The Philosophy of Pragmatism
The word “pragmatic” is derived from the French maxim, “to judge by appearance”. This definition, coined by Charles Sanders Peirce, aims to provide clarity of meaning by supplementing the verbal definition with examples of its actual use. By using this idiom, the pragmatist claims that we should avoid looking at the external appearance of others in order to understand the inner working of their minds.
A good example of a pragmatic sentence is, “I have two sons.” While this statement may not sound ambiguous, it does suggest that the speaker of the sentence may have more than two sons. In fact, pragmatics incorporates context when determining meaning. This is particularly important in a situation where a person has poor pragmatics. Those who are not pragmatically oriented may have trouble communicating their intended meaning when speaking or when listening to another person.
For example, while a pragmatist may focus on facts and the consequences of a situation, a romantic person may consider a romantic relationship as detached from pragmatic concerns and societal pressures. For these people, the romantic aspects of a storm are secondary to its power or scenic value. Some musicians have maintained day jobs after releasing their albums. A pragmatic person views romantic relationships as impractical and is not motivated by aesthetic appeal.
While pragmatism has many proponents, its intellectual center of gravity has shifted from North America to other parts of the world. Increasingly vibrant research networks have emerged in central Europe, South America, and China. These are important developments for the future of pragmatism, as they indicate that pragmatism can help liberate humankind from the constraints of social structures. There is no single, definitive definition of pragmatism.
The philosophy of pragmatism has a rich history. It is the third major philosophy to appear alongside ‘Continental’ and ‘analytic’ schools of thought. Charles Sanders Peirce initiated pragmatism. With the help of William James, many pragmatists were born. In addition to Peirce, many other influential thinkers were involved with pragmatism, including Josiah Royce.
The Frankfurt School philosopher Jurgen Habermas has engaged with the breadth of 20th century philosophy. His work blends analytic philosophy with a hermeneutic critique of modernity. In addition, Habermas uses the pragmatist analysis of the self to illustrate a central concept: communicative action as an antidote to instrumental rationality. But how can we apply pragmatism to real life situations?