Social Philosophy


          Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning 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. Pragmatism originated in the United States influenced non-philosopher – notably in the fields of law, education, politics, sociology, psychology, and literary criticism – this article deals with it only as a movement within philosophy. (McDermid, 2006)

           The word pragmatism goes back to the Greek (‘action,” “affair”). The underlying philosophy of pragmatism states that the meaning, value and truth of an idea, theory or belief are determined by their practical consequences. The fundamental function of thought is to produce or to guide certain action. In its broadest and most familiar sense, “pragmatism” refers to the usefulness, workability, and practicality of ideas policies, and proposals as criteria of their merit and claims to the attention. Achieving results, “getting things done” in business and public affairs is often said to be pragmatic.

          There is a harsher and more brutal connotation of the term in which any exercise of power in the successful pursuit of practical and specific objectives is called ”pragmatic”. The character of American business and politics is often so described. In these cases “pragmatic” carries the stamp of justification: a policy is justified pragmatically if it is successful. The familiar and the academic conceptions have in common an opposite to invoking the authority of precedents or of abstract and ultimate principles. Thus in law, judicial decisions that have turned on the weighting of consequences and probable general welfare rather than on being deduced from precedents have been called pragmatic. (Ridling, 2001)

 Charles Sanders Peirce

          The originator of the pragmatist movement in America was to all intents and purposes Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914).

          Pierce formulates the principle of pragmatism in several ways. One of the best known is as follows. "In order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception; and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception". (Copleston, 8, 317) For example, suppose that someone tells me that a certain kind of object and hard, and suppose that I do not know what the word 'hard' means. It can be explained to me that to say that an object is hard means, among other things, that if one exerts moderate pressure on it, he does not give in the way that butter does; that if someone sits on it, he does not sink through; and so on. And the sum total of 'practical consequences' which necessarily follow if it is true to say that an object is hard, gives the entire meaning of the concept. If I do not believe this, I have only to exclude all such 'practical consequences' from the meaning of the term. I shall then see that it becomes impossible to distinguish between the meaning of 'hard' and 'soft'. Download

  William James

          William James (1842-1910) was born at New York and received his school education partly in America and partly abroad, acquiring in the process a fluency in the French And German languages. James' view of truth and of a reality that man in part makes is by acting out and realizing ideas, A basic difference between Peirce and James is discernible in their respective conceptions of the direction to be taken by Pragmatic analysis. while peirce construed meaning in general, conditional schema, and james focused upon the distinct contributions that ideas and beliefs make to specific forms of human experience on the living level of practical wants and purposes.

         The most conspicuous feature of james's writings on pragmatism is the dominant place given to considerations of value, worth, and satisfaction-consequences of his teleological (purposive) conception in mind (cf. Principles of Psychology). James maintained that thought is adaptive and purposive but also suffused with ideal emotional and practical interests - "should-be's" - which, as conditions of action, work to transform the world and create the future, even to "make the truth which they declare." consequently, truth and meaning are species of value; "The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief."(Ridling, 2007) Download 

 John Dewey

          John Dewey, (1859-1952) an American philosopher and educator, was perhaps one of the most influential thinker in recent times.

         John Dewey regarded pragmatism as having far-reaching applications in our society. One employment of his theory was in the domain of education. He proposed that the educational system should try to develop methods for problem solving. He believes that, if the student learned how to solve problems, he would be better fit for living in our ever-changing world with its manifold perplexities.

          Out of this application of Dewey's theory grew and develop the progressive education movement. Instead of training children in various disciplines, the child would be trained on different situations, which would develop his faculties in overcoming difficulties that beset him. He would be able to adapt or make "adjustments" to his environment.

          This type of education would train people for living in a democratic society, and it would strengthen the growth and development of our social and political institutions. It will be a system of social organization that is open to exploration of new methods for solving problems. The student who is trained in problem solving will certainly be able to be an participant in nation building.

          He views that in an industrial society, the school should be a miniature workshop and a community; it should teach practice, and through trial and error, the arts and disciplines necessary for economic and social order. 

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