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. Pragmatism began in the late nineteenth century with
Charles Sanders Peirce
his pragmatic maxim
. Through the
early twentieth-century it was developed further in the works of
, John Dewey
and—in a more unorthodox manner—by
. Other important
aspects of pragmatism include anti-Cartesianism
, radical empiricism
, conceptual relativity
, a denial of the
high regard for science, and fallibilism
Pragmatism enjoyed renewed attention from the 1960s on when a new
analytic school of philosophy (W. V. O. Quine
and Wilfrid Sellars
) put forth a revised
pragmatism criticizing the logical
dominant in the United States and Britain since the
1930s. Richard Rorty
and widely publicized the concept of naturalized epistemology
; his later
work grew closer to continental
and is considered relativistic
by its critics.
Contemporary pragmatism is divided into a strict analytic
tradition, a more relativistic strand (in the wake of Rorty), and
"neo-classical" pragmatism (such as Susan
) that adheres to the work of Peirce, James, and
as a philosophical movement began in the United States in the late 1800s.
Its overall direction was
determined by the thought and works of Charles Sanders Peirce
"purse") and William James
members of The Metaphysical
) as well as John Dewey
George Herbert Mead
. The term
was first used in print by James, who credited
Peirce with coining the term during the early 1870s. Prompted by
James' use of the term and its attribution to him, Peirce also
wrote and lectured on pragmatism to make clear his own
interpretation. Peirce eventually coined the new name pragmaticism
to mark what he regarded as the
original idea, for clarity's sake and possibly (but not certainly)
because he disagreed with James (cf. Menand 2001 on the former
interpretation; below on the latter). He claimed the term was so
ugly, nobody would be tempted to steal it (Haack 1998).
James and Peirce, inspired by crucial links among belief, conduct,
, stated belief
is a proposition on which a person is prepared to act.
Inspiration for the pragmatists were:
of early pragmatism
was heavily influenced by Charles
. Pragmatism was not the first to apply evolution to
theories of knowledge: Schopenhauer
advocated a biological idealism
as what's useful to an
organism to believe might differ wildly from what is true. Here
knowledge and action are portrayed as two separate spheres with an
absolute or transcendental truth above and beyond any sort of
inquiry organisms use to cope with life. Pragmatism challenges this
idealism by providing an "ecological" account of knowledge: inquiry
is how organisms can get a grip on their environment. Real
are functional labels in inquiry and cannot be
understood outside of this context. It is not realist
traditionally robust sense of realism (what Hilary Putnam
would later call metaphysical realism
), but it is
in how it acknowledges
an external world which must be dealt with.
With the tendency of philosophers to group all views as either
idealistic or realistic, (along with William James
' occasional penchant for
eloquence at the expense of public understanding), pragmatism was
seen as a form of subjectivism
. Many of James' best-turned
phrases—truth's cash value
(James 1907, p. 200) and
the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking
(James 1907, p. 222)— were taken out of context and
caricatured in contemporary literature as representing the view
where any idea with practical utility is true. William James
In reality, James asserts, the theory is a great deal more subtle.
(See Dewey 1910 for a 'FAQ')
The role of belief in representing reality
is widely debated in pragmatism. Is a belief valid when it
represents reality? Copying is one (and only one) genuine mode
(James 1907, p. 91). Are beliefs dispositions
which qualify as true or false depending on how helpful they prove
in inquiry and in action? Is it only in the struggle of intelligent organisms
with the surrounding environment that beliefs acquire meaning? Does
a belief only become true when it succeeds in this struggle? In
Pragmatism nothing practical or useful is held to be necessarily
true, nor is anything which helps to survive merely in the short
term. For example, to believe my cheating
is faithful may help me feel better
now, but it is certainly not useful from a more long-term
perspective because it doesn't accord with the facts (and is
therefore not true).
Concept of truth
Instead of truth being ready-made for us, James asserts we and
reality jointly "make" truth. This idea has two senses: (1) truth
is mutable, (often attributed to William James and F.C.S.
Schiller); and (2) truth is relative to a conceptual scheme (more
widely accepted in Pragmatism).
(1) Mutability of truth
"Truth" is not readily defined in Pragmatism. Can beliefs pass from
to being untrue
and back? For James,
beliefs are not true until they have been made true by
verification. James believed propositions become true over the long
term through proving their utility in a person's specific
situation. The opposite of this process is not falsification, but
rather the belief ceases to be a "live option." F.C.S. Schiller, on
the other hand, clearly asserted beliefs could pass into and out of
truth on a situational basis. Schiller held that truth was relative
to specific problems. If I want to know how to return home safely,
the true answer will be whatever is useful to solving that problem.
