Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that began in the United States around 1870. Its origins are often attributed to the philosophers William James, John Dewey, and Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce later described it in his pragmatic maxim: "Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object."
Pragmatism considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes. The philosophy of pragmatism "emphasizes the practical application of ideas by acting on them to actually test them in human experiences". Pragmatism focuses on a "changing universe rather than an unchanging one as the Idealists, Realists and Thomists had claimed".
Pragmatism as a philosophical movement began in the United States in the 1870s. Charles Sanders Peirce (and his Pragmatic Maxim) is given credit for its development, along with later twentieth century contributors, William James and John Dewey. Its direction was determined by The Metaphysical Club members Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and Chauncey Wright, as well as John Dewey and George Herbert Mead.
The first use in print of the name pragmatism was in 1898 by James, who credited Peirce with coining the term during the early 1870s. James regarded Peirce's "Illustrations of the Logic of Science" series (including "The Fixation of Belief" (1877), and especially "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" (1878)) as the foundation of pragmatism. Peirce in turn wrote in 1906 that Nicholas St. John Green had been instrumental by emphasizing the importance of applying Alexander Bain's definition of belief, which was "that upon which a man is prepared to act". Peirce wrote that "from this definition, pragmatism is scarce more than a corollary; so that I am disposed to think of him as the grandfather of pragmatism". John Shook has said, "Chauncey Wright also deserves considerable credit, for as both Peirce and James recall, it was Wright who demanded a phenomenalist and fallibilist empiricism as an alternative to rationalistic speculation."
Peirce developed the idea that inquiry depends on real doubt, not mere verbal or hyperbolic doubt, and said, in order to understand a conception in a fruitful way, "Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object", which he later called the pragmatic maxim. It equates any conception of an object to the general extent of the conceivable implications for informed practice of that object's effects. This is the heart of his pragmatism as a method of experimentational mental reflection arriving at conceptions in terms of conceivable confirmatory and disconfirmatory circumstances—a method hospitable to the generation of explanatory hypotheses, and conducive to the employment and improvement of verification. Typical of Peirce is his concern with inference to explanatory hypotheses as outside the usual foundational alternative between deductivist rationalism and inductivist empiricism, although he was a mathematical logician and a founder of statistics.
Peirce lectured and further wrote on pragmatism to make clear his own interpretation. While framing a conception's meaning in terms of conceivable tests, Peirce emphasized that, since a conception is general, its meaning, its intellectual purport, equates to its acceptance's implications for general practice, rather than to any definite set of real effects (or test results); a conception's clarified meaning points toward its conceivable verifications, but the outcomes are not meanings, but individual upshots. Peirce in 1905 coined the new name pragmaticism "for the precise purpose of expressing the original definition", saying that "all went happily" with James's and Schiller's variant uses of the old name "pragmatism" and that he nonetheless coined the new name because of the old name's growing use in "literary journals, where it gets abused". Yet in a 1906 manuscript he cited as causes his differences with James and Schiller. and, in a 1908 publication, his differences with James as well as literary author Giovanni Papini. Peirce in any case regarded his views that truth is immutable and infinity is real, as being opposed by the other pragmatists, but he remained allied with them on other issues.
Pragmatism enjoyed renewed attention after Willard Van Orman Quine and Wilfrid Sellars used a revised pragmatism to criticize logical positivism in the 1960s. Inspired by the work of Quine and Sellars, a brand of pragmatism known sometimes as neopragmatism gained influence through Richard Rorty, the most influential of the late twentieth century pragmatists along with Hilary Putnam and Robert Brandom. Contemporary pragmatism may be broadly divided into a strict analytic tradition and a "neo-classical" pragmatism (such as Susan Haack) that adheres to the work of Peirce, James, and Dewey.
Inspiration for various pragmatists included:
A few of the various but often interrelated positions characteristic of philosophers working from a pragmatist approach include:
Dewey, in The Quest For Certainty, criticized what he called "the philosophical fallacy": when philosophers often take categories (such as the mental and the physical) for granted because they don't realize that these are nominal concepts that were invented to help solve specific problems. This causes metaphysical and conceptual confusion. Various examples are the "ultimate Being" of Hegelian philosophers, the belief in a "realm of value", the idea that logic, because it is an abstraction from concrete thought, has nothing to do with the action of concrete thinking.
David L. Hildebrand sums up the problem: "Perceptual inattention to the specific functions comprising inquiry led realists and idealists alike to formulate accounts of knowledge that project the products of extensive abstraction back onto experience." (Hildebrand 2003)
From the outset, pragmatists wanted to reform philosophy and bring it more in line with the scientific method as they understood it. They argued that idealist and realist philosophy had a tendency to present human knowledge as something beyond what science could grasp. They held that these philosophies then resorted either to a phenomenology inspired by Kant or to correspondence theories of knowledge and truth. Pragmatists criticized the former for its a priorism, and the latter because it takes correspondence as an unanalyzable fact. Pragmatism instead tries to explain the relation between knower and known.
