Talk:Pragmatism/Archive 2

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This is a horrible article

II tried to read the introduction section numerous times, but just could not make any sense out of it. Please someone re-write the whole thing. Appreciated.


This whole article reads like it was cribbed from some lame college philosophy essay. It's impenetrable, obtuse, jargon-laden, and despite a substantial effort to override the constant MEGO inducing tendency of the language, it overpowers the will, and induces MEGO. It reads as though the entire goal of it was to impress the hell out of the essay grader for an "Overview of Philosophical Idealogies" test question "What is pragmatism. Identify its genesis and promoters. Consider and detail the impact of pragmatism on 19th century philosophical thought."

At the opening, or near to it, needs to be a simple summary, as jargon-free as possible, defining what "pragmatism" means as a philosophical approach. It should not require a philosophy degree to understand. This is probably the WORST wiki article I've ever encountered.

After reading William James' essays, I must agree with the above comment. James wrote and lectured in a style that made pragmatism understandable to the layman, and he felt that all philosophy should be handled the same way. This article's presentation is an affront to his work. (talk) 19:50, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

Pragmatic philosophy in buddhism?

There is an ongoing dispute about whether this article should include a discussion of the relationship to practical.

Currently, the article suggests that Some scholars have noted a similarity between pragmatism and some elements in Buddhist philosophical thought. William James himself noticed the similarity. The similarities mentioned are the action-oriented and anti-dualistic nature of Buddhism. Christofurio and boxed argue that there is academic support for the connection, and that it is an interesting line of thought for those pursuing information about pragmatism. They believe that the connection to Buddhism, which articulates central pragmatist theses in a different idiom, will soften the elements of the article that suggest that Pragmatism is unique to the American scene.

atfyfe and The Hanged Man dispute whether there are deep, encyclopedic relationships to Buddhism that ought to be mentioned in the article. It doesn't appear in most canonical discussions or presentations of pragmatism, including very long and detailed examination of James' work by Gerald E. Myers "William James: His Life and Thought" and Susan Haack's intro to Pragmatism class. Only one article and a short quote from William James are offered in support of it. atfyfe thinks that a claim about any deep connections is false.

For what it's worth, it seems to me that while there might be a few interesting points of contact between pragmatism and Buddhism, there are no historical relationships, nor are there deep relationships between the views. In any case, what relationships there might be don't seem sufficiently encyclopedic for inclusion in this article. I'm in favor of deleting this bit. --The Hanged Man 00:13, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
On second thought, I think if there were a detailed section comparing pragmatism to other views within and without its historical context, a short statement on Buddhism might not be out of place. In the current context, however, it probably doesn't belong. --The Hanged Man 20:00, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Pragmatism and Verificationism

(I'm trying to condense the ongoing and I think still important and open discussion about whether it is useful to refer to pragmatism as a type of verificationism. It may be helpful to refer to /Archive 1 here.

There is a general worry about whether to tie pragmatism to verificationism and whether that rules out something like falsificationism.

Jon Awbrey insists that, with respect to classical pragmatism, "verificationism" and "falsificationism", along with some of the other '-ism's in the article, are misnomers. References in Peirce to positivism are to Comte's positivism, not logical positivism, and even those similarities are highly qualified.

Atfyfe points to the fact that classical pragmatists do indeed use the terms verification and verificationism, but worries that this is quite different from positivist verificationism. He's concerned that it wouldn't be correct to simply call Peirce a simple verificationalist (as many people do), but it would be too much to completely ignore the fact Peirce is a verificationalist in a broad sense (in the same broad sense that a falsificationist is a verificationalist). Yet Peirce was definitely against the overzealous verficationism of Comte.