Later on, when faced with a different problem, what I came to
believe with the earlier problem may now be false. As my problems
change, and as the most useful way to solve a problem shifts, so
does the property of truth.
C.S. Peirce considered the idea that beliefs are true at one time
but false at another (or true for one person but false for another)
to be one of the "seeds of death" by which James allowed his
pragmatism to become "infected." For Peirce the pragmatic view
implies theoretical claims should be tied to verification processes
(i.e. they should be subject to test). They shouldn't be tied to
our specific problems or life needs. Truth is defined, for Peirce,
as what would
be the ultimate outcome (not any outcome in
real time) of inquiry by a (usually scientific) community of
investigators. John Dewey, while agreeing with this definition,
also characterized truthfulness as a species of the good
: if something is true it is
trustworthy and reliable and will remain so in every conceivable
situation. Both Peirce and Dewey connect the definitions of truth
and warranted assertability. Hilary Putnam also developed his
around the idea a
belief is true if it is ideally justified in epistemic terms. About
James' and Schiller's view, Putnam says:
Rorty has also weighed in against James and Schiller:
(2) Conceptual Relativity
With James and Schiller we make things true by verifying them—a
view rejected by most pragmatists. However, nearly all pragmatists
do accept the idea there can be no truths without a conceptual
scheme to express those truths. That is,
F.C.S. Schiller used the analogy of a chair to make clear what he
meant by the phrase that truth is made: just as a carpenter
a chair out of existing materials and doesn't
it out of nothing, truth is a transformation of our
experience—but this doesn't imply reality is something we're free
to construct or imagine as we please.
Central pragmatist tenets
The primacy of practice
The pragmatist proceeds from the basic premise that the human
capability of theorizing is integral to intelligent practice.
Theory and practice are not separate spheres; rather, theories and
distinctions are tools or maps for finding our way in the world. As
John Dewey put it, there is no question of theory versus
practice but rather of intelligent practice versus uninformed,
stupid practice and noted in a conversation with William Pepperell
Montague that "[h]is effort had not been to practicalize
intelligence but to intellectualize practice". (Quoted in Eldridge
1998, p. 5) Theory is an abstraction from direct experience
and ultimately must return to inform experience in turn. Thus an
organism navigating his or her environment is the grounds for
Anti-reification of concepts and theories
Dewey, in The Quest For Certainty
, criticized what he
called "the philosophical fallacy": philosophers often take
categories (such as the mental and the physical) for granted
because they don't realize that these are merely nominal
concepts that were invented to help solve
specific problems. This causes metaphysical and conceptual
confusion. Various examples are the "ultimate Being
" of Hegelian
philosophers, the belief in a "realm of value
", the idea that logic, because
it is an abstraction from concrete thought, has nothing to do with
the act of concrete thinking, and so on. David L. Hildebrand sums
up the problem: "Perceptual inattention to the specific functions
comprising inquiry led realists and idealists alike to formulate
accounts of knowledge that project the products of extensive
abstraction back onto experience." (Hildebrand 2003)
Naturalism and anti-Cartesianism
From the outset, pragmatists wanted to reform philosophy and bring
it more in line with the scientific method as they understood it.
They argued that idealist and realist philosophy had a tendency to
present human knowledge as something beyond what science could
grasp. These philosophies then resorted either to a phenomenology
inspired by Kant or to correspondence theories of knowledge and
truth. Pragmatists criticized the former for its a priorism
, and the latter because it takes
correspondence as an unanalyzable fact. Pragmatism instead tries to
explain, psychologically and biologically, how the relation between
knower and known 'works' in the world.
In "The Fixation of Belief
(1877), C.S. Peirce denied that introspection and intuition (staple
philosophical tools at least since Descartes) were valid methods
for philosophical investigation. He argued that intuition could
lead to faulty reasoning, e.g. when we reason intuitively about
infinity. Furthermore, introspection does not give privileged
access to knowledge about the mind - the self is a concept that is
derived from our interaction with the external world and not the
other way around. (De Waal 2005, pp. 7–10) By the time of his
Harvard Lectures in 1903, however, he had become convinced that
pragmatism and epistemology in general could not be derived from
principles of psychology: what we do
think is too
different from what we should
think. This is an important
point of disagreement with most other pragmatists, who advocate a
more thorough naturalism and psychologism.
