What Is Pragmatic Philosophy?

The pragmatic approach is a way of thinking and making decisions that are based on fact rather than opinion. A pragmatic mindset is concerned with results and consequences rather than whether something is “right” or “wrong”. The pragmatic approach is often viewed as less romantic or esoteric. For example, a pragmatic person would look at romance as detached from practical concerns and social pressures. The pragmatic view of romance is more likely to focus on the power of lightning rather than scenic value. The pragmatic mindset would also favor retaining a day job once a musician has released a record.

Pragmatic language is crucial in communication and interaction. Without it, two people may not be able to understand each other. If a person lacks the ability to express his or her needs and wants, the listener may feel uncomfortable engaging in conversation with them. In addition, poor pragmatic language can interfere with academic performance and social engagement in educational environments. School-aged children with social communication disorder or autism struggle to grasp the foundational concepts of pragmatic language.

In the early 1870s, a group of Harvard-educated men began meeting for informal philosophical discussions. They included the proto-positivist Chauncey Wright, future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, mathematician Charles Sanders Peirce, and psychologist William James. The group became so influential that it has influenced other branches of philosophy as well.

Jacques Derrida said that some Pragmatics work aligned with his own program. Similarly, Emile Benveniste argued that the pronouns “I” and “you” are fundamentally distinct from other pronouns in creating the subject. Ultimately, both theories aimed to explain the capacity of language users to use anaphora.

William James coined the term “pragmatism” in a 1897 address at the University of California (Berkeley). However, the term had been used earlier by C. S. Peirce, three decades before James’s appearance. He later relabeled his own position as pragmatism, saying that it was “ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers”.

A pragmatist looks at the world as a practical matter and makes decisions based on reality rather than on theoretical ideologies. Pragmatism seeks to apply sound knowledge to practical situations and develop understanding through application. It also values inquiry. It examines the problem to be solved and decides on the best course of action.