Pragmatics is an umbrella term for a wide variety of philosophical approaches. These range from formal to semantic, and all share an understanding of how language is used in social contexts.
A pragmatist believes that all knowledge of the world is grounded in agency, and that knowing the world is inseparable from the experience of transacting with nature. This implies a scientific approach to defining and understanding the world, and the use of empirical experimentation to test claims and theories. They also believe that a true statement of the truth about the world is possible only if it is useful to the person interpreting the message.
For example, a pragmatist may argue that a particular political party, religion, or ideology is true because it is in accordance with a set of principles. An ideologue, on the other hand, subscribes to a certain ideology and tends to be blind to alternative points of view. The distinction between the two is important. Ideologies may be flat earth beliefs, religion, politics, or any other system of ideas.
A pragmatist also has a rich understanding of science and human experience. He may suggest that the best practical solution for any given problem is often rejected, and that it is better to accept a more flexible relationship between ends and means. As such, pragmatics can be seen as a third alternative to analytic and ‘Continental’ philosophy.
Pragmatics can be divided into a number of distinct subdisciplines. Formal pragmatics is a subset of the broader category that studies the place and time of utterances, the role of context in messages, and the meaning of the individual signs. Often called “language studies”, the formal tradition also investigates how a person uses the language to speak about themselves and others.
Semantics, on the other hand, looks at the literal meaning of an idea. It is also sometimes called metalingual function, as it is a function that enables a speaker to discuss his or her own ideas. Another type of semantics, also known as modal or reflexive semantics, is concerned with the use of the language in a particular way.
Robert Brandom, a pragmatist philosopher, is particularly interested in the semantics of language. His reliance on historical readings in Kant and Wilfrid Sellars contrasts with his pragmatist predecessors. However, Brandom’s interest in the philosophy of language and its vocabularies is also separate from that of classical pragmatists.
Another pragmatist, Robert Brandom, has contributed to neopragmatism. Neopragmatism is a movement that seeks to rehabilitate the classics of pragmatism. Originally rooted in the United States, the tradition has expanded to many countries, especially in central Europe, Scandinavia, and China.
Some of the greatest thinkers of pragmatism include Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, George Herbert Mead, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Each of these philosophers has made significant contributions to the discipline. Moreover, their work has influenced a wide range of interpretive traditions.
During the past two decades, pragmatism has experienced a significant revival. Among the many new schools of thought that have emerged are neopragmatism, a branch of pragmatism that aims to reintegrate analytic and pragmatist philosophy.