What is Pragmatic Philosophy?
Pragmatic is a word used to describe choices and actions that are practical and reasonable. It is often contrasted with idealistic. People who are pragmatic tend to want to get things done. They take into account the effects of their decisions on others. They also make trade-offs between different goals.
The term pragmatic comes from a Latin phrase meaning “to be useful.” It is an approach to knowledge that rejects the notion of unknowable absolute truths, instead focusing on how things are actually used. Its roots in philosophy, sociology and anthropology show its multidisciplinary nature, with many of its key principles coming from the works of philosophers like John Dewey, Charles Sanders Peirce and William James.
Unlike the philosophies of Kant and Nietzsche that focus on inaccessible “things-in-themselves,” pragmatism is more concerned with how things affect us in practice, not whether they are true or not. The pragmatic maxim (various versions of which have been formulated by James and Peirce) argues that there is no point discussing abstract concepts if they have no real-world application.
One of the biggest problems with pragmatism, however, is that it can become an extreme utilitarianism. While this can be beneficial in some situations, it can be a dangerous way to live. If everything is just a tool to achieve an end goal, it can be easy to lose sight of what is important.
Another problem with pragmatism is that it fails to provide an objective foundation for moral issues. While it is easy to see how pragmatism collapses when applied to empirical matters, it is less clear how it could work in areas of ethics and morality.
Ultimately, pragmatism’s greatest strength is that it provides a more realistic alternative to the idealism of nihilism. While pure idealism says that nothing should matter, the reality is that if you want to get something done, you have to be pragmatic. This means making compromises, accepting failures and considering how your decisions will affect other people.
The field of pragmatics grew out of the research into language and communication that was conducted at Columbia University by Morris. He drew on the work of social behaviorists like George Herbert Mead and drew on the work of other disciplines such as sociology and anthropology to explore the ways we communicate through our use of language. In addition to semantics and grammar, pragmatics also takes into consideration context to complement the contributions that each makes to meaning. Semantics is the study of rules determining the literal linguistic meanings of expressions, while syntax explains how words are combined to form sentences. Pragmatics is sometimes referred to as “meaning minus semantics,” and semiotics describes how physical or social context can determine the meaning potential of a particular linguistic expression.