Relevance and Pragmatics in the Theory of Language and Thought

This article will explore the concepts of relevance and pragmatics in the context of the theory of language and thought. Relevance theory focuses on the meaning that goes beyond what is said and on the nature of meaning itself. Contemporary philosophical pragmatic theory focuses on the extent to which pragmatics intrusions into meaning are necessary. Pragmatics is the study of the practical aspects of human action and thought. It is an integral part of understanding language, and without it, there would be little understanding of its meaning and function.

In the late twentieth century, neo-pragmatism took two main currents: one that associated truth with justification and the other that emphasized its assertibility. Both approaches owed their origins to earlier accounts of truth by philosophers such as Peirce, James, and Dewey. The first approach is associated with Rorty and has a tendency to flirt with relativism. It also acknowledges the mundane functions of truth.

While Mead focuses on linguistic meaning, the pragmatists have influenced philosophies of religion and politics. W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke, both African-American philosophers, engaged in productive dialogues and debates. Other pragmatists, such as W.V.O. Lewis, were influential in third-generation philosophy. Throughout the last century, pragmatism has had a significant impact on the field of philosophy.

The key concepts of pragmatism began as discussions in the Harvard Metaphysical Club in the 1870s. Peirce further developed these ideas in the 1880s. In the late nineteenth century, it received prominence with the public lectures of James and Thomas Carlyle. While James had been allied with ‘idealism,’ his ideas were widely adopted by pragmatists and philosophers alike. The pragmatists continued the work of Peirce and James.

Pragmatic theories of truth aim to focus on practices that are involved in making statements. In other words, pragmatic theories of truth focus on the way people use and discuss statements as true. Moreover, they emphasize the role of truth in shaping discourses. So, in a pragmatic theory of truth, a statement can be true if it is useful and durable. Its practical value is the ability to shape discourses. This theory is also based on the practice of making statements.

Three figures from the golden age of classical American pragmatism, John Dewey and Thomas Carlyle, had a great influence on the philosophy of language. Nevertheless, their contributions on the concept of truth were limited, as they focused on a variety of topics. In fact, the index to Dewey’s book contains only one reference to truth, while he advises readers to “See also assertibility”.