- 1: a practical approach to problems and affairs <tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism>
- 2: an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief
Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition can be said to be true if and only if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that impractical ideas are to be rejected. Pragmatism, in William James' eyes, was that the truth of an idea needed to be tested to prove its validity. Pragmatism began in the late nineteenth century with Charles Sanders Peirce and his pragmatic maxim. Through the early twentieth-century it was developed further in the works of William James, John Dewey and—in a less orthodox manner—by George Santayana. Other important aspects of pragmatism include, radical empiricism, instrumentalism, verificationism, conceptual relativity, a denial of the fact-value distinction, a high regard for science, and fallibilism.
Pragmatism has enjoyed renewed attention since the 1960s, when a new analytic school of philosophy (W. V. O. Quine and Wilfrid Sellars) put forth a revised pragmatism criticizing the logical positivism dominant in the United States and Britain since the 1930s, while a new brand infused with themes from the analytic and other traditions, known sometimes as neopragmatism, gained influence spearheaded by the philosopher Richard Rorty, the most influential of the late 20th-century pragmatists.
Contemporary pragmatism may be, in broad general terms, divided into a strict analytic tradition and "neo-classical" pragmatism (such as Susan Haack) that adheres to the work of Peirce, James, and Dewey.