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    "Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object."

    Pragmatism is a philosophy that sees language and thought as tools for solving problems and taking action, rather than just describing reality. Pragmatists believe that philosophical questions, like what knowledge is or how language works, are best understood by looking at how they're used in practice and what successes they bring. Pragmatism started in the United States around the 1870s. Philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey are often credited with its beginnings. In 1878, Peirce summed up pragmatism with his pragmatic maxim: "Consider the practical effects of your ideas. Your understanding of what something is depends on how it works in the real world."

    Pragmatist philosophers hold several key beliefs, often related to each other:

    • Epistemology (Justification): They reject the idea that all knowledge is based on noninferential beliefs. Instead, they see justification as a result of the relationship between beliefs, without privileging any single belief over others.
    • Epistemology (Truth): They adopt a pragmatic or deflationary view of truth. Pragmatic truth claims focus on the usefulness of believing a statement rather than attributing a property called truth to it.
    • Metaphysics: Pragmatists believe in pluralism, recognizing that there are multiple valid ways to conceptualize the world and its contents.
    • Philosophy of Science: They advocate for instrumentalism and scientific anti-realism, evaluating scientific concepts based on their explanatory and predictive power rather than their accuracy in describing an objective reality.
    • Philosophy of Language: Pragmatists reject representationalism, which analyzes the meaning of propositions in terms of correspondence to reality. Instead, they focus on notions like action dispositions and inferential relationships.
    • Additional Elements: Pragmatists often embrace empiricism, fallibilism, verificationism, and a naturalist metaphilosophy influenced by Quine. Some pragmatists are epistemological relativists, but this viewpoint is debated within the pragmatist community.

    Beliefs[edit | edit source]

    Anti-Reification of Concepts and Theories[edit | edit source]

    Dewey, in "The Quest for Certainty," criticized what he called "the philosophical fallacy." He argued that philosophers often make a mistake by treating categories like the mental and the physical as fixed concepts, not realizing that these were created to solve specific problems. This leads to confusion in metaphysics and concepts. Examples include the belief in an "ultimate Being" by Hegelian philosophers or the idea that logic, being abstract, has nothing to do with concrete thinking.

    David L. Hildebrand summed up the issue by saying that both realists and idealists have failed to pay attention to the specific functions involved in inquiry, causing them to project abstract ideas back onto experience.

    Naturalism and Anti-Cartesianism[edit | edit source]

    Pragmatists aimed to reform philosophy to align it more closely with the scientific method. They believed that idealist and realist philosophies often portrayed human knowledge as beyond what science could grasp. Idealists tended to rely on Kantian phenomenology, while realists leaned towards correspondence theories of knowledge and truth. Pragmatists criticized both approaches, rejecting the former for its reliance on a priori reasoning and the latter for assuming correspondence as an unexamined fact. Instead, pragmatism sought to explore the relationship between the knower and the known.

    In 1868, C.S. Peirce argued against the idea of intuition and introspection as sources of unconditioned knowledge. He believed that awareness of an internal world is inferred from external facts rather than directly perceived. Peirce also emphasized that pragmatism and epistemology couldn't be derived solely from principles of psychology, as our thinking doesn't always align with what we should think. Richard Rorty further developed these ideas, criticizing attempts by philosophers to separate epistemology from empirical sciences. W.V. Quine also challenged traditional epistemology, arguing that the pursuit of absolute certainty is both impractical and misguided, as it divorces epistemology from scientific inquiry.

    Reconciliation of Anti-Skepticism and Fallibilism[edit | edit source]

    Hilary Putnam suggests that American pragmatism aims to balance anti-skepticism with fallibilism. While acknowledging that human knowledge is limited and we can't have a perfect understanding of everything, this doesn't mean we should be globally skeptical. Pragmatists like Peirce argued that truth and reality can be discovered through investigation, even though our knowledge is always partial. Unlike Descartes, who emphasized universal doubt as a starting point for inquiry, pragmatists believe doubt must be justified and arises from specific challenges to our beliefs. They see inquiry as a process of returning to a settled state of belief after confronting uncertainties. This approach, known as anti-skepticism, opposes modern academic skepticism but aligns with older skeptical traditions in recognizing that all knowledge is tentative.