In 1868, C.S. Peirce argued that there is no power of intuition in the sense of a cognition unconditioned by inference, and no power of introspection, intuitive or otherwise, and that awareness of an internal world is by hypothetical inference from external facts. Introspection and intuition were staple philosophical tools at least since Descartes. He argued that there is no absolutely first cognition in a cognitive process; such a process has its beginning but can always be analyzed into finer cognitive stages. That which we call introspection does not give privileged access to knowledge about the mind—the self is a concept that is derived from our interaction with the external world and not the other way around (De Waal 2005, pp. 7–10). At the same time he held persistently that pragmatism and epistemology in general could not be derived from principles of psychology understood as a special science: what we do think is too different from what we should think; in his "Illustrations of the Logic of Science" series, Peirce formulated both pragmatism and principles of statistics as aspects of scientific method in general. This is an important point of disagreement with most other pragmatists, who advocate a more thorough naturalism and psychologism.
Richard Rorty expanded on these and other arguments in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in which he criticized attempts by many philosophers of science to carve out a space for epistemology that is entirely unrelated to—and sometimes thought of as superior to—the empirical sciences. W.V. Quine, instrumental in bringing naturalized epistemology back into favor with his essay Epistemology Naturalized (Quine 1969), also criticized "traditional" epistemology and its "Cartesian dream" of absolute certainty. The dream, he argued, was impossible in practice as well as misguided in theory, because it separates epistemology from scientific inquiry.
Hilary Putnam has suggested that the reconciliation of anti-skepticism and fallibilism is the central goal of American pragmatism. Although all human knowledge is partial, with no ability to take a "God's-eye-view," this does not necessitate a globalized skeptical attitude, a radical philosophical skepticism (as distinguished from that which is called scientific skepticism). Peirce insisted that (1) in reasoning, there is the presupposition, and at least the hope, that truth and the real are discoverable and would be discovered, sooner or later but still inevitably, by investigation taken far enough, and (2) contrary to Descartes' famous and influential methodology in the Meditations on First Philosophy, doubt cannot be feigned or created by verbal fiat to motivate fruitful inquiry, and much less can philosophy begin in universal doubt. Doubt, like belief, requires justification. Genuine doubt irritates and inhibits, in the sense that belief is that upon which one is prepared to act. It arises from confrontation with some specific recalcitrant matter of fact (which Dewey called a "situation"), which unsettles our belief in some specific proposition. Inquiry is then the rationally self-controlled process of attempting to return to a settled state of belief about the matter. Note that anti-skepticism is a reaction to modern academic skepticism in the wake of Descartes. The pragmatist insistence that all knowledge is tentative is quite congenial to the older skeptical tradition.
Pragmatism was not the first to apply evolution to theories of knowledge: Schopenhauer advocated a biological idealism as what's useful to an organism to believe might differ wildly from what is true. Here knowledge and action are portrayed as two separate spheres with an absolute or transcendental truth above and beyond any sort of inquiry organisms used to cope with life. Pragmatism challenges this idealism by providing an "ecological" account of knowledge: inquiry is how organisms can get a grip on their environment. Real and true are functional labels in inquiry and cannot be understood outside of this context. It is not realist in a traditionally robust sense of realism (what Hilary Putnam would later call metaphysical realism), but it is realist in how it acknowledges an external world which must be dealt with.
Many of James' best-turned phrases—truth's cash value (James 1907, p. 200) and the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking (James 1907, p. 222)—were taken out of context and caricatured in contemporary literature as representing the view where any idea with practical utility is true. William James wrote:
It is high time to urge the use of a little imagination in philosophy. The unwillingness of some of our critics to read any but the silliest of possible meanings into our statements is as discreditable to their imaginations as anything I know in recent philosophic history. Schiller says the truth is that which "works." Thereupon he is treated as one who limits verification to the lowest material utilities. Dewey says truth is what gives "satisfaction"! He is treated as one who believes in calling everything true which, if it were true, would be pleasant. (James 1907, p. 90)
In reality, James asserts, the theory is a great deal more subtle. (See Dewey 1910 for a "FAQ.")
The role of belief in representing reality is widely debated in pragmatism. Is a belief valid when it represents reality? Copying is one (and only one) genuine mode of knowing, (James 1907, p. 91). Are beliefs dispositions which qualify as true or false depending on how helpful they prove in inquiry and in action? Is it only in the struggle of intelligent organisms with the surrounding environment that beliefs acquire meaning? Does a belief only become true when it succeeds in this struggle? In Pragmatism nothing practical or useful is held to be necessarily true, nor is anything which helps to survive merely in the short term. For example, to believe my cheating spouse is faithful may help me feel better now, but it is certainly not useful from a more long-term perspective because it doesn't accord with the facts (and is therefore not true).
While pragmatism started out simply as a criterion of meaning, it quickly expanded to become a full-fledged epistemology with wide-ranging implications for the entire philosophical field. Pragmatists who work in these fields share a common inspiration, but their work is diverse and there are no received views.
