What Is Pragmatic Philosophy?

Pragmatic is the study of how we use words to communicate meaning. It is a broad area of study, including not only the semantics and syntax of expressions (the rules that govern what they mean) but also how we use those expressions in their social and physical contexts. As a result, it includes aspects of the philosophy of language, sociolinguistics, semiotics, and anthropology as well as general semantics and pragmatics.

Unlike its analytic rivals, pragmatism is a philosophical position that offers a third alternative to the two dominant world views in contemporary philosophy: realism and idealism. Moreover, it is a view that has developed a rich and distinctive methodology that can be applied in many different areas of inquiry.

The pragmatist tradition traces its roots back to the 1870s, with Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) introducing it as a way of analyzing human action and experience, and William James (1842-1910) popularizing it. Initially, pragmatism was seen as a challenge to the positivist orthodoxy of the time.

However, in the 1940s and 1950s, as the positivist dogma was shaken by developments in evolutionary biology and quantum theory, pragmatism faded into obscurity. By the early 1980s, a new generation of philosophers rediscovered and adapted its ideas, and it is now considered a significant philosophical movement worldwide.

Classical pragmatists were empiricists, believing that we can only know things by observing them. They also had a strong preference for a posteriori epistemology, an approach that relies on experience to guide our reasoning and inference. In addition, classical pragmatists were committed to freedom and human dignity in the face of social injustice.

As a result, they have had an impact on the development of liberatory movements such as feminism, ecology, Native American philosophy, and Latin American philosophy. They have also been used as a lens to examine social sciences and other disciplines, such as law and psychology, for a more accurate picture of real-world behavior.

In the twentieth century, neo-pragmatists have emphasized that linguistic meaning is not everything when it comes to communicating. However, this neo-pragmatism has left some classical pragmatists frustrated because they feel that the neo-pragmatists are neglecting one of the central concepts of their tradition.

A significant part of pragmatics is the study of reference resolution, which concerns how we determine whether a word refers to an object or concept. Another important aspect of pragmatics is the study of how we use idioms, anaphora, and indexicals to make meaning. It is also the field of study that is closest to classical pragmatism, and some people have tried to find ways to bridge this gap between semantics and pragmatics by using formalizations like intuitionistic semantics and the theory of illocutionary forces.