Pragmatic is a philosophy that focuses on the real-world impact of ideas, rather than metaphysical implications. The philosophy emerged in the United States during the latter part of the nineteenth century and has significantly influenced non-philosophers in fields such as sociology, psychology, education, law, business, and literary criticism. However, it is most well-known as a philosophical movement that claims that truth lies in the results of accepting an ideology or proposition and that unpractical ideas should be rejected.
The pragmatic definition of a truth is “what works.” This differs from other philosophies such as Idealists and Absolutists, who believe that truth is innate and indestructible. Pragmatists are willing to experiment and discover what works best, allowing for new methods of obtaining knowledge as time goes by. This flexibility is what gives pragmatism its strength and longevity.
A common application of pragmatics in ELT is integrating information on language functions into existing lesson plans. For example, a teacher might add a lesson on taboo questions in different cultures to a textbook unit on apologizing because students need to understand how they communicate across culture boundaries.
There are some flaws to pragmatism, however. Most people can immediately identify that pragmatism collapses when applied to moral issues such as right and wrong, because it reduces all issues to an empirical basis of what “works” instead of the deeper meaning of the issue itself. In addition, the concept of truth can become subjective, because there is no one unbiased way to determine what is true or false.
Another issue with pragmatism is that it can be used as an excuse to ignore the importance of the logical and ethical principles that should govern all research. For example, the pragmatist who ignores the importance of his responsibility to act ethically while researching an issue that affects many people will likely come to erroneous conclusions. The pragmatist may even end up causing harm as a result of his or her disregard for ethics and logic.
A pragmatist will not let these problems stop him or her from pursuing a worthy cause, but he or she will be careful to ensure that all decisions are made using sound reasoning. Despite the flaws associated with pragmatism, it can be helpful to those interested in a variety of disciplines such as science, medicine, education, and business. Its ability to transcend philosophical debate and apply to real-world issues makes it an important concept to study. In addition, it can provide a valuable perspective on other areas of philosophy such as idealism and realism. It is for these reasons that pragmatism continues to be an important topic of discussion among philosophers and non-philosophers alike. Its enduring legacy will be seen in the way it shapes the world around us.