Richard Rorty expanded on these and other arguments in
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
in which he criticized
attempts by many philosophers of science to carve out a space for
epistemology that is entirely unrelated to - and sometimes thought
of as superior to - the empirical sciences. W.V. Quine,
instrumental in bringing naturalized epistemology
favor with his essay Epistemology Naturalized
1969), also criticized 'traditional' epistemology and its
"Cartesian dream" of absolute certainty. The dream, he argued, was
impossible in practice as well as misguided in theory because it
separates epistemology from scientific inquiry.
Hilary Putnam asserts that the
combination of antiskepticism and fallibilism is a central feature
The reconciliation of anti-skepticism and fallibilism
suggests that the
reconciliation of antiskepticism and fallibilism
is the central goal of American
pragmatism. Although all human knowledge is partial, with no
ability to take a 'God's-eye-view,' this does not necessitate a
globalized skeptical attitude. Peirce insisted that contrary to
Descartes' famous and influential methodology in the Meditations on First
, doubt cannot be feigned or created for the purpose
of conducting philosophical inquiry. Doubt, like belief, requires
justification. It arises from confrontation with some specific
recalcitrant matter of fact (which Dewey called a 'situation'),
which unsettles our belief in some specific proposition. Inquiry is
then the rationally self-controlled process of attempting to return
to a settled state of belief about the matter. Note that
anti-skepticism is a reaction to modern academic skepticism in the
wake of Descartes. The pragmatist insistence that all knowledge is
tentative is actually quite congenial to the older skeptical
Pragmatism in other fields of philosophy
While pragmatism started out simply as a criterion of meaning, it
quickly expanded to become a full-fledged epistemology with
wide-ranging implications for the entire philosophical field.
Pragmatists who work in these fields share a common inspiration,
but their work is diverse and there are no received views.
Philosophy of science
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism
is the view that concepts
and theories are merely useful instruments whose worth is measured
not by whether the concepts and theories somehow mirror reality,
but by how effective they are in explaining and predicting
phenomena. Instrumentalism does not state that truth doesn't
matter, but rather provides a specific answer to the question of
what truth and falsity mean and how they function in science.
One of C.I. Lewis
' main arguments in Mind and the World
Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge
was that science does
not merely provide a copy of reality but must work with conceptual
systems and that those are chosen for pragmatic reasons, that is,
because they aid inquiry. Lewis' own development of multiple
is a case in point. Lewis
is sometimes called a 'conceptual pragmatist' because of this.
Another development is the cooperation of logical positivism
and pragmatism in the
works of Charles W. Morris
and Rudolph Carnap
. The influence of pragmatism
on these writers is mostly limited to the incorporation of the
epistemology. Pragmatists with a broader conception of the movement
don't often refer to them.
's paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism
published 1951, is one of the most celebrated papers of
twentieth-century philosophy in the analytic tradition. The paper
is an attack on two central tenets of the logical positivists'
philosophy. One is the distinction between analytic truths,
statements which are true simply in value of the meanings of their
words ('all bachelors are unmarried'), and synthetic truths, which
are grounded in empirical fact. The other is reductionism, the
theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some
logical construction of terms which refers exclusively to immediate
experience. Quine's argument brings to mind Peirce's insistence
that axioms aren't a priori truths but synthetic statements.
Later in his life Schiller became famous for his attacks on logic
in his textbook "Formal Logic." By then, Schiller's pragmatism had
become the nearest of any of the classical pragmatists to an
ordinary language philosophy. Schiller sought to undermine the very
possibility of formal logic, by showing that words only had meaning
when used in an actual context. The least famous of Schiller's main
works was the constructive sequel to his destructive book "Formal
Logic." In this sequel, "Logic for Use," Schiller attempted to
construct a new logic to replace the formal logic he had just
decimated in "Formal Logic." What he offers is something
philosophers would recognize today as a logic covering the context
of discovery and the hypothetico-deductive method.
