Pragmatics is a branch of philosophy which examines practical aspects of human thought and action. This study also considers the implications of language and how meaning is constructed. The term pragmatic comes from the Greek word pragma which is translated as ‘grounded,’ ‘practical’ or’realistic.’ In other words, a pragmatist is someone who does the best job he can.
A pragmatic utterance is a statement that a speaker is able to make using a given context and language. It may be a truthful statement, or it might not. One way to test this is to see whether or not the utterance is ambiguous. If the statement is ambiguous, it does not make sense and could be a bad idea. For example, you are not being pragmatic if you ask the person if they have any daughters. However, you are being pragmatic if you pause and ask, “Do you have any sons?” That changes the utterance.
Some pragmatists use a correspondence theory of truth. This theory states that accurate descriptions of the world should be coherent as a set of facts. However, this theory has its flaws. For example, it can be prone to errors such as confusing correlation with causation.
It is not uncommon for pragmatists to drop old ideas when they lose their usefulness. Rather than building big systems of truth, a pragmatist prioritizes useful knowledge over certain knowledge. This is often akin to a politician doing what he knows best to get the job done.
One of the more exciting trends in the pragmatic field is the increasing diversity of research networks. These networks are now sprouting in Scandinavia, South America and China. Research in pragmatist science has begun to move beyond the United States, and the intellectual center of gravity has shifted to other parts of the globe.
Several books have appeared on the topic of pragmatism, including Evidence and Inquiry: A Pragmatist Reconstruction of Epistemology by Victoria Fromkin, Truth and Justification by B. Fultner, and Pragmatism: A Guide for the Perplexed by R. Talisse.
A more thorough overview of the pragmatics field is available in Pragmatics and Grammar by Ariel. Other notable works include Heaven’s Champion by E.K. Suckiel, and the works of Wittgenstein and William James.
As a result, many philosophers, including philosophers of language, have been drawn to pragmatism. Indeed, many of the newer liberatory philosophical projects draw from the pragmatist tradition. While some of these works are similar to those of classical pragmatists, such as Dewey, others are more nebulous.
There is more to pragmatism than meets the eye. Brandom, for example, is a philosopher of language who is critical of the classic pragmatists. His interest is more in the semantics and linguistics of language, and he is particularly interested in the rationalist meaning of words. He argues that it is more important to understand the meaning of words, and not just to know the words themselves.
Another noteworthy pragmatist is Jacques Derrida. This French philosopher noted that some of the pragmatist’s work aligns with his program.