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments and progress in science cannot be couched in terms of concepts and theories somehow mirroring reality. Instrumentalist philosophers often define scientific progress as nothing more than an improvement in explaining and predicting phenomena. Instrumentalism does not state that truth does not matter, but rather provides a specific answer to the question of what truth and falsity mean and how they function in science.
One of C. I. Lewis' main arguments in Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge (1929) was that science does not merely provide a copy of reality but must work with conceptual systems and that those are chosen for pragmatic reasons, that is, because they aid inquiry. Lewis' own development of multiple modal logics is a case in point. Lewis is sometimes called a proponent of conceptual pragmatism because of this.
Another development is the cooperation of logical positivism and pragmatism in the works of Charles W. Morris and Rudolf Carnap. The influence of pragmatism on these writers is mostly limited to the incorporation of the pragmatic maxim into their epistemology. Pragmatists with a broader conception of the movement do not often refer to them.
W. V. Quine's paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", published 1951, is one of the most celebrated papers of twentieth-century philosophy in the analytic tradition. The paper is an attack on two central tenets of the logical positivists' philosophy. One is the distinction between analytic statements (tautologies and contradictions) whose truth (or falsehood) is a function of the meanings of the words in the statement ('all bachelors are unmarried'), and synthetic statements, whose truth (or falsehood) is a function of (contingent) states of affairs. The other is reductionism, the theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some logical construction of terms which refers exclusively to immediate experience. Quine's argument brings to mind Peirce's insistence that axioms are not a priori truths but synthetic statements.
Later in his life Schiller became famous for his attacks on logic in his textbook, Formal Logic. By then, Schiller's pragmatism had become the nearest of any of the classical pragmatists to an ordinary language philosophy. Schiller sought to undermine the very possibility of formal logic, by showing that words only had meaning when used in context. The least famous of Schiller's main works was the constructive sequel to his destructive book Formal Logic. In this sequel, Logic for Use, Schiller attempted to construct a new logic to replace the formal logic that he had criticized in Formal Logic. What he offers is something philosophers would recognize today as a logic covering the context of discovery and the hypothetico-deductive method.
Whereas F. C. S. Schiller dismissed the possibility of formal logic, most pragmatists are critical rather of its pretension to ultimate validity and see logic as one logical tool among others—or perhaps, considering the multitude of formal logics, one set of tools among others. This is the view of C. I. Lewis. C. S. Peirce developed multiple methods for doing formal logic.
Stephen Toulmin's The Uses of Argument inspired scholars in informal logic and rhetoric studies (although it is an epistemological work).
James and Dewey were empirical thinkers in the most straightforward fashion: experience is the ultimate test and experience is what needs to be explained. They were dissatisfied with ordinary empiricism because in the tradition dating from Hume, empiricists had a tendency to think of experience as nothing more than individual sensations. To the pragmatists, this went against the spirit of empiricism: we should try to explain all that is given in experience including connections and meaning, instead of explaining them away and positing sense data as the ultimate reality. Radical empiricism, or Immediate Empiricism in Dewey's words, wants to give a place to meaning and value instead of explaining them away as subjective additions to a world of whizzing atoms.
William James gives an interesting example of this philosophical shortcoming:
[A young graduate] began by saying that he had always taken for granted that when you entered a philosophic classroom you had to open relations with a universe entirely distinct from the one you left behind you in the street. The two were supposed, he said, to have so little to do with each other, that you could not possibly occupy your mind with them at the same time. The world of concrete personal experiences to which the street belongs is multitudinous beyond imagination, tangled, muddy, painful and perplexed. The world to which your philosophy-professor introduces you is simple, clean and noble. The contradictions of real life are absent from it. ... In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual world than a clear addition built upon it ... It is no explanation of our concrete universe (James 1907, pp. 8–9)
F. C. S. Schiller's first book, Riddles of the Sphinx, was published before he became aware of the growing pragmatist movement taking place in America. In it, Schiller argues for a middle ground between materialism and absolute metaphysics. These opposites are comparable to what William James called tough-minded empiricism and tender-minded rationalism. Schiller contends on the one hand that mechanistic naturalism cannot make sense of the "higher" aspects of our world. These include freewill, consciousness, purpose, universals and some would add God. On the other hand, abstract metaphysics cannot make sense of the "lower" aspects of our world (e.g. the imperfect, change, physicality). While Schiller is vague about the exact sort of middle ground he is trying to establish, he suggests that metaphysics is a tool that can aid inquiry, but that it is valuable only insofar as it does help in explanation.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Toulmin argued that the need to distinguish between reality and appearance only arises within an explanatory scheme and therefore that there is no point in asking what "ultimate reality" consists of. More recently, a similar idea has been suggested by the postanalytic philosopher Daniel Dennett, who argues that anyone who wants to understand the world has to acknowledge both the "syntactical" aspects of reality (i.e., whizzing atoms) and its emergent or "semantic" properties (i.e., meaning and value).
Radical Empiricism gives interesting answers to questions about the limits of science if there are any, the nature of meaning and value and the workability of reductionism. These questions feature prominently in current debates about the relationship between religion and science, where it is often assumed—most pragmatists would disagree—that science degrades everything that is meaningful into "merely" physical phenomena.
