The Philosophy of Pragmatics

Pragmatic refers to the way that people use language to communicate. It also describes a way of thinking that is focused on results and consequences rather than on theoretical, wishful or idealistic outcomes. In the classroom, pragmatics can be taught through lessons on topics that are linked to language functions such as the way in which students use the word “apology” in different cultures or the ways that they may or may not pronounce it. It can also be incorporated into a lesson on the socially constructed rules that govern turn taking, greetings, eye contact and other aspects of human communication.

The philosophical tradition of pragmatism was founded in the United States about 1870 and presents a third alternative to analytic and continental philosophical traditions worldwide. Its first generation was initiated by the self-consciously pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) and his Harvard colleague William James (1842-1910). In addition to their work on logic and science, they formulated an original a posteriori epistemology. Other early pragmatists included the philosophers Chauncey Wright (1830-1875) and Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935).

For Peirce, a theory is true only in the sense that it produces acceptable results. Thus, a statement such as “Your prayers will be answered” is true because it works on a psychological level to soothe the speaker’s nervous system. But this pragmatism, which is sometimes called pragmatism with a metaphysical stance, does not preclude the possibility that there are transcendent realities.

Contemporary pragmatism continues the legacy of its classic American founders and is now practiced in a wide range of philosophical areas. In philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and philosophical logic, for example, pragmatist ideas play an important role. It has also been incorporated into the theory of education and is the philosophical basis of many behavioral sciences such as sociology, psychology, counseling and anthropology.

It is a tradition that is increasingly being practiced outside of the United States. For example, in China it is being absorbed by Chinese culture and influencing intellectual life in that country. In addition, pragmatism is a foundational element in liberatory philosophical projects such as feminism (Seigfried 1996), ecology, Native American philosophy and Latin American philosophy. In the Journal of Pragmatics, a leading international publication in the area of pragmatics, non-book review manuscripts are published that reflect the spirit and/or methods of classical pragmatism. Submitted manuscripts that are not accepted for publication will be returned to their authors without further consideration. Currently, the Journal publishes full-length articles, invited review papers, and short, free-form discussion notes. Manuscripts must be submitted in English. The submission deadline is June 30 of the year in which the issue appears. Please note that no more than one article by a single author can be considered at any time for the JP. Non-book review manuscripts that are submitted while a decision on another manuscript is pending will be returned without review. See the Instructions to Authors for additional information.