  • I am confused by your opposition to calling Peirce a verificationist. It is obvious that many people misunderstand Peirce and pragmatism to be just another form of Ayer-style verificationism, but we shouldn't respond to this confusion by refusing to call Peirce a verificationist. He clearly links meaning to verification, so he is clearly a verificationist. He calls himself so (meeting your criteria for calling himself a verificationist). I think the right answer to the question "Is Peirce a verificationist?" is "Yes, but..." (Atfyfe 04:16, 4 March 2006 (UTC))
  • JA: I try to keep article-related discussions on the article talk pages, as it's hard to remember what a demi-discussion on a user talk page was all about a few weeks later. It's too late to answer in full tonight, but I'll copy this query here and pick it up again tomorrow. One thing that might help in the meantime is a more precise definition of what the querent means by "verificationism". I know how the term has been used by some analytic philosophers in the past, and how it has been used more rhetorically against pragmatism, but when I looked at the article on Verificationist earlier today I found it very vague. Jon Awbrey 05:16, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I'm worried that it is a mistake to connect classical pragmatism too closely with empiricism or verificationism (as Quine does, for example). Pragmatists were often staunch critics of British empiricism for being too passive, i.e., verification sounds too inductivist, too much a matter of merely comparing ideas to received experiences. The real test of ideas is in practical action, a point taken more from Hegel and German Idealism than empiricism. It is only empiricist given a radicalization of empiricism (see, for example, Dewey's "The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism") that is quite at odds with classical empiricism. I think the dispute about falsification vs. verification is quite besides the point because they are both at odds with the active element in pragmatism. --The Hanged Man 00:51, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: Here is what Rudolf Carnap writes in the entry for "Verification, Confirmation" in Runes' Dictionary of Philosophy (Littlefield, Adams, & Co., Totowa, NJ, 1972):

Verification, Confirmation: 1. Verification: the procedure of finding out whether a sentence (or proposition) is true or false. 2. A sentence is verifiable (in principle) if a (positive or negative) verification of it is possible under suitable conditions, leaving aside technical difficulties. 3. Many philosophical doctrines (e.g. Scientific Empiricism, q.v.) hold that a verification is replaced here by the concept of confirmation. A certain hypothesis is said to be confirmed to a certain degree by a certain amount of evidence. The concept of degree of confirmation is closely connected or perhaps identical (Reichenbach) with the statistical concept of probability (q.v.). 4. A sentence is confirmable if suitable (possible, not necessarily actual) experience could contribute positively or negatively to its confirmation. 5. Many empiricists (see e.g. Scientific Empiricism 1C) regard either verifiability (e.g. Wittgenstein, the Vienna Circle in its earlier phase) or confirmability as a criterion of meaningfulness (in the sense of factual meaning, see Meaning, Kinds of, 2). This view leads to a rejection of certain metaphysical doctrines (see Anti-metaphysics, 2).

  • JA: I don't see the place where Peirce supposedly calls himself a verificationist. A person who points to the importance of verification in science is not ipso facto a verificationist. All scientists do that, and even mathematicians have a notion of verification that they call "proof". Some people use isms as heuristic devices: "Look at a phenom or a problem this way, and then look at it from this other angle, whatever it takes, whatever works", they would say. A heuristic angle does not become an Ism in the "never look at things any other way" sense until it becomes a habitually fixed idea, and thus a brand of reductionism, a POV that says "X, which you may have been so deluded as to think was complex and many-splendored, is really quite simple and mono-faceted, being nothing but Y".
  • JA: The 1-liner definition of verificationism that one used to hear was a bit like this: "The meaning of a concept or a proposition is nothing but the method of its verification". That is supposed to be enlightenting because it is supposed to reduce an obscure thing, namely "meaning", to a straightforward thing, namely a step-by-step procedure. This is very close to operationalism, which is another first approximation to the pragmatic maxim that some people exhibit a tendency to take for the whole thing. Jon Awbrey 06:42, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: Don't get me wrong, first approximations, half-measures, and rules of thumb can all be very useful, just so long as one knows them for what they are, means to an end, and just so long as one uses them as stepping stones, in other words, as heur-isms not dogmat-isms.
  • JA: By way of contrast, then, let's read one version of the pragmatic maxim:

Consider what effects that might conceivably have practical bearings you conceive the objects of your conception to have. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object. (Peirce, Collected Papers, CP 5.438, 1878/1905).