    Theory of Truth and Epistemology[edit | edit source]

    Pragmatism didn't originate the idea of applying evolution to theories of knowledge. Schopenhauer suggested a biological idealism, where what's useful for an organism to believe might not always align with truth. Pragmatism challenges this by offering an "ecological" view of knowledge: inquiry helps organisms understand their environment. It sees truth as functional in inquiry and doesn't separate knowledge from action. While not traditionally realist, pragmatism acknowledges an external world that must be dealt with.

    William James' famous phrases like "truth's cash value" and "the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking" were often misunderstood. He emphasized the need for imagination in philosophy and criticized critics who oversimplified pragmatism. James clarified that the theory is more subtle than commonly portrayed.

    Pragmatists debate the role of belief in representing reality. Is a belief valid if it represents reality accurately? Are beliefs true or false based on their usefulness in inquiry and action? According to James, beliefs gain meaning through the struggle of organisms with their environment, and a belief becomes true when it succeeds in this struggle. However, pragmatists don't see anything practical or useful as necessarily true, nor do they consider beliefs helpful just because they aid survival in the short term. For example, believing a cheating spouse is faithful might provide immediate comfort, but it doesn't align with the facts and therefore isn't considered true in the long term.

    Pragmatic Ethics[edit | edit source]

    Pragmatism doesn't see a big difference between practical and theoretical reasoning, or between facts and values. In ethics, it's human-centered, focusing on what's important for us as humans. Good values are those we have good reasons for, according to pragmatists. This idea came before other philosophers who also see similarities between values and facts.

    William James explored spirituality, but like other pragmatists, he didn't see religion as the foundation of meaning or morality. His essay "The Will to Believe" is often misunderstood—it's not about relativism, but about how ethics sometimes requires trust or faith when we can't wait for proof. John Dewey, another key pragmatist, wrote a lot about morality and democracy. He integrated three perspectives on morality—right, virtuous, and good—but acknowledged they can conflict. Dewey criticized the idea that means and ends are separate, arguing that meaningful work and education should be valued for themselves, not just as stepping stones to something else.

    Pragmatism made its mark in bioethics too. John Lachs and Glenn McGee embraced pragmatism in their work, offering an alternative to traditional bioethics theories. They rejected the popular principle-based approach and instead developed pragmatic bioethics. Other philosophers, like Todd Lekan, expanded on pragmatism's ideas in meta-ethics. Lekan argues that morality is a rational but fallible practice, and that theory and rules help make ethical practice smarter.

    Variants[edit | edit source]

    Symbolic Interactionism[edit | edit source]

    Symbolic Interactionism is a sociological perspective that examines how individuals interact with each other and their environment, and how they interpret and give meaning to the symbols and signs around them. The theory emphasizes the importance of language, communication, and symbols in shaping human behavior and social interactions.

    According to symbolic interactionism, individuals create and interpret symbols through their interactions with others and the world around them, and these symbols influence their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These symbols can include objects, gestures, words, and even concepts such as love, justice, and power. Symbolic interactionism posits that individuals actively create and negotiate meaning through their social interactions, and that meaning is not inherent in objects or actions themselves.

    Quineanism[edit | edit source]

    Quineanism is the philosophy of Willard Van Orman Quine.

    Criticism[edit | edit source]

    Criticism of Pragmatism or Anti-Pragmatism is a WIP. The philosophers who critized the pragmatic philosophy are for example Albert Schinz.

    How to Draw[edit | edit source]

    Relationships[edit | edit source]

    Friends[edit | edit source]

    • Realism - Real-life problems, real-life solutions.
    • Nihilism - We are similar. When you reject ideals, you focus on what is practical.

    Frenemies[edit | edit source]

    • Idealism - It's a misconception that we're incompatible. Idealism may help us to make a better society.

    Enemies[edit | edit source]

    • Utopianism - Utopia does not exist yet and it does not promise to be.

    Further Informations[edit | edit source]

    Wikipedia[edit | edit source]

    Theoreticians[edit | edit source]

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    Videos[edit | edit source]

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