Both John Dewey in Experience and Nature (1929) and half a century later Richard Rorty in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979) argued that much of the debate about the relation of the mind to the body results from conceptual confusions. They argue instead that there is no need to posit the mind or mindstuff as an ontological category.
Pragmatists disagree over whether philosophers ought to adopt a quietist or a naturalist stance toward the mind-body problem. The former (Rorty among them) want to do away with the problem because they believe it's a pseudo-problem, whereas the latter believe that it is a meaningful empirical question.
Pragmatism sees no fundamental difference between practical and theoretical reason, nor any ontological difference between facts and values. Both facts and values have cognitive content: knowledge is what we should believe; values are hypotheses about what is good in action. Pragmatist ethics is broadly humanist because it sees no ultimate test of morality beyond what matters for us as humans. Good values are those for which we have good reasons, viz. the Good Reasons approach. The pragmatist formulation pre-dates those of other philosophers who have stressed important similarities between values and facts such as Jerome Schneewind and John Searle.
William James' contribution to ethics, as laid out in his essay The Will to Believe has often been misunderstood as a plea for relativism or irrationality. On its own terms it argues that ethics always involves a certain degree of trust or faith and that we cannot always wait for adequate proof when making moral decisions.
Moral questions immediately present themselves as questions whose solution cannot wait for sensible proof. A moral question is a question not of what sensibly exists, but of what is good, or would be good if it did exist. ... A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. (The Will to Believe James 1896)
Of the classical pragmatists, John Dewey wrote most extensively about morality and democracy. (Edel 1993) In his classic article Three Independent Factors in Morals (Dewey 1930), he tried to integrate three basic philosophical perspectives on morality: the right, the virtuous and the good. He held that while all three provide meaningful ways to think about moral questions, the possibility of conflict among the three elements cannot always be easily solved. (Anderson, SEP)
Dewey also criticized the dichotomy between means and ends which he saw as responsible for the degradation of our everyday working lives and education, both conceived as merely a means to an end. He stressed the need for meaningful labor and a conception of education that viewed it not as a preparation for life but as life itself. (Dewey 2004  ch. 7; Dewey 1997 , p. 47)
Dewey was opposed to other ethical philosophies of his time, notably the emotivism of Alfred Ayer. Dewey envisioned the possibility of ethics as an experimental discipline, and thought values could best be characterized not as feelings or imperatives, but as hypotheses about what actions will lead to satisfactory results or what he termed consummatory experience. A further implication of this view is that ethics is a fallible undertaking, since human beings are frequently unable to know what would satisfy them.
During the late 1900s and first decade of 2000, pragmatism was embraced by many in the field of bioethics led by the philosophers John Lachs and his student Glenn McGee, whose 1997 book "'The Perfect Baby: A Pragmatic Approach to Genetic Engineering'" (see designer baby) garnered praise from within classical American philosophy and criticism from bioethics for its development of a theory of pragmatic bioethics and its rejection of the principalism theory then in vogue in medical ethics. An anthology published by The MIT Press, "'Pragmatic Bioethics'" included the responses of philosophers to that debate, including Micah Hester, Griffin Trotter and others many of whom developed their own theories based on the work of Dewey, Peirce, Royce and others. Lachs himself developed several applications of pragmatism to bioethics independent of but extending from the work of Dewey and James.
A recent pragmatist contribution to meta-ethics is Todd Lekan's "Making Morality" (Lekan 2003). Lekan argues that morality is a fallible but rational practice and that it has traditionally been misconceived as based on theory or principles. Instead, he argues, theory and rules arise as tools to make practice more intelligent.
John Dewey's Art as Experience, based on the William James lectures he delivered at Harvard, was an attempt to show the integrity of art, culture and everyday experience (IEP). Art, for Dewey, is or should be a part of everyone's creative lives and not just the privilege of a select group of artists. He also emphasizes that the audience is more than a passive recipient. Dewey's treatment of art was a move away from the transcendental approach to aesthetics in the wake of Immanuel Kant who emphasized the unique character of art and the disinterested nature of aesthetic appreciation. A notable contemporary pragmatist aesthetician is Joseph Margolis. He defines a work of art as "a physically embodied, culturally emergent entity", a human "utterance" that isn't an ontological quirk but in line with other human activity and culture in general. He emphasizes that works of art are complex and difficult to fathom, and that no determinate interpretation can be given.
Both Dewey and James investigated the role that religion can still play in contemporary society, the former in A Common Faith and the latter in The Varieties of Religious Experience.
From a general point of view, for William James, something is true only insofar as it works. Thus, the statement, for example, that prayer is heard may work on a psychological level but (a) may not help to bring about the things you pray for (b) may be better explained by referring to its soothing effect than by claiming prayers are heard. As such, pragmatism is not antithetical to religion but it is not an apologetic for faith either. James' metaphysical position however, leaves open the possibility that the ontological claims of religions may be true. As he observed in the end of the Varieties, his position does not amount to a denial of the existence of transcendent realities. Quite the contrary, he argued for the legitimate epistemic right to believe in such realities, since such beliefs do make a difference in an individual's life and refer to claims that cannot be verified or falsified either on intellectual or common sensorial grounds.
