Pragmatism refers to a particular philosophy that is based on practical considerations, as opposed to ideals or theories. The term was first recorded in the late 16th century and is derived from the Greek words pragmatikos, meaning’relating to fact,’ and pragma, from the stem of prattein, ‘to do’.
The philosophy of pragmatism is widely applied to a wide variety of fields. The pragmatist school of philosophy began with William James, and the pragmatists’ focus was on the nature of truth. In later years, the philosophy became more political, and it focused on educational reform and social improvements. In the twentieth century, pragmatism was influenced by social workers such as Jane Addams, who developed the profession of social work.
In his book, Jacques Derrida remarked that some of Pragmatics work was “adherent” to his program. In addition, Emile Benveniste argued that “I” and “you” are fundamentally different from other pronouns, and are unique in defining the subject. In a sense, this philosophy has helped clarify what we mean when we use language.
The field of pragmatics focuses on how language works in social settings, and how humans produce meaning through it. It draws on the linguistic fields of semantics, syntax, and semiotics. As a result, pragmatics focuses on the social and physical contexts of language. Its underlying assumption is that language is a form of human action, and is thus, governed by context.
An example of a pragmatically-based approach is the everyday greeting. In a pragmatic context, an everyday greeting would not usually elicit a long and detailed response. The literal response would include details of medical conditions or personal details, while a pragmatic response would simply assume the speaker’s intention. The pragmatic approach is much more effective and precise.
The concept of pragmatism emerged in discussions held at the Harvard Metaphysical Club in the 1870s. However, it was not until the 1880s that Peirce’s ideas grew and became more widely known. James’ 1898 public lectures also brought pragmatism into the limelight.
Pragmatism has also seen a resurgence in recent years. It is now being explored by high-profile philosophers, including Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. Further, the views of several neo-pragmatists, such as Robert Brandom, are gaining popularity in scholarly circles.