  • JA: There are several things about this maxim that immediately set it apart from the usual suspects of analytico-empirico-logico-atomistico-positiv-isms.
  • JA: First, its point or view and mood is 2nd person imperative, that is to say, it's a piece of advice that is addressed to person, and thus it has an indexical import, semiotically speaking.
  • JA: Second, it speaks emphatically and repeatedly, five times using italics in fact, of concepts.
  • JA: Third, thus addressed and thus indexed, the maxim says nothing about "the" meaning of a conception and it says nothing about "the" method of collecting effects, it only says something about "your" conception of an object and "your" conception of its effects. Jon Awbrey 07:22, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: "Aha!", the ismist exclaims, as he/she derives out of sight, "So pragmatism is Nothing But that extreme form of Relativism that we call Solipsism!" Yes, this version of the pragmatic maxim does recommend a way that a hermeneut, an interpretive agent, may clear up the meaning that a sign (concept, formula, sentence, symbol, term, word, or so on) has for him/her, and so it relates to a particular interpreter or sign user. But the fact that something relates to something does not mean that it relates to nothing else. There are other actors in this play, other participants in this scene, one of the primary ones being signaled by Peirce's use of the word "object". As it happens, "object" is just the Latin leaf of the Greek stem "pragma", and thereon hangs a major clue. Jon Awbrey 16:50, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Quoting JA: “person who points to the importance of verification in science is not ipso facto a verificationist.” ATF: Peirce is not just pointing to the importance of verification in science. Peirce is saying that the criteria for a good abductive inference (science or ordinary life) is that it explains something that is surprising. The inferred entity does this by having the surprising circumstance as a consequence. Furthermore, to explain rather than just repeat the surprising fact it must have the character of a law that is the cause of surprising facts of that sort. This means whatever abduction gives us, it is going to be verifiable. Lastly, since abduction is the only way new concepts get introduced into our knowledge (as hypotheses), the entire meaning of those terms must be exhausted by what meaning abduction gives the concept. All abduction gives the concept is that it is what causes events of a certain sort (a certain empirical and thus verifiable sort). This means the entire meaning of our concepts (except proper names and purely denoting terms) is the empirical consequences they would cause in certain situations. That is why Peirce is a verificationist. Because he ties meaning to entailed empirical consequences. (Atfyfe 10:04, 9 March 2006 (UTC))
  • ATF: Now I am mainly focusing on Peirce's 1903 arguments for pragmatism which were based in Abduction and much more centered on the meaning of a concept being its empirical consequences. You are looking more to Peirce's 1905-1910 arguments for pragmatism which justify it in terms of his theory of signs and say the meaning of a term is the habits it entails (ultimate logical interpretant). How these two pragmatisms link up is the subject of no small scholarly debate. Why Peirce seems to shift in his manner of speaking about pragmatism and how he justifies it is a hot topic. I have my interpretation but that is just me. Either way though, entailed empirical consequences is an important part of the meaning of concepts. Even in Peirce's later "habit" accounts of pragmatism he works in a close connection between meaning and empirical consequences. Making him a verificationist.
  • JA: I began my Peirce studies somewhere in 1967, and have read most of what he wrote (that's available in print, microfilm, or CD) from the time he was eighteen till the time he died. I have supplied a fairly typical statement from Carnap on how verification and confirmation were chr-ism-ed by those who apotheosized those terms. I have supplied one of Peirce's principal principles defining what he meant by pragmatic thinking, and this version of the pragmatic maxim dates from 1878, reiterated in 1905. There are many differences between Peirce's pragmatism or pragmaticism and anywho's verificationism, of which I have indicated but a small sample. The differences make a difference. It just makes no sense to call Peirce a "verificationist", not in the sense with which that term is generally used in philosophy. Jon Awbrey 15:04, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: Let us examine some specific points where the argument for Peirce being a verificationist goes wrong. Here is one:

ATF: Either way though, entailed empirical consequences [are] an important part of the meaning of concepts. Even in Peirce's later "habit" accounts of pragmatism he works in a close connection between meaning and empirical consequences. Making him a verificationist.

  • Yes, "entailed empirical consequences are an important part of the meaning of concepts". Part. Then again, we need to ask what is entailed by "entailed"? Thereby hangs the tail of a tiger that we'll have to take up later. Yes, "habit" entails "a close connection between meaning and empirical consequences". Close, but no cigar, that is, no identity. And here, again, there is a sliver of equivocality as to what one means by (entailed) empirical consequences. Does one mean consequences that have already been experienced? A true-blue empiricist — to hume is error — would insist that we really have "nothing but", and that science is nothing but a summary of "already been collected data" (ABCD). But the word "entailed" says something more than that — it adds something "logical", you might even say "rational". And here we may recall that Peirce spoke of "conceivable" effects that might "conceivably" have practical bearings, and so on. Conceivable by who? There's that tiger again. Jon Awbrey Jon Awbrey 04:40, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
    • the answer is simply NO. Pragmatism has one (is one) theory of meaning and verificationism is another. Michael Dummett, who labels himself a verificationist, makes this extremely clear:

How is one to explain this comprehension [of a word or sentence]? Can it be described as derivable from the knowledge of that which establishing an assertion as true requires? In that case, we have a verificationist theory of meaning. Or perhaos the knowledge of content consists in grasping the consequences for action that accepting as true such an assertion entails? In this case, we have a pragmatist theory of meaning.

