What is Pragmatic Philosophy?
Pragmatic is the study of how people use language in a conversation, and it includes the subtle movements, gestures, tone of voice, and overall body language that accompany speaking. This is a different approach to understanding how people communicate than the more formal and rigid theories of semantics, syntax, and grammar. Pragmatics is a field of study that is important to understanding how people communicate in everyday life, and it can also be applied to business communication and international relations.
While the word pragmatic is not used as often as, say, existentialism or idealism, it does have its uses. For example, in the context of psychology it refers to a person’s ability to adapt to their environment and the way that they interact with others. It also refers to the ability to weigh up alternatives in decision-making. This can be seen in legal decisions where a judge’s ruling is based on balancing the likely consequences of a decision with its general welfare.
In the context of philosophy, pragmatism is the approach to reality and the process of inquiry that emphasizes how useful knowledge is in helping people cope with and control change. It is an alternative to idealism and evolutionary theory, which see change as a natural process that cannot be controlled. Some pragmatists believe that truth is only as good as its ability to function in the struggle of intelligent organisms with reality, and they are critical of moral and metaphysical doctrines which relegate change and action to the lowest levels of importance.
Unlike the absolutist ideas of classical philosophy, which held that certain concepts such as morality, religion, and logic are inherently true or false, pragmatists believe that what is useful determines truth, while the practical nature of a belief is its primary value. In the words of James, “Nothing is really known or believed until it has proved its usefulness in directing inquiry and action.” Peirce suggested that the practical validity of a concept is defined by its conceivable effects on informed behaviour, and he coined a maxim that states: “Any conception of an object is the whole of its pragmatic validity.”
This pragmatism can be seen in our daily lives, from our choice of clothing to how we travel to work. For example, a pragmatic person would consider the traffic situation before choosing to leave home early on a journey to work and take a train rather than driving. Being pragmatic allows us to live a more fulfilling life by avoiding regrets and concentrating on the positive results of our actions. It also helps to understand the context in which we are acting and allows us to understand our own and other people’s motives, desires, and intentions. The study of pragmatism is therefore extremely important and it underpins many research methodologies. The resources available on this page will help you to understand the principles behind pragmatism and how they can be used in your own research practice.