The Concept of Pragmatism
The concept of Pragmatism is often linked with the early days of American philosophy. A group of Harvard-educated men convened for informal philosophical discussions at the Metaphysical Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the early 1870s. These individuals included future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the proto-positivist Chauncey Wright, and logician Charles Sanders Peirce. They also included William James, a moral philosopher and psychologist with a medical degree.
However, this definition may not be so universal. Different countries, states, cities, and even situations have very different cultures. The definition of the word ‘pragmatic’ will not apply if the speakers of these cultures do not share the same language or culture. In such a case, it may be difficult to understand the expectations of pragmatic people. Also, the word pragmatic pertains to American English-speaking children. If someone else’s language is not American English, there may be a drastic difference in pragmatic norms.
The concept of Pragmatism has also spawned several recent popular books by renowned philosophers. The most famous neo-pragmatists are Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Nicholas Rescher, and Jurgen Habermas. Other popular works by pragmatists include Robert Brandom’s Pragmatic Philosophy and Susan Haack’s Meaning and Action. They are not, however, the first works on the topic.
Though the term ‘pragmatic’ originated from the 17th century, its modern definition emerged in Britain, France, and Germany in the late 1800s. Pragmatics is closely related to the study of language in context and is rooted in sociology and philosophy. Besides analyzing the meaning of words, pragmatics considers gestures, tone, and movement as part of the meaning-making process. In general, pragmatics is the study of language and its relationship to physical contexts.
The term ‘pragmatism’ originated from discussions among Harvard Metaphysical Club members around 1870. It subsequently gained popularity as an intellectual style after James delivered public lectures on the subject in 1898. James and Peirce later renamed their position ‘pragmatism’. Eventually, both James and Peirce adopted the term, renaming it “ugly enough to keep us safe from kidnappers.”
While idealistic people often aspire to be the best in the world, the pragmatic approach emphasizes real world conditions. By applying the most practical solution to a problem, pragmatic people are considered pragmatists. The word pragmatism can also refer to the philosophical movement and practice of being pragmatic. You can use it as a noun or as a verb to describe your own actions or thoughts.