The Importance of Pragmatism in Communication

In 1907, William James published a series of lectures on pragmatism, identifying a fundamental philosophical clash and promising that it would be resolved through pragmatism. James observed that the history of philosophy reflects the clash between human temperaments: tough-minded people are dedicated to going by ‘the facts’; tender-minded people value a priori principles. Pragmatism, then, was born.

The pragmatic view focuses on the practical aspects of human action and thought. It examines meaning construction, implied meanings, and the role of language as an instrument of human interaction. Ultimately, pragmatics provides a better understanding of human language, as the context plays a vital role in determining meaning. But how can pragmatics be applied in everyday conversation? By analyzing how language interacts with context, a pragmatist can make it more useful for addressing a variety of human communication needs.

Consider a situation in which the speaker is talking about her new car or her favorite TV show. The listener interprets this situation as the speaker is not aware of her presence and is monopolizing the time of another. As a listener, you may have experienced situations where the speaker did not realize you were there and felt the need to escape, but you’re stuck in the middle. In this case, the speaker sees their conversation as a normal sharing of information, whereas the listener views it as a rude attempt to dominate the listener’s time.

Historically, the origins of the term “pragmatism” date to the late 16th century. The term itself derives from the Greek pragmatikos’relating to fact’ and prattein ‘do’. James and Peirce were both interested in pragmatism as a philosophical position. Its intellectual center of gravity has since been shifting away from North America, but vibrant research networks are emerging in countries such as China, Scandinavia, and central Europe.

Although pragmatic language difficulties may be difficult to recognize, they often occur unnoticed and may result in a person’s social abilities deteriorating. These children may be shy or lack social skills and might have difficulty forming close friendships, participating in team sports, or working in groups. They may be passed over for a job opportunity because their more charismatic peers show superior social skills. People with pragmatic language weaknesses are often diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and may also have other intellectual, developmental, or learning disabilities.

A common objection to foundationalism is that it requires a concept to determine what is true. However, this is not always the case, as the term was originally conceived to mean ‘works’. Peirce and James both held that true hypotheses are those that people would accept at the end of their inquiry. In addition, they differed in their views of utility. Hence, the term “pragmatism” is an oversimple term for both pragmatism and foundationalism.

The most widely-read books about pragmatism include The American Philosopher (Borradori, G.), Hegelian Metaphysics (H.S.), and The Pragmatic Philosopher (Stuhr, E.K.). Also, there are many specialized books on pragmatism, which include Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy, The Pragmatic Reader, and A History of Philosophy in America (Strawn, J.)