Pragmatic Philosophy

Pragmatic is a philosophical approach, primarily held by American philosophers, that holds that the truth or meaning of a statement is judged by its practical (i.e. pragmatic) consequences. It was developed by William James and John Dewey and has also been called American pragmatism, Chicago pragmatism or Deweyan pragmatism.

Pragmatism focuses on ‘how’ people understand each other and the world around them, and not on ‘what’ is true or false in some metaphysical sense. The philosophy was born out of the conversations at a ‘Metaphysical Club’ that Peirce and James, among others, participated in in the 1870s. It owes its influence to 18th-century British empiricism, in particular the work of George Berkeley, which focused on how knowledge is tied to action and inferential from sensations (Brandom 2008).

One of the primary goals of pragmatism is to shift the focus of scientific research away from ‘what’ people believe to ‘how’ they understand each other and their surroundings in order to improve communication and understanding in a variety of ways. Pragmatism is compatible with qualitative-dominant interpretivist understandings of socially constructed reality, and it encourages researchers to be flexible in their investigative techniques.

The philosophy posits that the real world is not something that can be fully understood or described, but rather, it is something that must be experienced. The pragmatic perspective is thus an evolutionary theory, whereby things become more and more understandable over time as more and more experiences are gained. This, in turn, leads to new ideas and insights that result in changes in the way we live our lives, and this is what pragmatism focuses on.

As a philosophical movement, pragmatism is an eclectic one and its proponents are often at odds with each other, although there are some common elements in the philosophy. These commonalities include:

Unlike other philosophical approaches that seek to find some ultimate political perspective, social theory or method, pragmatism begins with an ethics-based pursuit of democracy, equality, justice and freedom for everyone in society. It also includes a strong emphasis on education, recognizing that the primary purpose of schools is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to participate in society.

The pragmatist approach to learning is a great way for educators to create a learning environment that fosters collaboration and respect. It provides a framework for learning in the classroom that will help students to collaborate and be creative, allowing them to develop their own solutions to problems and share those solutions with others. It will also teach them to take responsibility for their actions and be respectful of each other’s differences. In addition, it will empower them with the tools they need to be successful in the workplace. This learning environment will be beneficial to all learners and the broader community. In this way, pragmatism is a powerful tool to use in educating the next generation of leaders. For more information on implementing a pragmatist philosophy into your school, contact us today!