Joseph Margolis, in Historied Thought, Constructed World (California, 1995), makes a distinction between "existence" and "reality". He suggests using the term "exists" only for those things which adequately exhibit Peirce's Secondness: things which offer brute physical resistance to our movements. In this way, such things which affect us, like numbers, may be said to be "real", although they do not "exist". Margolis suggests that God, in such a linguistic usage, might very well be "real", causing believers to act in such and such a way, but might not "exist".
Neopragmatism is a broad contemporary category used for various thinkers that incorporate important insights of, and yet significantly diverge from, the classical pragmatists. This divergence may occur either in their philosophical methodology (many of them are loyal to the analytic tradition) or in conceptual formation. Important analytic pragmatists include early Richard Rorty (who was the first to develop neopragmatist philosophy in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Donald Davidson. Brazilian social thinker Roberto Unger advocates for a radical pragmatism, one that "de-naturalizes" society and culture, and thus insists that we can "transform the character of our relation to social and cultural worlds we inhabit rather than just to change, little by little, the content of the arrangements and beliefs that comprise them". Late Rorty and Jürgen Habermas are closer to Continental thought.
Neopragmatist thinkers who are more loyal to classical pragmatism include Sidney Hook and Susan Haack (known for the theory of foundherentism). Many pragmatist ideas (especially those of Peirce) find a natural expression in the decision-theoretic reconstruction of epistemology pursued in the work of Isaac Levi. Nicholas Rescher advocates his version of methodological pragmatism, based on construing pragmatic efficacy not as a replacement for truths but as a means to its evidentiation. Rescher is also a proponent of pragmatic idealism.
Not all pragmatists are easily characterized. With the advent of postanalytic philosophy and the diversification of Anglo-American philosophy, many philosophers were influenced by pragmatist thought without necessarily publicly committing themselves to that philosophical school. Daniel Dennett, a student of Quine's, falls into this category, as does Stephen Toulmin, who arrived at his philosophical position via Wittgenstein, whom he calls "a pragmatist of a sophisticated kind" (foreword for Dewey 1929 in the 1988 edition, p. xiii). Another example is Mark Johnson whose embodied philosophy (Lakoff and Johnson 1999) shares its psychologism, direct realism and anti-cartesianism with pragmatism. Conceptual pragmatism is a theory of knowledge originating with the work of the philosopher and logician Clarence Irving Lewis. The epistemology of conceptual pragmatism was first formulated in the 1929 book Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge.
French pragmatism is attended with theorists such as Bruno Latour, Michel Crozier, Luc Boltanski, and Laurent Thévenot. It is often seen as opposed to structural problems connected to the French critical theory of Pierre Bourdieu. French pragmatism has more recently made inroads into American sociology as well.
In the twentieth century, the movements of logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy have similarities with pragmatism. Like pragmatism, logical positivism provides a verification criterion of meaning that is supposed to rid us of nonsense metaphysics; however, logical positivism doesn't stress action as pragmatism does. The pragmatists rarely used their maxim of meaning to rule out all metaphysics as nonsense. Usually, pragmatism was put forth to correct metaphysical doctrines or to construct empirically verifiable ones rather than to provide a wholesale rejection.
Ordinary language philosophy is closer to pragmatism than other philosophy of language because of its nominalist character and because it takes the broader functioning of language in an environment as its focus instead of investigating abstract relations between language and world.
Pragmatism has ties to process philosophy. Much of their work developed in dialogue with process philosophers such as Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead, who aren't usually considered pragmatists because they differ so much on other points. (Douglas Browning et al. 1998; Rescher, SEP)
Behaviorism and functionalism in psychology and sociology also have ties to pragmatism, which is not surprising considering that James and Dewey were both scholars of psychology and that Mead became a sociologist.
Pragmatism emphasizes the connection between thought and action. Applied fields like public administration, political science, leadership studies, international relations, conflict resolution, and research methodology have incorporated the tenets of pragmatism in their field. Often this connection is made using Dewey and Addams's expansive notion of democracy.
In the early twentieth century, Symbolic interactionism, a major perspective within sociological social psychology, was derived from pragmatism, especially the work of George Herbert Mead and Charles Cooley, as well as that of Peirce and William James.
Increasing attention is being given to pragmatist epistemology in other branches of the social sciences, which have struggled with divisive debates over the status of social scientific knowledge.
Enthusiasts suggest that pragmatism offers an approach which is both pluralist and practical.
The classical pragmatism of John Dewey, William James, and Charles Sanders Peirce has influenced research in the field of Public Administration. Scholars claim classical pragmatism had a profound influence on the origin of the field of public administration. At the most basic level, public administrators are responsible for making programs "work" in a pluralistic, problems-oriented environment. Public administrators are also responsible for the day-to-day work with citizens. Dewey's participatory democracy can be applied in this environment. Dewey and James' notion of theory as a tool, helps administrators craft theories to resolve policy and administrative problems. Further, the birth of American public administration coincides closely with the period of greatest influence of the classical pragmatists.
