What is pragmatism?

The term pragmatism means, according to the dictionary of theRoyal Spanish Academy (RAE), in its second meaning “movement initiated in the United States …”, “… at the end of the nineteenth century, which seeks the practical consequences of thought and puts the criterion of truth in its efficacy and value for life”.

In itself, pragmatism isa philosophical positionwhich considers that the way to judge the truth of any current of thought is about the practical effects of its postulates in society.

This means that for this philosophical current theory is not enough, but rather attends to the usefulness of its postulates about humanity. Thanks to this position, the individual becomes apragmatic person who focuses on the materialization of the objectives rather than on the form and manner of approaching them.

Note: In some way, the practice of pragmatismdevelops intuitive intelligence in the human being.

What is the point of pragmatism?

The position of pragmatism pursues the following objectives within any discipline that seeks toexplain any reality or phenomenonon the social and scientific level:

1. Reduce the true to the useful

For this philosophical position, there are no absolute truths since they are subject to changes in the future due to new research or new approaches, so pragmatism leans on the usefulness of things or their practical value for society.

To highlight: Pragmatism affirms that the value of a scientific theory is determined only by the utility or advantage that said theory contributes in this or that specific case.

2. Establish hypotheses based on their practical consequences

The hypotheses are theoretical assumptions, elaborated to be able to explain by means of the verification, if the assumption is true or false.

These hypotheses are established on the basis of theories elaborated as absolute truths, which try to explain why things happen in the universe, which contrasts with the pragmatic position which is inclined towards its elaboration.

You should know: Pragmatism proposes the elaboration of these research hypotheses, based on their consequences or practical effects. So, pragmatism believes that science, its theories and positions are an instrument and not an approach to reality.

3. Determine needs based on experience

Another of the objectives of pragmatism is to make it understood that the needs of the human being are recognized and resolved on the basis of experience, since they provide the necessary substrate to create knowledge, due to constant contact with the environment.

That contact with the outside world is the means by which we receive the necessary information to know what we need and what we don’t.

Note:Knowledgeandintuitive thinking, in the same way as pragmatism, are nourished by theexperiences of the human being.

4. Establish research methods to make ideas of progress feasible

We already know that pragmatism is against absolute truth, which is why it maintains that humanity should not waste time demonstrating how knowledge is acquired, but rather in creating research methods that contribute to making feasible those ideas that promote the progress of humanity.


Who were the representatives of pragmatism?

Pragmatism had many relevant characters as pioneers, however, below we indicate the most prominent representatives of this philosophical position:

1. Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce (3) , was an American philosopher and scientist, founder of the school of American pragmatismtag. For him, this position of the philosophical currentconstitutes a method to clarify ideas and concepts , clearing the mind of theoretical confusions.

To highlight: Peirce defined the term pragmatism as “Give clarity to our ideas” , considering the effects and their possible practical applications in society. 

2. William James

William James (5) was known more as a psychologist than as a philosopher, however he is considered the main figure of pragmatism, a position that arises from the philosophical current, which affirms that the truth of an idea can be evaluated according to the practical value it has for The humanity.

You should know: James interprets that pragmatism is not in itself a philosophical theory, but a practical way of thinking, in which different theories and uses in various scientific disciplines have a place.

3. John Dewey

Considered by many to be the most important American thinker of the first half of the 20th century, John Dewey stood out as a psychologist, educator, and philosopher. 

For him, pragmatism used as a research method can address the real problems and needs of human beings, which arise from immediate contact with the environment that surrounds them.

Key Conclusions

  • Pragmatism is a position of the philosophical current , which judges the truth of any current of thought on the practical effects of its postulates.
  • For pragmatism, there are no absolute truths, since they are subject to change in the future.
  • Pragmatism leans onthe usefulness of things or their practical valueto society.
  • Pragmatism posits that the needs of the human beingare solved through experience.

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