Pragmatic Philosophy and African-American Philosophy
Pragmatic is an approach to philosophy that emphasizes real world applications and practical consequences. It encourages the exploration of new ideas and knowledge through the use of experience, which it believes can provide a greater level of clarity than that available through traditional philosophical analyses of definitions (Peirce). Pragmatics also offers an alternative way to view the world around us by viewing events in terms of their social and cultural context rather than the strict application of scientific and mathematical principles.
The field of pragmatics studies the ways we interpret language, communicate, and understand each other. It goes beyond literal meanings of utterances and looks at the implied and unstated meanings of words. It focuses on the interactions between people and how these are shaped by cultural and social norms and rules. This includes the way we use gestures and non-verbal cues to communicate and what is considered appropriate in various situations, such as personal space, speaking volume, and other societal norms.
For example, a person who is pragmatic might say they are “on fire” instead of shouting that they are in danger because it is considered polite to speak at an average volume and respect other people’s personal spaces. It is this kind of behavior that shows a person is pragmatic.
Although the field of pragmatism has roots in Western philosophy, its influence has expanded globally since the 19th Century with contributions in the areas of sociology, political science, education and anthropology. It has also influenced the fields of law, ethics, economics and theology. In particular, a pragmatist perspective has been influential in African-American philosophy and culture as represented by pioneering figures such as George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) and W.E.B Du Bois (1868-1963).
Using the pragmatic lens allows researchers to see how they may be influenced by a variety of factors during the research process, such as the researcher’s stance towards respondents or their beliefs about what constitutes evidence. In this article, we explore how a pragmatic perspective can be used to navigate qualitative applied social research on NGO processes by using two examples from our own qualitative doctoral projects. We discuss how each step of the research process – from design and data collection to analysis and interpretation – can be guided by three selected pragmatic principles from the literature. Manuscripts should not be submitted to the journal while a decision on a previous submission is pending.