Which pragmatism (classical pragmatism or neo-pragmatism) makes the most sense in public administration has been the source of debate. The debate began when Patricia M. Shields introduced Dewey's notion of the Community of Inquiry. Hugh Miller objected to one element of the community of inquiry (problematic situation, scientific attitude, participatory democracy): scientific attitude. A debate that included responses from a practitioner, an economist, a planner, other public administration scholars, and noted philosophers followed. Miller and Shields also responded.
In addition, applied scholarship of public administration that assesses charter schools, contracting out or outsourcing, financial management, performance measurement, urban quality of life initiatives, and urban planning in part draws on the ideas of classical pragmatism in the development of the conceptual framework and focus of analysis.
The health sector's administrators' use of pragmatism has been criticized as incomplete in its pragmatism, however, according to the classical pragmatists, knowledge is always shaped by human interests. The administrator's focus on "outcomes" simply advances their own interest, and this focus on outcomes often undermines their citizen's interests, which often are more concerned with process. On the other hand, David Brendel argues that pragmatism's ability to bridge dualisms, focus on practical problems, include multiple perspectives, incorporate participation from interested parties (patient, family, health team), and provisional nature makes it well suited to address problems in this area.
Since the mid 1990s, feminist philosophers have re-discovered classical pragmatism as a source of feminist theories. Works by Seigfried, Duran, Keith, and Whipps explore the historic and philosophic links between feminism and pragmatism. The connection between pragmatism and feminism took so long to be rediscovered because pragmatism itself was eclipsed by logical positivism during the middle decades of the twentieth century. As a result, it was lost from femininist discourse. The very features of pragmatism that led to its decline are the characteristics that feminists now consider its greatest strength. These are "persistent and early criticisms of positivist interpretations of scientific methodology; disclosure of value dimension of factual claims"; viewing aesthetics as informing everyday experience; subordinating logical analysis to political, cultural, and social issues; linking the dominant discourses with domination; "realigning theory with praxis; and resisting the turn to epistemology and instead emphasizing concrete experience". These feminist philosophers point to Jane Addams as a founder of classical pragmatism. In addition, the ideas of Dewey, Mead, and James are consistent with many feminist tenets. Jane Addams, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead developed their philosophies as all three became friends, influenced each other, and were engaged in the Hull-House experience and women's rights causes.
In the 1908 essay "The Thirteen Pragmatisms", Arthur Oncken Lovejoy argues that there's significant ambiguity in the notion of the effects of the truth of a proposition and those of belief in a proposition in order to highlight that many pragmatists had failed to recognize that distinction. He identified thirteen different philosophical positions that were each labeled pragmatism.
Neopragmatism as represented by Richard Rorty has been criticized as relativistic both by other neopragmatists such as Susan Haack (Haack 1997) and by many analytic philosophers (Dennett 1998). Rorty's early analytic work, however, differs notably from his later work which some, including Rorty, consider to be closer to literary criticism than to philosophy, and which attracts the brunt of criticism from his detractors.
Russell says some beliefs doesn't have any beneficial effects. 
Classical pragmatists (1850–1950)
Important protopragmatists or related thinkers
Analytic, neo- and other pragmatists (1950–present)
Pragmatists in the extended sense
I refer to Mr. Charles S. Peirce, with whose very existence as a philosopher I dare say many of you are unacquainted. He is one of the most original of contemporary thinkers; and the principle of practicalism or pragmatism, as he called it, when I first heard him enunciate it at Cambridge in the early [1870s] is the clue or compass by following which I find myself more and more confirmed in believing we may keep our feet upon the proper trail.
James credited Peirce again in 1906 lectures published in 1907 as Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, see Lecture 2, fourth paragraph.
See also James's 1907 Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, Lecture 2, fourth paragraph.
Indeed, it may be said that if two apparently different definitions of the reality before us should have identical consequences, those two definitions would really be identical definitions, made delusively to appear different merely by the different verbiage in which they are expressed.¹
¹ See the admirably original "Illustrations of the Logic of Science," by C. S. Peirce, especially the second paper, "How to make our Thoughts clear," [sic] in the Popular Science Monthly for January, 1878.
I have always fathered my pragmaticism (as I have called it since James and Schiller made the word [pragmatism] imply "the will to believe," the mutability of truth, the soundness of Zeno's refutation of motion, and pluralism generally), upon Kant, Berkeley, and Leibniz. ...
Important introductory primary texts
Note that this is an introductory list: some important works are left out and some less monumental works that are excellent introductions are included.