Whereas F.C.S. Schiller actually dismissed the possibility of
formal logic, most pragmatists are critical rather of its
pretension to ultimate validity and see logic as one logical tool
among others - or perhaps, considering the multitude of formal
logics, one set
of tools among others. This is the view of
C.I. Lewis. C.S. Peirce developed multiple methods for doing formal
Stephen Toulmin's The Uses of Argument
in informal logic and rhetoric studies (although it is actually an
James and Dewey were empirical
in the most straightforward fashion: experience is the ultimate
test and experience is what needs to be explained. They were
dissatisfied with ordinary empiricism because in the tradition
dating from Hume, empiricists had a tendency to think of experience
as nothing more than individual sensations. To the pragmatists,
this went against the spirit of empiricism: we should try to
explain all that is given in experience including connections and
meaning, instead of explaining them away and positing sense data as
the ultimate reality. Radical
, or Immediate Empiricism in Dewey's words, wants to
give a place to meaning and value instead of explaining them away
as subjective additions to a world of whizzing atoms.
The "Chicago Club" including
Whitehead, Mead and Dewey.
Pragmatism is sometimes called American Pragmatism
because so many of its proponents were and are Americans.
William James gives an interesting example of this philosophical
's first book, "Riddles of the
Sphinx", was published before he became aware of the growing
pragmatist movement taking place in America. In it, Schiller argues
for a middle ground between materialism and absolute metaphysics.
The result of the split between these two explanatory schemes that
are comparable to what William James called tough-minded empiricism
and tender-minded rationalism, Schiller contends, is that
mechanistic naturalism cannot make sense of the "higher" aspects of
our world (freewill, consciousness, purpose, universals and some
would add God), while abstract metaphysics cannot make sense of the
"lower" aspects of our world (the imperfect, change, physicality).
While Schiller is vague about the exact sort of middle ground he is
trying to establish, he suggests metaphysics as a tool that can aid
inquiry and is only valuable insofar as it actually does help in
In the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Toulmin
argued that the need to
distinguish between reality and appearance only arises within an
explanatory scheme and therefore that there is no point in asking
what 'ultimate reality' consists of. More recently, a similar idea
has been suggested by the postanalytical philosopher Daniel Dennett
, who argues that anyone who
wants to understand the world has to adopt the intentional stance
and acknowledge both the 'syntactical' aspects of reality (i.e.
whizzing atoms) and its emergent or 'semantic' properties (i.e.
meaning and value).
Radical Empiricism gives interesting answers to questions about the
limits of science if there are any, the nature of meaning and value
and the workability of reductionism
These questions feature prominently in current debates about the
between religion and science
, where it is often assumed - most
pragmatists would disagree - that science degrades everything that
is meaningful into 'merely' physical
Philosophy of mind
Both John Dewey
in Nature and
(1929) and half a century later Richard Rorty
in his monumental Philosophy
and the Mirror of Nature
(1979) argued that much of the debate
about the relation of the mind to the body results from conceptual
confusions. They argue instead that there is no need to posit the
mind or mindstuff as an ontological
Pragmatists disagree over whether philosophers ought to adopt a
quietist or a naturalist stance toward the mind-body problem. The
former (Rorty among them) want to do away with the problem because
they believe it's a pseudo-problem, whereas the latter believe that
it is a meaningful empirical question.
Pragmatism sees no fundamental difference between practical and
theoretical reason, nor any ontological difference between facts
and values. Both facts and values have cognitive content: knowledge
is what we should believe; values are hypotheses about what is good
in action. Pragmatist ethics is broadly humanist
because it sees no ultimate test of
morality beyond what matters for us as humans. Good values are
those for which we have good reasons, viz. the Good Reasons approach
. The pragmatist
formulation pre-dates those of other philosophers who have stressed
important similarities between values and facts such as Jerome Schneewind
and John Searle
William James tried to show the
meaningfulness of (some kinds of) spirituality but, like other
pragmatists, refused to see religion as the basis of meaning or
contribution to ethics, as laid out
in his essay The Will to Believe
has often been
misunderstood as a plea for relativism or irrationality. On its own
terms it argues that ethics always involves a certain degree of
trust or faith and that we cannot always wait for adequate proof
when making moral decisions.