Verificationism may have been part of Pierce's very specific notion of pragmatism; I'm not exactly sure. In any case, it is not something that characterized his pragmatism. On the contrary, to the extent that he accepted a verificationist thery of meaning, Pierce was a proto-logical positivist. Verification has little to do with pragmatism in general and should be removed from this article.--Lacatosias 13:20, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

  • Agreed. Perhaps verification could be mentioned in the part of the article that discusses other views? --The Hanged Man 17:03, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
    • Yes, I've changed my mind to some extent after examining more carefully and realizing that Pierce really seems to have been a verificationist and that this was an important elements setting him off from the Jamesian "subjectivist" strand of pragmatism. I think perhaps it should be highlighted that verificationism was indeed part of Pierce's notion of pragmatism (but I don't know exacty where and how to do this yet) but certainly not an essential part of pragmatism in general. The artcile seems (to me anway) to suggest that it is by gving it excessive prominence. I think I'll go ahead and put it into the context of a very brief discussion on Pierce's pragmatism and distinguigh this from the the view that Dumett charaterizes as "the pragmatic meaning theory" --Lacatosias 17:22, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
I don't know. Perhaps verificationism should be removed entirely, after all. If the pragmatic maxim is the essence of Pierce's "theory of meaning", I don't think it can be characterized as verificationist at all. But I'm not an expert on Pierce. Period. So let the debate continue....--Lacatosias 18:17, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Formalist, Apriorist, Positivist, Rationalist Schools

I am not sure what it means to say pragmatism is opposed to "formalist", "apriorist", "positivist", and "rationalist" schools of philosophy? Certainly, some pragmatists allow for a priori knowledge (Peirce, for example). I think all pragmatisms are positivist in a very broad use of the word "positivist". Pragmatism is definiately empiricist, which makes them anti-rationalist, but I don't understand why the article points out that they are anti-rationalist right after the article says pragmatism doesn't hold that beliefs represent reality? The fact that pragmatism claims beliefs do not represent reality puts it in opposition to everyone else, not just rationalism and formalism. Not many empiricists would accept that claim either.

What makes pragmatism anti-rationalist is their focus on experience, what makes them anti-formalist is the fact that meaning stems from a belief's function in life rather than its formal place in the language. What makes them anti-apriorist is... we'll I don't know if that is true. What makes them anti-positivist is their inclusion of human purposes and goals in their accounts of verificationism. But the fact pragmatists are verificationists make them (roughly) positivists.

To conclude my rant, I think the unhelpful peppering of other "-ism"'s throughout the introduction of the article should be removed. The preceding unsigned comment was added by Atfyfe (talk • contribs) 2006-02-25 23:44:22 (UTC)

  • JA: It does not make much sense to say that pragmatism is anti-formalist or anti-rationalist. It is difficult to make pragmatic thinking understandable to people who think in dichotomous terms of anti- and -ism, but if one must, one could call it something between anti-anti-ism and ant-ism-ism. Jon Awbrey 05:14, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Notable Figure: Jürgen Habermas

I'm quite surprised that the pragmatism article not only has no subsection on Habermas, but not even any mention of him. Both Rorty and Putnam have given much attention to Habermas' work. Habermas, who identifies himself as a pragmatist, is overtly influenced by Peirce, Mead, and Dewey (giving much attention to these figures in his work) and is broadly recognized in academic philosophy as a major pragmatist, even arguably as the most important living philosopher. Gedavis 18:45, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

It's pleasant news to me that Schiller was a pragmatist, but a basic article on pragmatism shouldn't devote so much space to Schiller, while devoting none specifically (yet) to James, Mead, and others. Reference to Schiller makes sense, but put that content in the Schiller article, not in a basic pragmatism article. Gedavis 01:40, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

ATF: F.C.S. Schiller was known for little else than being a pragmatist, so I speculate that you are confusing your "Schillers." The Schiller who is included in this entry is F.C.S. Schiller, one of the founders of pragmatism and its chief European advocate in its early days. He has fallen into obscurity now, which is why you confuse him with Friedrich Schiller.
ATF: Also, I'll try trimming down the Schiller section in the near future. However, what really needs to be done is for more information to be added about other thinkers.

