What is Pragmatic Philosophy?

A person who is pragmatic approaches problems and issues based on facts and reality, instead of getting caught up in big-picture ideals or emotional attachments. In this sense, it is sometimes confused with a dogmatic person who sticks to certain morals and rules. However, the two words are not synonymous, and a person can be pragmatic without being a dogmatic.

A central principle of pragmatism is that beliefs acquire validity only in relation to the way they help us cope with reality. This theory has profound implications for how we understand the world and what we can know. It has influenced the fields of anthropology, sociology and psychology, as well as philosophy.

Pragmatics is a philosophical discipline that studies the nature of meaning and what we can know about the world around us. The field of pragmatism examines the relationship between what people say, how they say it, and what they actually mean when they make statements. It also looks at the way we interpret these statements in context, and how the particular circumstances of the utterance affect what they communicate.

The idea behind pragmatism is that everything we experience in the real world is subject to change and that it is impossible to maintain stable views about the world. For this reason, a pragmatic philosophy doesn’t necessarily imply skepticism. While pragmatists generally endorse anti-empiricism and fallibilism, they don’t insist that this amounts to a generalized skeptical attitude, such as that advocated by the analytic philosophers Wittgenstein, Carnap and Reichenbach.

Among the original pragmatists, William James and John Dewey were especially influential. Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy, for example, left room for religion to exist in the world as a set of psychological effects that are experienced by humans. He also maintained that the ontological claims of any religion were valid, even though he argued that they could only be true in the most limited sense.

In the 20th century, a new school of pragmatism emerged, known as Critical Pragmatics. This school emphasized the role of contextual factors in determining what is said, but it was not a direct descendant of classical pragmatism. It was rather an attempt to reconcile the two traditions by focusing on what is said and how it is said, as well as on a number of technical issues involving meaning and ambiguity resolution.

While Critical Pragmatics influenced many analytic philosophers, it ultimately was eclipsed by other trends. In the 1980s, a new generation of philosophers began to view the ideas of the original pragmatists as outdated. They favored a more sophisticated analysis of the philosophic concepts of truth and value, and focused on issues such as the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. This approach is now known as linguistic pragmatics. The philosophy of language and linguistic pragmatics, in turn, have influenced the theory of communication and the philosophy of science. In these areas, the pragmatists’ ideas are once again coming to the forefront.