What Is Pragmatics?

Pragmatics is the study of how utterances are understood in terms of their context and purpose. This includes all aspects of communication such as turn taking, greetings, eye contact and body language. Children learn pragmatics through the social interaction they experience in their daily lives. They also learn from their parents and other caregivers. While pragmatic skills can be taught, the goals of pragmatic training should be set based on an individual’s developmental level. For example, a younger child may need to focus on turn-taking while an older child will need to work on interpreting complex social cues.

According to pragmatist philosopher William James, “Truth is what works.” Pragmatism is an approach to philosophy that emphasizes the connection between thought and action. Many applied fields like public administration, political science, leadership studies and international relations have incorporated the principles of pragmatism.

The history of pragmatism began in The Metaphysical Club, a group of Harvard-educated men that met for informal philosophical discussions during the early 1870s. The club’s founders included proto-positivist Chauncey Wright, future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and two then-fledgling pragmatists Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. Both James and Peirce were influenced by Peyotean logic and the utilitarian philosophy of American sociologist Jane Addams, who believed that “the end justifies the means.”

As a movement, pragmatism has never been unified behind any particular philosophical position. It has been characterized by a wide range of opinions on major issues such as truth, realism, skepticism, perception and justification. This diversity has been attributed to pragmatism’s stated commitment to pluralism.

Although pragmatism is still widely practiced in philosophy and the social sciences, it has become increasingly popular in business, management, psychology and other disciplines because of its ability to promote practical problem-solving. It is believed to be responsible for the rise of “pragmatic marketing,” a new discipline that focuses on how people use products and services in real-world situations.

Pragmatics is often viewed as a subset of linguistics because of its relationship to verbal and nonverbal communication. However, a more holistic view of communication is necessary to fully understand pragmatics. This view encompasses the whole communication process, including the intention of the speaker and receiver, which is the most important factor in understanding pragmatics. The goal of pragmatics is to reach an understanding between the speaker and receiver, which can be accomplished by using appropriate linguistic elements such as verbal and nonverbal communication, intonation and tempo. This understanding will allow individuals to better interact with each other. This is known as effective communication. A person who is pragmatic is someone who will think about the end result and how it will impact others, rather than just following a set of rules. They are willing to compromise to get the desired outcome, even if it means that they will not be able to have everything they want. They are practical and results oriented and can understand that sometimes you have to give up something in order to gain more.