Pragmatic is a philosophy of language that focuses on implied meanings rather than what is spelled out in words. It is a subset of linguistics, which is a broader field that includes semantics (the meaning of words), syntax (word order), and semiotics (the study of signs). Pragmatics is also sometimes compared with rhetoric and considered to be a part of the liberal arts.
The idea of pragmatics has a long history, dating back to ancient Greece when it was first mentioned as one of the three liberal arts. Modern pragmatism rose in popularity between 1880 and 1930, when linguists studying the philosophy of language agreed that a theory of linguistic communication must consider social and cultural factors.
A pragmatist is someone who is more interested in practical considerations and how theory can be applied to real-life situations than in ideas or theories themselves. This is why pragmatism has become a popular philosophy in the business world; many successful executives are pragmatic in their approach to work and life.
John Dewey (1863-1931) was a key figure in the rise of American pragmatism. He was a philosopher, educator, psychologist, and public intellectual. He wrote more than 60 books and articles, and his ideas were widely embraced throughout the United States and abroad.
Dewey’s pragmatism is often characterized as a “methodological naturalism.” He believed that all human knowledge is acquired through experience, and that philosophical inquiry should be guided by practical considerations. He was also a strong proponent of the importance of science and technology in daily life.
Unlike classical philosophy and modern philosophy, which focus on issues of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, pragmatism is more concerned with the real-world application of philosophical concepts to everyday life. This approach to philosophy has been influential on a wide range of thinkers, from the founders of the scientific method to current behavioral scientists.
The Flaws of Pragmatism
While pragmatism can be a useful and powerful philosophy, it has several major flaws. The most serious is that pragmatism can lead to false or dangerous conclusions. It is important to note that just because something “works,” it does not mean that it is true. For example, telling a child that there are invisible gremlins living in electrical outlets and that they will bite if you touch them “works” to keep the child from touching them. However, the gremlins do not exist, and the theory is not actually truthful.
Another flaw of pragmatism is that it is too easy to rely on pragmatic considerations to make moral judgments or to determine what is right and wrong. Spiritual and biblical truth is not determined by what works or produces good results; it is found in Scripture (1 Cor. 1:22, 23; 2:14).