What Is Pragmatic Philosophy?

Pragmatic is the adjective that describes a person or something that takes a realistic approach to solving problems. Hence, it’s the opposite of idealistic, which focuses on ideas and what could or should be. It’s also the opposite of dogmatic, which is an overly-strict and authoritarian adherence to doctrine or belief.

The term pragmatism originated with philosopher C. S. Peirce (1839-1914). He used it to distinguish his views from those of James and Dewey, who also embraced practical results as the most important goal of philosophy. But in the end, pragmatism became the name for his philosophical position rather than his own view of it (Morgan 2014a).

Philosophers who are pragmatic tend to be concerned with the effects of things, not their ultimate causes. They are more interested in pursuing a meaningful life than in speculating on the nature of reality. Pragmatism also emphasizes the importance of actions. The world is always changing, and actions are the way to change that reality. As a result, pragmatists are keenly aware of the need to be flexible and adaptable.

A number of different philosophical traditions have been influenced by pragmatism. Most notable are the works of William James and John Dewey, though others include Charles Sanders Peirce and Ludwig Wittgenstein. More recently, a number of high-profile contemporary philosophers have explored and selectively endorsed pragmatist themes and ideas. Among these are Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Nicholas Rescher, and Jurgen Habermas.

Pragmatic philosophy is an alternative to metaphysical philosophies, such as Platonism and Heraclitism, that focus on the nature of truth and reality. It’s a logically coherent philosophy that seeks to avoid esoteric debates about the meaning of words and concepts. In contrast, pragmatism places an emphasis on the value and meaning of experience, making it suitable for researchers who are seeking to answer real-world questions.

Methodologically, pragmatism provides a way for researchers to orient their investigations to the needs of organizational contexts, where the actions of individuals and groups of people are crucial to the processes that produce outcomes. This is a principle that can be applied to both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

In terms of practical applications, pragmatism allows for greater flexibility in research agendas by encouraging the inclusion of multiple data sources. For example, a pragmatist researcher may combine an in-depth interview with a document analysis of an existing organization to provide a holistic and comprehensive overview of a problem. This type of interdisciplinary approach to knowledge production is often more effective in resolving complex organizational challenges than traditional and fragmented methods of researching the same phenomenon. This is because it enables researchers to better understand the complexity of the problems they are trying to solve, and it ensures that their research will be relevant to their intended audience. This is an especially important consideration in a knowledge-intensive industry like information technology. This is why many companies now adopt pragmatism as part of their business model. As a result, they are more likely to develop effective solutions that will ultimately benefit their customers and the wider community.