Pragmatics is a philosophical theory that emphasizes the social and cultural context of knowledge. It has been used in many fields, including linguistics and psychology. It also focuses on how people communicate with one another, and the relationships between language and context.
The word pragmatist derives from the Greek words “phragmatikos” meaning “adequate or reasonable” and “politikos” meaning “of the people.” It is often referred to as an American research paradigm because it bridges the gap between the scientific method and structuralist orientation of older approaches and the more naturalistic methods and freewheeling orientation of newer ones (Creswell 2013; Creswell and Plano Clark 2011).
According to pragmatist scholars, knowledge and reality are socially constructed rather than objective. As such, it is based on beliefs and habits that are socially shared.
It is this epistemological stance that is a key part of pragmatist philosophy and is at the root of its underlying methodology. In particular, pragmatist philosophers argue that human experience is a dialectic process of interpreting knowledge and beliefs, and reflecting on actions, which ultimately leads to new ways of knowing and acting in the world.
This dialectic process is a powerful concept in pragmatism because it offers a more nuanced way of understanding human action and behavior than many other theories that assume that these processes exist independent of our understanding. It allows for the development of a’mediated’ approach to complex organizational processes that is largely absent from other approaches.
However, the epistemological stance of pragmatism also has limitations in terms of how it can be applied to organizational research. For instance, it is a difficult concept to incorporate into the study design phase.
Furthermore, it is hard to incorporate into the analysis and final write-up stages. This is mainly because it can be challenging to manage dynamic and iterative analytical processes.
To overcome these limitations, pragmatism advocates three principles that can be applied throughout the research process:
First, it acknowledges that human behaviour and actions are a social construction, which can only be understood through thoughtful and careful analysis. It then encourages researchers to develop an epistemological stance that recognizes the deep interconnections between experience, knowing and acting, which are key features of social life.
Second, pragmatists believe that the human brain is constantly generating knowledge and that this information is always constructed with a purpose in mind. This knowledge is usually interpreted to make sense of the world and to facilitate the maintenance of one’s existence.
Third, pragmatists advocate a collaborative and reflexive approach to the design of research. This stance allows for the inclusion of other perspectives and ideas during the research process, thus creating a more holistic view of reality.
Fourth, pragmatists argue that the goal of the research is not to find “truth” but instead to “understand” a certain problem and create solutions. It is this stance that makes the research process more practical, in the sense that it provides a more’real’ and immediate answer to a problem than many other approaches.