Of the classical pragmatists, John Dewey
most extensively about morality and democracy. (Edel 1993) In his
classic article Three Independent Factors in Morals
1930), he tried to integrate three basic philosophical perspectives
on morality: the right, the virtuous and the good. He held that
while all three provide meaningful ways to think about moral
questions, the possibility of conflict among the three elements
cannot always be easily solved. (Anderson, SEP)
Dewey also criticized the dichotomy between means and
which he saw as responsible for the degradation of
our everyday working lives and education, both conceived as merely
a means to an end. He stressed the need for meaningful labor and a
conception of education that viewed it not as a preparation for
life but as life itself. (Dewey 2004  ch. 7; Dewey 1997
, p. 47)
Dewey was opposed to other ethical philosophies of his time,
notably the emotivism
of Alfred Ayer
. Dewey envisioned the possibility of
ethics as an experimental discipline, and thought values could best
be characterized not as feelings or imperatives, but as hypotheses
about what actions will lead to satisfactory results or what he
termed consummatory experience
. A further implication of
this view is that ethics is a fallible undertaking, since human
beings are frequently unable to know what would satisfy them.
A recent pragmatist contribution to meta-ethics
is Todd Lekan's "Making Morality"
(Lekan 2003). Lekan argues that morality is a fallible but rational
practice and that it has traditionally been misconceived as based
on theory or principles. Instead, he argues, theory and rules arise
as tools to make practice more intelligent.
Dewey's Art as Experience, based on the William James
lectures he delivered at Harvard, was an attempt to show the integrity of art,
culture and everyday experience.
(Field, IEP) Art, for
Dewey, is or should be a part of everyone's creative lives and not
just the privilege of a select group of artists. He also emphasizes
that the audience is more than a passive recipient. Dewey's
treatment of art was a move away from the transcendental
approach to aesthetics
in the wake of Immanuel Kant
who emphasized the unique
character of art and the disinterested nature of aesthetic
A notable contemporary pragmatist aesthetician is Joseph Margolis
. He defines a work of art as
"a physically embodied, culturally emergent entity", a human
"utterance" that isn't an ontological quirk but in line with other
human activity and culture in general. He emphasizes that works of
art are complex and difficult to fathom, and that no determinate
interpretation can be given.
Philosophy of religion
Both Dewey and James have investigated the role that religion can
still play in contemporary society, the former in A Common
and the latter in The Varieties of Religious
It should be noted, from a general point of view, that for William
James, something is true only insofar
as it works. Thus,
the statement, for example, that prayer is heard may work on a
psychological level but (a) will not actually help to bring about
the things you pray for (b) may be better explained by referring to
its soothing effect than by claiming prayers are actually heard. As
such, pragmatism isn't antithetical to religion but it isn't an
apologetic for faith either.
, in Historied
Thought, Constructed World
(California, 1995), makes a
distinction between "existence" and "reality". He suggests using
the term "exists" only for those things which adequately exhibit
: things which offer brute physical
resistance to our movements. In this way, such things which affect
us, like numbers, may be said to be "real", though they do not
"exist". Margolis suggests that God, in such a linguistic usage,
might very well be "real", causing believers to act in such and
such a way, but might not "exist".
Analytical, neoclassical and neopragmatism
is a broad contemporary
category used for various thinkers, some of them radically opposed
to one another. The name neopragmatist signifies that the thinkers
in question incorporate important insights of, and yet
significantly diverge from, the classical pragmatists. This
divergence may occur either in their philosophical methodology
(many of them are loyal to the analytic tradition) or in actual
conceptual formation (C.I. Lewis
was very critical of Dewey; Richard Rorty
dislikes Peirce). Important
analytical neopragmatists include the aforementioned Lewis,
, Hilary Putnam
early Richard Rorty
. Stanley Fish
, the later Rorty and Jürgen Habermas
are closer to continental thought
Neoclassical pragmatism denotes those thinkers who consider
themselves inheritors of the project of the classical pragmatists.
and Susan Haack
(known for the theory of foundherentism
) are well-known
Not all pragmatists are easily characterized. It is probable,
considering the advent of postanalytic philosophy
diversification of Anglo-American philosophy, that more
philosophers will be influenced by pragmatist thought without
necessarily publicly committing themselves to that philosophical
school. Daniel Dennett
, a student of
Quine's, falls into this category, as does Stephen Toulmin
, who arrived at his
philosophical position via Wittgenstein
, whom he calls "a
pragmatist of a sophisticated kind" (foreword for Dewey 1929 in the
1988 edition, p. xiii). Another example is Mark Johnson
whose embodied philosophy
(Lakoff and Johnson
1999) shares its psychologism, direct realism and anti-cartesianism
with pragmatism. Conceptual pragmatism is a theory of knowledge
originating with the work of the philosopher and logician Clarence Irving Lewis
epistemology of conceptual pragmatism was first formulated in the
1929 book Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of
'French Pragmatism' is attended with theorists like Bruno Latour
and Luc Boltanski
. It is often
seen as opposed to structural problems connected to the French
of Pierre Bourdieu
In the twentieth century, the movements of logical positivism
and ordinary language philosophy
have similarities with pragmatism. Like pragmatism, logical
positivism provides a verification criterion of meaning that is
supposed to rid us of nonsense metaphysics. However, logical
positivism doesn't stress action like pragmatism does. Furthermore,
the pragmatists rarely used their maxim of meaning to rule out all
metaphysics as nonsense. Usually, pragmatism was put forth to
correct metaphysical doctrines or to construct empirically
verifiable ones rather than to provide a wholesale rejection.