This response still does not address the absence of Mead, both from the article and from the list of classical pragmatists. I'm accustomed to seeing 4 classical pragmatists listed: Peirce, James, Mead, and Dewey. I know nothing of Schiller, but if he has come to be thought of as relatively insignificant, then I can't figure out why he's in the Big 4 and Mead is not. --Rmlucas (talk) 03:24, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

JA: There are bits and pieces of material on several of these thinkers scattered throughout other articles. Some of it is misplaced where it is and would probably fit better here, like the material on Habermas that has recently been moved to the talk page of Consensus theory of truth. There's also some relevant material on James and Dewey at Pragmatic theory of truth. Jon Awbrey 02:20, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Suspect Notable Figures

I'm really suspicious of calling Giovanni Papini, Reinhold Niebuhr, Josiah Royce, and George Santayana pragmatists. The later three were stringent critics of pragmatism, though they may have taken on some parts of pragmatism in the development of their theories. Nevertheless, their views were opposed to and critical of pragmatism in important ways. I don't see the connection of Papini at all. Unless there are good arguments in favor of these figures, I think they should be removed. --The Hanged Man 00:54, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

ATF: I don't know much about any of these figure except that Peirce and James both considered Santayana and Papini as pragmatists. I am not arguing for them to be included, but just putting that fact out there. (Atfyfe 03:07, 5 March 2006 (UTC))

  • JA: Royce is usually counted within the pragmatic tradition. Jon Awbrey 05:28, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
KS: Royce and Santayana are definitely on the standard list of pragmatists, as is C. I. Lewis. It makes absolutely no sense to have the latter on the "extended" list. KSchutte 03:58, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

Re: "Putnam's neo-pragmatist summary"

  • JA: We need a citation for this material. Jon Awbrey 05:26, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

What pragmatisms are

  • JA: I wish I had more time to work on this article, but I have recently exhausted my steam for pragmatism skirmishes in several other agora and fora, and must wait until I see a way of making a positive contribution to producing a genuine article on the fauna and flora of pragmatismata. In the meantime, I can only advise that the best way to acquire an understanding of what Peirce, or James, or Dewey, or so on believed is to read what they individually wrote, and that the attempt to approach any writer through the camouflage of ismatic labels is at best only a kind of salad that may whet or ruin your appetite for the main course, depending on the eptitude of the salad maker. By way of a second course, I heartily recommend the "seven bean salad" a la Peirce that you may find at the pragmatic maxim buffet. Jon Awbrey 17:48, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
Unsolicited view: Pragmatisms refer to those philosophical schools/traditions or just plain individuals who have been baptized as such by the general community of historians or academicians because the orginator of said movement mentioned the words "practical", "useful" or "cash value" a sufficient number of times . Otherwise, any person or school of thought for which there is no more convenenient and traditional mode of classification.--Lacatosias 18:41, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
  • JA: Well, I wrote in the intro that the term has become all but meaningless in the absence of further qualification, and certainly some recent writers -- what one wag called neo-fragmatists -- have done all they can to render it so. Jon Awbrey 18:56, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
  • anonymous: That intro paragraph I found rather misleading. There are certainly some thinkers (the James/Dewey to Rorty axis) that own the term 'pragmatism' much more definitely than others. While I understand the term can't be defined definitively, I think the intro should give at least some mention of the major claimants to the title. As it is, the article starts out sounding dismissive of the whole subject.

JA: For my part, there is certainly no intention to dismiss the whole subject of pragmatism, but the way that articles get written here is that each contributary has to start from the current base camp on the WikiPiedmont and try to tote the bale of the Bonum toward the Summum. All of the articles on the broader topic of pragmatism are currently in the process of transformation, but Life is short and the Art is long. The initial paragraphs can do little more than describe things as they presently are, which means that nobody really "owns" any of the words that Webster and OEDipus can but document the uses and abuses of. Though a part of me is tempted to exhort the "ethics of terminology", I know from experience how futile that is, and so I must save my personal quanta for the ethics of life and death issues. Jon Awbrey 18:44, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Remarks about living persons

