Several key ideas in pragmatism originated in the Harvard Metaphysical Club around 1870. The first generation of pragmatists, which included Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, George Herbert Mead, and Josiah Royce, emphasized the use of language to achieve different purposes. In the second generation, pragmatists turned their attention to social improvement, education, politics, and religion. Some of these philosophers contributed to the social sciences while others were influential in liberatory philosophical movements.
Pragmatism’s intellectual centre of gravity has been shifting away from North America, where it originated. There are vibrant research networks forming in China, Europe, and Scandinavia. There is also a strong pragmatist tradition in South America. The pragmatists, however, do not develop large coherent systems of truth. They do, however, consider things as probably true, even though they cannot be guaranteed to be true. They also do not believe that humans can fully understand the universe and say that something is true. They are interested in partial truths, which can have useful applications.
Pragmatism is based on an inquiry-based analysis of truth. This criterion requires that facts be coherent and that accurate descriptions of the world do not conflict with other facts. In addition, it identifies a coherence theory of truth, which states that a fact is true if it is coherent as a set. This is a common approach to truth among pragmatists. However, it is prone to errors, including confusing correlation with causation.
Pragmatists believe that truth is a linguistic property, not a metaphysical property. They believe that language is a human creation, and that a person’s capacity to perform anaphora (anaphora is a word that means ‘to say something’) explains a person’s capacity to use language. Consequently, a physics model may be useful at describing the cosmic scale, but it is insufficient to characterize the small particles that make up most of the universe.
Pragmatists believe that the best way to find out if an idea is true is to test it in the real world. They do this by adopting new ideas as they become useful and then dropping old ideas when they are no longer useful. In order to test an idea, pragmatists must have an open mind and be willing to drop old ideas when they lose their utility. They also believe that ideas can be tested in the real world without universal confirmation.
Pragmatists are interested in partial truths, or grey areas, which can have useful applications. For example, a boxer knowing that the opponent is weak at the left side of the ring is useful. However, a physics model that explains the universe at a microcosmic scale may not be as good at describing the tiny particles that make up the ocean.
Pragmatists also believe that facts should be tested in the real world, because only humans can know the true nature of the universe. They also focus on the consequences and usefulness of knowledge. They do not want to develop large systems of truth, because they think that we can’t fully understand the universe and say that something is right.