The study of pragmatics, or the behavior and meaning of language, is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing influences from sociology and anthropology as well as philosophy and linguistics. Pragmatics aims to describe the way that humans communicate with one another, with the goal of understanding what we can and cannot say in a given situation, as well as what effects these words may have on other participants.
Different philosophers have had differing definitions of what pragmatics actually consists of, and the field is often divided into two different sections. These are the ‘near side’ and ‘far side’ of pragmatics, a classification that was created by Richard Morris in his book “The Theory of Pragmatics”. Near-side pragmatics is concerned with the linguistic form of an utterance and the truth conditions of its proposition, as determined by conventional semantics. Far-side pragmatics, on the other hand, is concerned with what the utterance does beyond its conventional meanings, and how that affects speakers, listeners, their actions, and the world around them.
In general, pragmatists are utilitarians and do not believe in absolutism or dogmatism. They are always willing to change their beliefs and views when new information or circumstances arise. They care about achieving results, and they are always experimenting and trying things out to see what works best in any given situation. This is also a big reason why pragmatists don’t like to discuss what ‘truth’ actually means, as the truth can be anything that achieves results at any given time.
The pragmatist philosophy has been used in education to promote a student-centered approach. Rather than having the teacher tell students what is ‘true’, pragmatists prefer to let the student discover the ‘truth’ for themselves through experimentation and experience. They will be taught the theory, but they will be encouraged to try things out for themselves and then come back to class with a report of what works best.
As a result of this, pragmatists tend to be more active and hands-on in the classroom than other types of teachers. They will use a lot of experiments, project-based work and other hands-on activities to get students to learn through experience. In the words of John Dewey, who promoted pragmatism in education: “the child must have experiences in order to understand the world.”
Because pragmatists are such proponents of action and experiential learning, they would not be so keen on teaching the ‘rules’ of language. They will teach the students to read, write and speak, but they will be more interested in seeing how these skills can be applied to real-life situations. This could mean that a pragmatist teacher will not be as worried about spelling or grammar as they will be about how the student can use these skills to interact with their friends and family.