There are several peer-reviewed journals dedicated to pragmatism, for example
American philosophy is the activity, corpus, and tradition of philosophers affiliated with the United States. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while it lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and shaping collective American identity over the history of the nation."Apatheism
Apatheism (; a portmanteau of apathy and theism) is the attitude of apathy towards the existence or non-existence of god(s). It is more of an attitude rather than a belief, claim, or belief system.An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or rejecting any claims that gods exist or do not exist. The existence of god(s) is not rejected, but may be designated irrelevant.Scientist and philosopher Ian von Hegner has argued that apatheism is an alternative to positions such as theism, atheism, and agnosticism, with implications that have been overlooked in modern philosophical discussions. Philosopher Trevor Hedberg has called apatheism "uncharted territory in the philosophy of religion."Biblical literalism
Biblical literalism or biblicism is a term used differently by different authors concerning biblical interpretation. It can equate to the dictionary definition of literalism: "adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense", where literal means "in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical".Alternatively, the term can refer to the historical-grammatical method, a hermeneutic technique that strives to uncover the meaning of the text by taking into account not just the grammatical words, but also the syntactical aspects, the cultural and historical background, and the literary genre. It emphasizes the referential aspect of the words in the text without denying the relevance of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor). It does not necessarily lead to complete agreement upon one single interpretation of any given passage. This Christian fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to scripture is used extensively by fundamentalist Christians, in contrast to the historical-critical method of mainstream Judaism or Mainline Protestantism. Those who relate biblical literalism to the historical-grammatical method use the word "letterism" to cover interpreting the Bible according to the dictionary definition of literalism.Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce (, PURSS; 10 September 1839 – 19 April 1914) was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of pragmatism". He was educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for thirty years. Today he is appreciated largely for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, scientific methodology, semiotics, and for his founding of pragmatism.
An innovator in mathematics, statistics, philosophy, research methodology, and various sciences, Peirce considered himself, first and foremost, a logician. He made major contributions to logic, but logic for him encompassed much of that which is now called epistemology and philosophy of science. He saw logic as the formal branch of semiotics, of which he is a founder, which foreshadowed the debate among logical positivists and proponents of philosophy of language that dominated 20th century Western philosophy. Additionally, he defined the concept of abductive reasoning, as well as rigorously formulated mathematical induction and deductive reasoning. As early as 1886 he saw that logical operations could be carried out by electrical switching circuits. The same idea was used decades later to produce digital computers.In 1934, the philosopher Paul Weiss called Peirce "the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America's greatest logician". Webster's Biographical Dictionary said in 1943 that Peirce was "now regarded as the most original thinker and greatest logician of his time." Keith Devlin similarly referred to Peirce as one of the greatest philosophers ever.Charmed (season 2)
The second season of Charmed, an American supernatural drama television series created by Constance M. Burge, originally aired in the United States on The WB from September 30, 1999 through May 18, 2000. Airing on Thursdays at 9:00 pm. Paramount Home Entertainment released the complete second season in a six-disc box set on September 6, 2005.Egyptian Hope Party
The Egyptian Hope Party (Arabic: حزب الأمل المصرى; Alamal) is a political party in Egypt created by former members of the Constitution Party. The party plans to run in the 2015 Egyptian parliamentary election.Empiricism
In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions (or customs) arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasises evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.
Empiricism, often used by natural scientists, says that "knowledge is based on experience" and that "knowledge is tentative and probabilistic, subject to continued revision and falsification". Empirical research, including experiments and validated measurement tools, guides the scientific method.Functional contextualism
Functional contextualism is a modern philosophy of science rooted in philosophical pragmatism and contextualism. It is most actively developed in behavioral science in general and the field of behavior analysis and contextual behavioral science in particular (see the entry for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science). Functional contextualism serves as the basis of a theory of language known as relational frame theory and its most prominent application, acceptance and commitment therapy. It is an extension and contextualistic interpretation of B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism first delineated by Steven C. Hayes which emphasizes the importance of predicting and influencing psychological events (including thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) with precision, scope, and depth, by focusing on manipulable variables in their context.Modern philosophy
Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school (and thus should not be confused with Modernism), although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.
The 17th and early 20th centuries roughly mark the beginning and the end of modern philosophy. How much of the Renaissance should be included is a matter for dispute; likewise modernity may or may not have ended in the twentieth century and been replaced by postmodernity. How one decides these questions will determine the scope of one's use of "modern philosophy."Neopragmatism
Neopragmatism, sometimes called post-Deweyan pragmatism, linguistic pragmatism, or analytic pragmatism, is the philosophical tradition that infers that the meaning of words is a function of how they are used, rather than the meaning of what people intend for them to describe.
The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (2004) defines "neo-pragmatism" as "A postmodern version of pragmatism developed by the American philosopher Richard Rorty and drawing inspiration from authors such as John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Wilfrid Sellars, W. V. O. Quine, and Jacques Derrida". It's a contemporary term for a philosophy which reintroduces many concepts from pragmatism. While traditional pragmatism focuses on experience, Rorty centers on language. The self is regarded as a "centerless web of beliefs and desires".