JA: I should think this is a no-brainer, but (1) the remark needs a source, and (2) even what is intended as a compliment can be embarrassing if it puts a person on the spot in any way. Jon Awbrey 21:25, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

ATF: Well I'll try and dig up the source, but (1) Haack takes pride in her intellectual heritage with C.S. Peirce, and (2) I half suspect my source is the biography on the back of one of her books. However, I am certain that Haack has been called the "intellectual granddaughter of C.S.Peirce" in print, which is all that my comment says. Secondly, it is a accurate and informative description of Haack, which is why it is placed there. (Atfyfe 21:40, 2 April 2006 (UTC))

Sourcing anything in Wikipedia is always a good idea. It is not reknowned for its credibility in this respect.--Lacatosias 07:42, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

There is already an article for Pragmatism (non-technical usage)

This article can be merged with the article under name Pragmaticism —Preceding unsigned comment added by Prober123 (talkcontribs) 17:21, 8 March 2010 (UTC) JA: Nuff said. Jon Awbrey 20:14, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Okay. Can the header be made more clear then? Simply because the technical meaning is very specific and little known outside its specialist area of "schools of philosophy". Perhaps instead of the simple "for other uses see...." it might say:

"Pragmatism is a name given to a collection of schools of (or approaches to?) philosophy. For other non-technical meanings of the term see..."


"This article is about the technical meaning of the term as a collection of schools of thought in philosophy. For other meanings see...."

I know they're almost identical wording, but I think this'd help, it'd be clearer for the general reader. FT2 (Talk) 20:35, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Edit: See if that's better? Minor wording tweaks to make intro more clear what technical /non-technical means, since I don't want to change anything I don't understand, just ensure that other readers don't make the same mistake FT2 (Talk) 20:55, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

JA: That's not the intro, that's just an "other uses" advisory. Right now it's not grammatical -- needs to drop the "other" (best) or put a comma after (less good), and it's not the place for introducing a tangential topic like "decision making", which is best put in the "see also" section if it's relevant at all. Jon Awbrey 21:05, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Based on actual events?

JA: This bit of quasi-historical speculation, whether it's due to Menand or to one of his readers, is so counter to every other thing I know about the history of pragmatism, and what the folks who made it actually wrote and concerned themselves with, that I put it here until such time as its assertions can be backed up by independent accounts. Jon Awbrey 19:45, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

Pragmatism in history

A useful general account of pragmatism's origins during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club. According to Menand, pragmatism took form largely in response to the work of Charles Darwin (evolution, ongoing process, and a non-epistemological view of history), statistics (the recognition of the role of randomness in the unfolding of events, and of the presence of regularity within randomness), American democracy (values of pluralism and consensus applied to knowledge as well as politics), and in particular the American Civil War (a rejection of the sort of absolutizing or dualizing claims [i.e., to Truth] that provide the philosophical underpinnings of war).

ATF: I am curious why you say it is "counter to every other thing I know about the history of pragmatism"? Could you explain? However, I agree with you that it is inaccurate. I think you rightfully removed it. Peirce, for example, was no fan of democracy and I still have no idea why the Civil War is included as a factor in the development of pragmatism (even after reading Menand's book). I understand the Darwin part, but what does he mean by a "non-epistemological view of history"? Furthermore, while pragmatist's do stress chance and randomness, I don't see that as a key factor. Nor do I really get at why Menand phrases it the way he does. What does "the recognition of the role of randomness in the unfolding of events, and of the presence of regularity within randomness" have to do with pragmatism? (Atfyfe 20:51, 1 May 2006 (UTC))

JA: Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not really all that much. I was almost about to agree with the influence of Darwin, but then I couldn't fathom what might be meant by a "non-epistemological view of history". Oh, I see that your addendum expresses the same puzzlement. Peirce in particular hardly even mentions the Civil War, much less any hint that it provoked any kind of moral relativism. And Peirce's tychism or tychasm is very different in principle from what is asserted in this piece. Then we have the usual suspects of misreading a regulative principle of convergence for a consensus theory of truth. Jon Awbrey 21:10, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

ATF: Sounds like we have the same concerns. I tried to remove the civil war reference once before but was over-ruled. I did atleast get rid of the baffling "cold war" reference that was once in this entry! (Atfyfe 22:24, 1 May 2006 (UTC))

Deleted material — Relationship to other views

JA: Here's another motley of unsourced, improperly qualified, out of context, and misleading statements that need to be justified, qualified, or otherwise dropped. The ones that are straightforward enough can be distributed to other paragraphs. Jon Awbrey 20:48, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

Relationship to other views

Each of the founding pragmatists have their own different set of philosophers who they connected their pragmatism to. Peirce and F.C.S. Schiller derive their inspiration for pragmatism mainly from the work of Immanuel Kant. William James, however, states that he thinks pragmatism best goes around Kant rather than through him.