is closer to pragmatism than other philosophy of language
because of its
character and because it takes
the broader functioning of language in an environment as its focus
instead of investigating abstract relations between
Pragmatism has ties to process
. Much of their work developed in dialogue with
process philosophers like Henri
and Alfred North
, who aren't usually considered pragmatists because
they differ so much on other points. (Douglas Browning et al. 1998;
in psychology and
sociology also have ties to pragmatism, which is not surprising
considering that James and Dewey were both scholars of psychology
and that Mead
has some significant
parallels to Pragmatism and John Stuart
espoused similar values.
Influence of pragmatism in social sciences
Increasing attention is being given to pragmatist epistemology in
social sciences, which have struggled with divisive debates over
the status of social scientific knowledge
Enthusiasts suggest that pragmatism offers an approach which is
both pluralist and practical .
Although many later pragmatists such as W.V.O. Quine
actually analytic philosophers, the most vehement criticisms of
classical pragmatism came from within the analytic school. Bertrand Russell
was especially known for
his vituperative attacks on what he considered little more than
epistemological relativism and short-sighted practicalism. Realists
in general often could not fathom how pragmatists could seriously
call themselves empirical or realist thinkers and thought
pragmatist epistemology was only a disguised manifestation of
. (Hildebrand 2003)
Louis Menand argues that during the Cold
, the intellectual life of the United States became
dominated by ideologies. Since pragmatism seeks "to avoid the
violence inherent in abstraction," it was not very popular at the
as represented by
Richard Rorty has been criticized as relativistic both by
neoclassical pragmatists such as Susan
(Haack 1997) and by many analytic philosophers (Dennett
1998). Rorty's early analytical work, however, differs notably from
his later work which some, including Rorty himself, consider to be
closer to literary criticism
to philosophy - most criticism is aimed at this latter phase of
A list of pragmatists
Classical pragmatists (1850-1950)
Important protopragmatists or related thinkers
- Giovanni Papini (1881-1956):
Italian essayist, mostly known because James occasionally mentioned
- Giovanni Vailati (1863-1909):
Italian analytic and pragmatist philosopher.
- Hu Shi (1891-1962): Chinese intellectual
and reformer, student and translator of Dewey's and advocate of
pragmatism in China.
- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971):
American Philosopher and Theologian, inserted Pragmatism into his
theory of Christian Realism.
Neoclassical pragmatists (1950-)
Neoclassical pragmatists stay closer to the project of the
classical pragmatists than neopragmatists do.
- Sidney Hook (1902-1989): a prominent
New York intellectual and philosopher, a student of Dewey at
- Isaac Levi (1930): seeks to apply
pragmatist thinking in a decision-theoretic perspective.
- Susan Haack (1945): teaches at the
University of Miami, sometimes called the intellectual
granddaughter of C.S. Peirce, known chiefly for foundherentism.
- Larry Hickman: philosopher of
technology and important Dewey scholar as head of the Center for Dewey Studies.
- David Hildebrand: like other
scholars of the classical pragmatists, Hildebrandt is dissatisfied
with neopragmatism and argues for the continued importance of the
writings of John Dewey.
- Nicholas Rescher
Analytical, neo- and other pragmatists (1950-)
(Often labelled neopragmatism as well.)
- Willard van Orman Quine (1908-2000):
pragmatist philosopher, concerned with language, logic,
and philosophy of
- Clarence Irving Lewis
- Richard Rorty (1931 - 2007):
famous author of Philosophy and the Mirror of
- Hilary Putnam: in many ways the
opposite of Rorty and thinks classical pragmatism was too
permissive a theory.
- Stanley Fish: Literary and Legal
Studies pragmatist. Criticizes Rorty's and Posner's legal theories
as "almost pragmstism" and authored the afterword in the collection
The Revival of Pragmatism.
