What is Pragmatic Philosophy?
Pragmatics is a philosophy that focuses on the practical aspects of human thought and action. It considers language as an instrument for interaction and how people negotiate meaning between themselves. It also examines the social factors that play a role in communication.
Pragmatists believe that reality is in a constant state of change and is shaped by actions (Maxcy 2003). They view truth as a concept that can be derived from actions rather than abstract principles, and they stress the value of practical reasoning instead of intellectual theory when determining what is true or not.
The pragmatist philosophy was first developed in the United States during the nineteenth century and gained a significant amount of influence in American intellectual life for a half-century. During this time, philosophers such as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey were important contributors to the movement.
In the late 19th century, these pragmatists were joined by numerous other thinkers in developing the doctrine that is now known as pragmatism. The origins of this philosophical movement can be traced back to discussions at a so-called ‘Metaphysical Club’ that met in Harvard around 1870 (for a popular history, see Menand 1998).
Although many different philosophies emerged in the 19th century, pragmatism is unique in its focus on actions and practical reasoning as the basis of knowledge. The movement arose in the United States and grew in popularity as an intellectual force during the period of economic and political growth that marked America’s rise to world power.
A pragmatist approach to truth is based on the correspondence theory of truth, which states that something is true if it accurately describes what happens in the real world. This can lead to a number of problems such as confusing correlation with causation, though it is still a useful approach for validating ideas and theories.
Another aspect of pragmatism that is particularly helpful for researchers is the idea of warranted assertibility. This is the belief that one’s beliefs are likely to be correct, if the research is designed well and executed with care.
This is an essential principle of pragmatism that allows researchers to make decisions without having to worry about whether their choice will be correct or not. The pragmatist approach to this is to look at the goals and objectives of a research project, then decide whether a particular method will be useful in producing those results.
There is a growing interest in pragmatism and its applications in research. This is reflected in a new generation of pragmatist philosophers such as Robert Brandom, who are concerned mainly with semantics and the philosophy of language.
Pragmatics can be applied to a range of research questions and methods, including in the context of qualitative applied social science and NGO processes. This article looks at two case studies to discuss how pragmatism can be used in research on these topics.