History of Pragmatism

Pragmatism was developed in the United States in the late nineteenth century, and its first generation of philosophers was initiated by Charles Sanders Peirce. Royce, another prominent philosopher, forged a close relationship with James, and they both worked together to promote pragmatism. Though Royce was the most influential figure of the first generation, his ideas have since lost momentum. Read on to learn more about the history of pragmatism.

Pragmatic philosophy is concerned with expression at the level of utterances, ranging from one word to a lengthy discourse. It addresses meaning and how people understand meanings. Without an understanding of pragmatics, language learners may have difficulties communicating their intentions when speaking and responding when listening. If we are unable to express our meanings clearly, we cannot fully understand them. Pragmatic philosophy seeks to explain this disconnect between the meaning of an utterance and the action it provokes.

Children with language disorders, autism, and other disorders may struggle with pragmatic language. Parents can help children develop pragmatic language by providing visual supports, role models, social stories, and other ways of communicating with children with various communication needs. It is important to note that these children with language disorders may be more difficult to socialize than typically developing peers. Those children with pragmatic language problems may benefit from specialized treatment, such as a speech-language pathologist, who can help them understand and speak pragmatically.

A pragmatic approach to a philosophical debate is often helpful for clarification and dissolution of intractable disputes. A down-to-earth pragmatist often encourages bickering metaphysicians to ask themselves: what would be the concrete practical difference if my theory were true, but my rival’s theory was wrong? Ultimately, this approach can be helpful in a wide variety of contexts and situations. It’s not that we can’t disagree, but our disagreements are simply non-verbal.

As we can see, pragmatists have developed opposing views of the Cartesian picture of mind and experience. For example, Peirce believed that beliefs were just rules of action, and James thought that experience was teleological. Wittgenstein and Popper mocked the bucket theory of the mind, and both refused to accept the view that the mind is Nature’s mirror. Similarly, Davidson challenged the notion of a subjective mind, and argued that we must have the mind to understand it.

Brandom, on the other hand, disavowed truth as a significant metaphysical property. Brandom favors an account of the capacity of language users to use anaphoras. Moreover, his account of meaning combines the ideas of social pragmatics with those of Jacques Derrida. If we were to ask Jacques Derrida about the history of Pragmatics, what would his comment be?

A recent renaissance in pragmatism has attracted high-profile philosophers, including Hilary Putnam and Nicholas Rescher. While Rorty is the most controversial, other notable pragmatists include Hilary Putnam, Thomas Nagel, Robert Brandom, and Cornel West. In fact, most contemporary pragmatists are neo-pragmatists.