on pragmatics. The concept of pragmatics encompasses the study of language in context, and the relationship between speakers and listeners. The branches of pragmatics include speech act theory and conversational implicature. You can also find a good overview of the theory in the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. You can also find useful articles on pragmatics. They can be invaluable in understanding how language works.