If we want to understand the roots of liberatory philosophy, it is helpful to look at the history of pragmatism. Many liberatory philosophical projects draw upon the tradition of pragmatism for guidance. In a previous article, we discussed the philosophical underpinnings of pragmatism. But, how do we define pragmatism? And, more importantly, what is it not?
A pragmatic is someone who looks at things from a logical perspective, focusing on the facts, consequences, and outcomes of their actions. This is different from a romantic or idealistic perspective, as the latter is often detached from pragmatic concerns. A pragmatist, for example, sees romantic love as unattainable and superficial, and instead values scenic value and lightning power over aesthetics. Those who practice pragmatism are not likely to consider themselves as shallow, and some people have even maintained day jobs after recording their albums.
Another example of pragmatic language development is the use of gestures. The meaning of the phrase “I have two sons” might be confusing in a foreign country. The sign used to signify “stop” in the United States is highly insulting in Greece. This difference is the result of pragmatic language development across cultures. Here are 19 simple gestures that will help you understand the meaning of a phrase:
The key ideas of pragmatism were initially discussed in Harvard Metaphysical Club discussions around the 1870s. Some scholars have claimed that Peirce had first coined the term “pragmatism” over three decades earlier. James and Peirce both used the term as a name for the concept, but the term has become associated with a particular school of thought. These writers are largely considered pragmatists.
Those who study this philosophical movement should read Borradori, G. (1984), Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy, 2nd ed., and the Classic Writings of G. S. T. C. Haack (1983). A number of other authors have written books that provide background and synthesis of the history of pragmatism. These books are essential readings, especially for those who want to understand the history of philosophy.
While linguistic and pragmatic competence are often considered to be closely related, the distinction between these two areas is essential. The former is the study of language itself, while the latter is the knowledge of how it is used. It explains how the speaker knows that ‘Why are you making a noise?’ is a possible sentence in English. In other words, pragmatic competence is a more general understanding of language than linguistic knowledge. You can’t be a pragmatically competent speaker without knowing the history of language.