What is Pragmatic Philosophy?

Pragmatic is the study of how human communication reflects and interacts with social context. This includes nuances of language, body language and other non-verbal cues. It’s also the theory behind how gestures can be misinterpreted in different cultures. For example, a hand-wave that means “stop” in the US may be interpreted as an insult in Greece. (Check out BuzzFeed’s list of 19 Simple Gestures That Could Be Misunderstood Abroad for more examples.) This is a field of study that is becoming increasingly relevant in our globalized world, especially in the realm of business. For instance, in the business of recruiting and hiring, it’s important to understand how cultural differences can affect an interview.

In a nutshell, pragmatism is a philosophy that emphasizes the use of experience to determine truth and knowledge. The early pragmatists were influenced by the philosophers Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, as well as the philosopher-scientist G. H. Mead. While most philosophers have defined truth in terms of coherence within a pattern of beliefs or as the correspondence between a statement and an actual state of affairs, pragmatism focuses on the success of a proposition to determine its validity.

A key component of pragmatism is the idea that meaning has a predictive component, according to a post at The Philosopher’s Stone. The pragmatists believed that our epistemic access to reality is necessarily mediated by concepts and descriptions, so we cannot verify theories or worldviews by comparing them with some raw, unsullied sensuous “given.”

For this reason, pragmatism rejected both realism and idealism as methods for determining truth. The pragmatists believe that it is possible to know the world, but only through an ongoing process of inquiry and trial-and-error. They also rejected a foundationalist picture of reality that is based on an absolute, unbiased observation of nature.

Pragmatism is a philosophy that is rooted in social sciences, such as sociology and anthropology. These disciplines examine the development, structure and function of human society and culture, respectively. Sociology, in particular, was an important influence on pragmatism as it developed, writes John Shook at Pragmatism Cybrary. Sociologists influenced the theory of pragmatics through their research on the way humans interact with each other and how that influences the expression of their ideas. Anthropologists, on the other hand, helped develop pragmatism through their study of language and gestures.

Today, many Christians embrace pragmatism in their churches. Pastors often turn to books on marketing techniques and church-growth methods in their search for new ways to grow their congregations. Many seminaries have shifted their pastoral training emphasis from Bible curriculum and theology to counseling technique and church-growth theory, all of which are rooted in pragmatism. As a result, there is a growing movement in the church to abandon dogmatic doctrine in favor of practical, real-world application of the Christian faith. While this movement is not without its critics, the pragmatists argue that such changes are necessary in order to reach modern people with the Gospel message.