Other philosophers important to C.S. Peirce’s development of pragmatism include: the scholastic realist Duns Scotus, the nineteenth-century positivist Auguste Comte, and the idealist George Berkeley. However, none of these philosophers influence comes close to the influence of Immanuel Kant on Peirce’s pragmatism. Kant shows deep affinities with pragmatism.


Pragmaticism should redirect here, imo; it doesn't denote anything other than pragmatism, it was just pierce trying to return pragmatic theory to his own originating propositions . . . --heah 07:01, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: I understand the point, and sympathize with it in the fullest, but I already know what would be the result of doing that. A proper development of Peirce's take on pragmatism would necessarily consume so much space that folks would eventually demand that he once again be exiled from his own, his native land. So why go through that schismatism all over again? Coriolanus will have his day, when everywhere becomes elsewhere once again. Jon Awbrey 03:22, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Heh. well, as it stands, pragmaticism simply states that it is a term peirce used in opposition to the way he saw pragmatism being used in "literary journals". (which is a start, but it's not much of an article as it stands.) If it were a developed explication of Peirce's take on pragmatism, that would be great . . . but it ain't. Maybe instead of being merged, it just needs fleshing out? --heah 02:48, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: Sure, but both of these articles are still in need of fleshing out, like most of the stuff in WikioPolis. Flesh is grass. Jon Awbrey 02:54, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

Nazif Saraçi?


Agreed. This should go. --The Hanged Man 04:02, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Pragmatism in action

It seems to me that pragmatism is what scientist in natural sciences do "by instinct". Is this interpretation in any way valid? Would it be possible add something about the possible connection between those who ponder how to define truth and those who try to find it? - 08:44, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

C.S. Peirce (the founder of pragmatism) said that pragmatism was the method of scientists, which he himself was. James (the main proponent of pramatism) was a psychologist, and a also drew a close connection between pragmatism and science. SO your interpretation is very much valid, and this deserves to be put into the entry. Atfyfe 23:16, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Topic Definition Seems to be Missing the Point

I can only assume the topic definition is written by someone that is not a pragmatist.

It's not about what is right, demonstrably, or not but that the person that views themselves as a pragmatist believes they should base their paradigms on verifiable, provable ideas and concepts.

If you haven't even bothered to read the definition of the word I don't believe it is wise to attempt to explain it.

It would be like me trying to explain religion, "Well you see little Timmy, it's all about how crazy people like to delude themselves. They make up crazy stories about things they don't understand and are too afraid to try to understand. They do this because examining reality will only make them realize they aren't so special after all and that they need to learn to discern right from wrong themselves; not just depend on invisible men that live in the sky to tell them what to do."

Pascal's wager?

How did Pascal get missed on the list? He created theistic pragmatism with Pascal's Wager. He's probably the most famous pragmatist in history. 21:12, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

No, he wasn't. Pascal was a fideist. Although there are some fideistic elements in the work of some pragmatists -- the two shouldnt be confounded. Sauerkraut is a fine food. So is ice cream. Sauerkraut flavored ice cream? No thanks. --Christofurio 22:19, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Some proposed changes

I'll attempt more thoroughgoing suggestions for revision and addition when I have the time. I won't make any immediate changes to the article. This article needs a BIG revision and that means a lot of thinking, planning and research.

(Perhaps it would be wise, though, to cut the article down a bit in the meantime. Less but better content and that sort of thing.)

Here goes:

Opening statement

"Pragmatism, as a school of philosophy, is a collection of many different ways of thinking." is a rather silly opening statement. I'd replace it with something aking to a dictionary definition. The Heritage one is an example: A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.

I propose something roughly along these lines:

Pragmatism is a school of philosophy that originated with the ideas of C.S. Peirce. Most of the thinkers who describe themselves as pragmatists point to some connection with practical consequences or real effects as vital components of both meaning and truth. The precise character of these links to pragmata is, however, as diverse as the thinkers who do the pointing. Pragmatism as an epistemological theory is naturalistic, and combines metaphysical realism with epistemological idealism, that is: true ideas are in agreement with reality but don't mirror that reality.