- Richard Shusterman:
philosopher of art.
- Mike Sandbothe: Applied Rorty's
neopragmatism to media studies and developed a new branch that he
called Media Philosophy. Together with authors like Juergen
Habermas, Hans Joas, Sami Pihlstroem, Mats Bergmann, Michael Esfeld
and Helmut Pape he belongs to a group of European Pragmatists who
make use of Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty, Brandom, Putnam and other
representatives of American pragmatism in continental
- Stephen Toulmin: student of
Wittgenstein, known especially for his The Uses of
- John Hawthorne: Defends a
pragmatist form of contextualism to
deal with the lottery paradox in his
Knowledge and Lotteries.
- Jason Stanley: Defends a
pragmatist form of contextualism against semantic varieties of
contextualism in his Knowledge and Practical
- Arthur Fine: Philosopher of Science
who proposed the Natural
Ontological Attitude to the debate of scientific realism.
- Joseph Margolis still proudly
defends the original Pragmatists and sees his recent work on
Cultural Realism as extending and deepening their insights,
especially the contribution of Peirce and Dewey, in the context of a rapprochement with
- Robert Pirsig author of the
philosophical novel, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance",
rejects the primacy of the subject-object dichotomy and gives
precedence to a concept he calls "dynamic quality" – the
precognitive leading edge of reality. Pirsig considers dynamic
quality to be the simple, direct stimulus to awareness. Pirsig
acknowledges the similarity of his approach to that of other
pragmatists, particularly James.
Pragmatists in the extended sense
IEP Internet Encyclopedia of
PhilosophySEP Stanford Encyclopedia
- Elizabeth Anderson. Dewey's Moral Philosophy. Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Douglas Browning, William T. Myers (Eds.) Philosophers of
- Robert Burch. Charles Sanders Peirce. Stanford Encyclopedia
- John Dewey. Donald F. Koch (ed.) Lectures on Ethics
- Daniel Dennett. Postmodernism and Truth. 1998.
- John Dewey. The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the
Relation of Knowledge and Action. 1929.
- John Dewey. Three Independent Factors in Morals.
- John Dewey. The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other
- John Dewey. Experience & Education. 1938.
- Cornelis De Waal. On Pragmatism. 2005.
- Abraham Edel. Pragmatic Tests and Ethical Insights. In: Ethics at
the Crossroads: Normative Ethics and Objective Reason. George F.
McLean, Richard Wollak (eds.) 1993.
- Michael Eldridge. Transforming Experience: John Dewey's
Cultural Instrumentalism. 1998.
- Richard Field. John Dewey (1859-1952). Internet
Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- David L. Hildebrand. Beyond Realism &
- David L. Hildebrand. The Neopragmatist Turn. Southwest
Philosophy Review Vol. 19, no. 1. January, 2003.
- William James. Pragmatism, A New Name for Some Old Ways of
Thinking, Popular Lectures on Philosophy. 1907.
- William James The Will to Believe. 1896.
- George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh :
The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought.
- Todd Lekan. Making Morality: Pragmatist Reconstruction in
Ethical Theory. 2003.
- C.I. Lewis. Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory
of Knowledge. 1929.
- Keya Maitra. On Putnam. 2003.
- Joseph Margolis. Historied Thought, Constructed World.
- Louis Menand. The Metaphysical Club. 2001.
- Hilary Putnam Reason, Truth and History. 1981.
- W.V.O. Quine. Two Dogmas of Empiricism.
Philosophical Review. January 1951.
- W.V.O. Quine Ontological Relativity and Other Essays.
- N. Rescher. Process Philosophy. The Stanford Encyclopedia
- Richard Rorty Rorty Truth and Progress: Philosophical
Papers. Volume 3. 1998.
- Stephen Toulmin. The Uses of Argument. 1958.
- William Egginton/Mike Sandbothe
(Eds.) The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy. Contemporary
Engagement between Analytic and Continental Thought.
- Mike Sandbothe. Pragmatic
Media Philosophy. 2005.
Notes and other sources
Papers and online encyclopedias are part of the bibliography. Other
sources may include interviews, reviews and websites.
- Gary A. Olson and Stephen Toulmin. Literary
Theory, Philosophy of Science, and Persuasive Discourse: Thoughts
from a Neo-premodernist. Interview in JAC
- Susan Haack. Vulgar Rortyism. Review in The New Criterion.