It repudiates the notions of universal truth, epistemological foundationalism, representationalism, and epistemic objectivity. It is a nominalist approach that denies that natural kinds and linguistic entities have substantive ontological implications. Rorty denies that the subject-matter of the human sciences can be studied in the same ways as we study the natural sciences.It has been associated with a variety of other thinkers including Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Donald Davidson, though none of these figures have called themselves "neopragmatists". The following contemporary philosophers are also often considered to be neopragmatists: Nicholas Rescher (a proponent of methodological pragmatism and pragmatic idealism), Jürgen Habermas, Susan Haack, Robert Brandom, and Cornel West.Neuroepistemology
Neuroepistemology is an empirical approach to epistemology—the study of knowledge in a general, philosophical sense—which is informed by modern neuroscience, especially the study of the structure and operation of the brain involving neural networks and neuronal epistemology. Philosopher Patricia Churchland has written about the topic and, in her book Brain-Wise, characterised the problem as "how meat knows". Georg Northoff, in his Philosophy of the Brain, wrote that it "focuses on direct linkage between the brain on one hand and epistemic abilities and inabilities on the other."Pragmatic ethics
Pragmatic ethics is a theory of normative philosophical ethics. Ethical pragmatists such as John Dewey believe that some societies have progressed morally in much the way they have attained progress in science. Scientists can pursue inquiry into the truth of a hypothesis and accept the hypothesis, in the sense that they act as though the hypothesis were true; nonetheless, they think that future generations can advance science, and thus future generations can refine or replace (at least some of) their accepted hypotheses. Similarly, ethical pragmatists think that norms, principles, and moral criteria are likely to be improved as a result of inquiry.Pragmatic maxim
The pragmatic maxim, also known as the maxim of pragmatism or the maxim of pragmaticism, is a maxim of logic formulated by Charles Sanders Peirce. Serving as a normative recommendation or a regulative principle in the normative science of logic, its function is to guide the conduct of thought toward the achievement of its purpose, advising on an optimal way of "attaining clearness of apprehension". Here is its original 1878 statement in English when it was not yet named:
It appears, then, that the rule for attaining the third grade of clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.
(Peirce on p. 293 of "How to Make Our Ideas Clear", Popular Science Monthly, v. 12, pp. 286–302. Reprinted widely, including Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (CP) v. 5, paragraphs 388–410.)Pragmaticism
"Pragmaticism" is a term used by Charles Sanders Peirce for his pragmatic philosophy starting in 1905, in order to distance himself and it from pragmatism, the original name, which had been used in a manner he did not approve of in the "literary journals". Peirce in 1905 announced his coinage "pragmaticism", saying that it was "ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers" (Collected Papers (CP) 5.414). Today, outside of philosophy, "pragmatism" is often taken to refer to a compromise of aims or principles, even a ruthless search for mercenary advantage. Peirce gave other or more specific reasons for the distinction in a surviving draft letter that year and in later writings. Peirce's pragmatism, that is, pragmaticism, differed in Peirce's view from other pragmatisms by its commitments to the spirit of strict logic, the immutability of truth, the reality of infinity, and the difference between (1) actively willing to control thought, to doubt, to weigh reasons, and (2) willing not to exert the will, willing to believe. In his view his pragmatism is, strictly speaking, not itself a whole philosophy, but instead a general method for the clarification of ideas. He first publicly formulated his pragmatism as an aspect of scientific logic along with principles of statistics and modes of inference in his "Illustrations of the Logic of Science" series of articles in 1877-8.Pragmatism (disambiguation)
Pragmatism is a philosophical movement.
Pragmatism or pragmatic may also refer to:
Pragmaticism, Charles Sanders Peirce's post-1905 branch of philosophy
Pragmatics, a subfield of linguistics and semiotics
Pragmatic ethics, a theory of normative philosophical ethics
Realpolitik, politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notionsRealpolitik
Realpolitik (from German: real; "realistic", "practical", or "actual"; and Politik; "politics", German pronunciation: [ʁeˈaːlpoliˌtiːk]) is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism. It is often simply referred to as "pragmatism" in politics, e.g. "pursuing pragmatic policies". The term Realpolitik is sometimes used pejoratively to imply politics that are perceived as coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian.Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c. 495 BC), and eventually covering a large area of the globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek: philosophia (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of wisdom" (φιλεῖν philein, "to love" and σοφία sophia, "wisdom").
The scope of philosophy in the ancient understanding, and the writings of (at least some of) the ancient philosophers, were all intellectual endeavors. This included the problems of philosophy as they are understood today; but it also included many other disciplines, such as pure mathematics and natural sciences such as physics, astronomy, and biology (Aristotle, for example, wrote on all of these topics).William James
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 27, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James was a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential U.S. philosophers, and has been labelled the "Father of American psychology".Along with Charles Sanders Peirce, James established the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology analysis, published in 2002, ranked James as the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. A survey published in American Psychologist in 1991 ranked James's reputation in second place, after Wilhelm Wundt, who is widely regarded as the founder of experimental psychology. James also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James' work has influenced intellectuals such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty, and has even influenced former US President Jimmy Carter.
Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr. and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James and the diarist Alice James. James trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard, but never practiced medicine. Instead he pursued his interests in psychology and then philosophy. James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are The Principles of Psychology, a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology; Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy; and The Varieties of Religious Experience, an investigation of different forms of religious experience, including theories on mind-cure.