The Importance of Pragmatics
Pragmatics is a branch of the philosophy of language that studies how people use language in order to communicate. It includes topics such as understanding the intentions of others, how to talk in a socially appropriate manner and how to respond appropriately to other people’s actions.
The study of pragmatics is divided into two subfields: near-side and far-side pragmatics. The former is concerned with the resolution of ambiguity and vagueness, the reference of proper names and indexicals and demonstratives, and anaphors and presuppositions; the latter deals with issues of context and resemblance.
It is also a field of psychology, as it relates to language acquisition and the development of cognitive skills that are essential for communication and the ability to socially interact with others. Its importance is especially evident in children with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
When a child becomes aware of their social environment and the social rules for using language, they develop pragmatic skills that allow them to participate in reciprocal conversation. They are able to understand the knowledge, interests and intentions of other people.
They understand the social rules for interacting with other people, including how to use eye contact and nonverbal gestures. They are also able to identify when others’ behaviors are inappropriate, such as making offensive gestures or speaking in an unorganized matter.
A key feature of pragmatism is the pursuit of practical knowledge that is immediate and useful in explaining or predicting the world. This can be contrasted with skepticism, where individuals are hesitant to accept anything as true without extensive evidence.
Pragmatics has also been a major force in the development of artificial intelligence and computational philosophy. The field involves developing computer programs that are capable of identifying the meaning of words and sentences in natural human languages, as well as of processing a broader range of information.
In addition, it focuses on the development of natural language processing abilities that enable computers to learn how to interact with humans and understand human behavior. This can help them better interpret human thoughts and emotions, and make more accurate decisions about what to do and how to act.
Nevertheless, as we move farther from the classic period in pragmatics, many of the questions and problems that were the core of the discipline are now largely ignored. There are still scholars who work in the areas of syntax and semantics, but these fields are no longer the primary focus of the discipline.
The first major pragmatists, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) and William James (1842-1910), developed the ideas that later became known as pragmatism during discussions in a group called “The Metaphysical Club” that met in Harvard in the 1870s. The ideas were later developed by Peirce in publications and by James in public lectures.
Pragmatism was the intellectual force that helped define American philosophy during the early decades of the 20th century. Eventually, however, as American philosophers read and responded to analytic philosophy and became more professionalized, pragmatists lost their influence.