- Pietarinen, A.V. “Interdisciplinarity and Peirce's
classification of the Sciences: A Centennial Reassessment,"
Perspectives on Science, 14(2), 127-152 (2006). vvv
Notes and references
- See Peirce's 1908 "A Neglected
Argument for the Reality of God", final paragraph.
- Baert, P. (2004). Pragmatism as a philosophy of the social
sciences. European Journal of Social Theory, 7(3),
- Biesta, G.J.J. & Burbules, N. (2003). Pragmatism and
educational research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
- Cornish, F. & Gillespie, A. (2009). A pragmatist approach to the problem of knowledge
in health psychology Journal of Health Psychology,
- Harvard Gazette Feb 26 2004
- in: Stanley Fish, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, Oxford
University Press, 1994.
- Ed. Morris Dickstein, Duke University Press, 1998
- Dewey, John (1900–1901), Lectures
on Ethics 1900–1901, Donald F. Koch (ed.), Southern Illinois
University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, 1991.
- Dewey, John (1910), How We Think, D.C. Heath, Lexington,
MA, 1910. Reprinted, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1991.
- Dewey, John (1929), The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the
Relation of Knowledge and Action, Minton, Balch, and Company,
New York, NY. Reprinted, pp. 1–254 in John Dewey, The
Later Works, 1925–1953, Volume 4: 1929, Jo Ann Boydston (ed.), Harriet Furst Simon
(text. ed.), Stephen Toulmin
(intro.), Southern Illinois
University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, 1984.
- Dewey, John (1932), Theory of the Moral Life, Part 2
of John Dewey and James H. Tufts, Ethics, Henry Holt and
Company, New York, NY, 1908. 2nd edition, Holt, Rinehart, and
Winston, 1932. Reprinted, Arnold Isenberg (ed.), Victor Kestenbaum
(pref.), Irvington Publishers, New York, NY, 1980.
- Dewey, John (1938), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry,
Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 1938. Reprinted,
pp. 1–527 in John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953,
Volume 12: 1938, Jo Ann
Boydston (ed.), Kathleen Poulos (text. ed.), Ernest Nagel (intro.), Southern Illinois University
Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, 1986.
- James, William (1902), "Pragmatic
and Pragmatism", 1 paragraph, vol. 2, pp. 321–322 in J.M.
Baldwin (ed., 1901–1905), Dictionary of Philosophy and
Psychology, 3 volumes in 4, Macmillan, New York, NY.
Reprinted, CP 5.2 in C.S. Peirce, Collected Papers.
- Peirce, C.S.,
Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vols. 1–6, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (eds.), vols. 7–8,
Arthur W. Burks (ed.), Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, MA, 1931–1935, 1958. Cited as CP vol.para.
- Peirce, C.S., The Essential Peirce, Selected Philosophical
Writings, Volume 2 (1893–1913), Peirce Edition Project (eds.),
Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN,
- Putnam, Hilary (1994), Words
and Life, James Conant (ed.), Harvard University Press,
- Quine, W.V. (1951), "Two Dogmas of
Empiricism", Philosophical Review (January 1951).
Reprinted, pp. 20–46 in W.V. Quine, From a Logical Point
of View, 1980.
- Quine, W.V. (1980), From a Logical Point of View,
Logico-Philosophical Essays, 2nd edition, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, MA, 1980.
- Ramsey, F.P. (1927),
"Facts and Propositions", Aristotelian Society Supplementary
Volume 7, 153–170. Reprinted, pp. 34–51 in F.P. Ramsey,
Philosophical Papers, David Hugh Mellor (ed.), Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1990.
- Ramsey, F.P. (1990), Philosophical Papers, David Hugh
Mellor (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Important introductory primary texts
Note that this is an introductory
list: some important
works are left out and some less monumental works that are
excellent introductions are included.
- Cornelis De Waal, On Pragmatism
- Louis Menand, The
Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America
- Hilary Putnam, Pragmatism: An Open Question
- Abraham Edel, Pragmatic Tests and Ethical Insights
- D. S. Clarke, Rational Acceptance and Purpose
- Haack, Susan & Lane, Robert, Eds. (2006). Pragmatism
Old and New: Selected Writings. New York: Prometheus
- Louis Menand, ed., Pragmatism: A Reader (includes
essays by Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty, others)
There are several peer-reviewed journals dedicated to pragmatism,