Wednesday, March 23, 2011


On many occasions while listening to Dennis Prager on talk radio, he tosses about the term "pragmatism" ::: Pragmatism is a movement in American philosophy which began in the 1870s with the Metaphysical Club.

A glance at the history of the idea will better explain the meaning of pragmatism... The term is derived from the same Greek word pragma, meaning action, from which our words ‘practice’ and ‘practical’ come. It was first introduced into philosophy by Mr. Charles Peirce in 1878. In an article entitled How to Make Our Ideas Clear, in the Popular Science Monthly for January of that year Mr. Peirce, after pointing out that our beliefs are really rules for action, said that, to develop a thought’s meaning, we need only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for us its sole significance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve – what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these effects, whether immediate or remote, is then for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all.

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism. It lay entirely unnoticed by any one for twenty years, until, in an address before Professor Howison’s philosophical union at the University of California, brought it forward again and made a special application of it to religion. By that date (1898) the times seemed ripe for its reception. The word ‘pragmatism’ spread, and at present it fairly spots the pages of the philosophic journals. On all hands we find the ‘pragmatic movement’ spoken of, sometimes with respect, sometimes with contumely, seldom with clear understanding. It is evident that the term applies itself conveniently to a number of tendencies that hitherto have lacked a collective name, and that it has ‘come to stay.’

Definitions of pragmatism on the Web:

  • (philosophy) the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value
  • realism: the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth
  • Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected. ...
  • The pursuit of practicality over aesthetic qualities; a concentration on facts rather than emotions or ideals; The theory that political problems should be met with practical solutions rather than ideological ones; The idea that beliefs are identified with the actions of a believer, and the ...
  • pragmatic - matter-of-fact: concerned with practical matters; "a matter-of-fact (or pragmatic) approach to the problem"; "a matter-of-fact account of the trip"
  • pragmatic - of or concerning the theory of pragmatism
  • pragmatist - an adherent of philosophical pragmatism
  • pragmatic sanction: an imperial decree that becomes part of the fundamental law of the land
  • pragmatic - hardheaded: guided by practical experience and observation rather than theory; "a hardheaded appraisal of our position"; "a hard-nosed labor leader"; "completely practical in his approach to business"; "not ideology but pragmatic politics"
  • pragmatist - a person who takes a practical approach to problems and is concerned primarily with the success or failure of her actions
  • pragmatist - One who acts in a practical or straightforward manner; one who is pragmatic; one who values practicality or pragmatism; One who acts in response to particular situations rather than upon abstract ideals; one who is willing to ignore their ideals to accomplish goals; One who belongs to the ...
  • pragmatic - Practical, concerned with making decisions and actions that are useful in practice, not just theory
  • the doctrine that truth is the practical efficacy of an idea.
  • A theory of meaning and truth which stresses the genetic and instrumental character of knowledge. It emphasizes the experimental method. See Empirical Theism; Instrumentalism; and Religious pragmatism
  • "is a current of philosophy associated with...William James, John Dewey ... The central tenet of Pragmatism is that the meaning of a concept is given by its practical utility and nothing else. ...
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