Esp. the last sentence needs refinement and a source (Hildebrandt), but I think it's necessary to include that sort of characterisation. (Although psychologism instead of epistemological idealism might be a characterization that doesn't have the misleading connotations of 'idealism').

Basic characteristics of pragmatism are - imo:

  • metaphysical realism and epistemological idealism (related to instrumentalism)
  • a practical starting point (related to radical empirism and naive realism; opposed to the theoretical cartesian pov)
  • an ecological approach to epistemology (organism/environment instead of mind/body) that centers on ecological processes (inquiry) instead of the products or results. ('truth' is invoked as a useful category in inquiry, it has no seperate existence)
  • naturalistic (opposed to the Kantian non-empirical a priori)


  • "Some pragmatists disagree with the view that beliefs represent reality"

As far as I know not a single pragmatist thinks that beliefs mirror reality as such, but all of them think beliefs are a way of handling/coping with reality. (A sort of ecological epistemology: inquiry is a means for organisms to get a grip on their environment.)

Cf. Dewey in his Short Catechismus: "However that may be, the pragmatist holds that the relation in question is one of correspondence between existence and thought; but he holds that correspondence instead of being an ultimate and unanalyzable mystery, to be defined by iteration, is precisely a matter of co-respondence in its plain, familiar sense." Cf. even Rorty, who defends a "vegetarian concept of truth" after rejecting mirror philosophy.

Notable pragmatists

I'd juggle a bit with the categories.

  • Classical pragmatists
    • Canonical: Peirce, James, Dewey, Schiller
    • Other figures: Mead, Royce, Papini and so on.
  • move Royce, Santayana and Niebuhr to 'pragmatists in the extended sense'
  • move Putnam to the neo-pragmatists
  • Perhaps remove a few superfluous names? E.g. even in the extended sense, including Carnap (he was anti-psychologistic!) seems a bit far-fetched.
  • add Stephen Toulmin to pragmatists in the extended sense: cf. his statement in an interview with JAC: "I said earlier that I had great admiration for John Dewey. Some people commenting on my general philosophical approach have noted how surprising it was for a pragmatist to be born in England. As you've probably gathered, it does seem to me that pragmatism is not just another philosophical theory on a parallel with the others. I think the long-run thrust of pragmatism is concerned with what I call the "recovery of practical philosophy" and so on. His thought is much closer both in content and general thrust to neoclassical pragmatism than the ideas of Putnam in my opinion. The only reason he's not usually termed a pragmatist is because his main influence was Wittgenstein and not the canonical pragmatists.
  • Perhaps include a few proto-pragmatists: Emerson, Thomas Reid (common sense / direct realism), David Hume (naturalism), the Sophists (Protagoras; man is measure) e.a.

By the way, Edward Reed suggests in his From Soul To Mind that most pre-20th century discussions about knowledge combined both the psychological and epistemological aspects. This puts pragmatism in another light, namely as the culmination of that tradition. (As opposed to the generally anti-psychologistic analytic philosophy and post-Kantian conceptions about epistemology as a distinctly non-empirical study.)

Suggestions for interpretation

Because the classical pragmatists are so often misinterpreted, it might be a good idea to include a small box with a few guidelines - in a way that is appropriate to an encyclopedia, that is. Something along these lines:

  • For Dewey, something is "made true" when it is verified. It does not mean people are free to construct the world as they see fit.
  • For 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 apology for faith either.
  • Not a single pragmatist is a relativist. When criticizing pragmatists it is thus more productive to criticize the way in which their arguments do not entail their conclusions, instead of criticizing the (supposedly relativistic) conclusions.

Structure of the article

The structure of the article is a bit messy. For examples of a better structure, see analytic philosophy, logical positivism, continental philosophy et cetera. What do these examples have in common?

  • Introduction: (supra)
  • Basic tenets & relation to analytic and continental philosophy: (supra)
  • Origins
  • More detailed overview of the different aspects of pragmatism: naturalism, the ecological approach and anti-cartesianism, practical starting point, against dualisms and reification of concepts (what Dewey calls the philosophical fallacy), cf. Putnam
  • Overview bis: implications of those (mainly epistemological) doctrines for ethics (cf. Dewey / cf. good reasons approach), for metaphysics (radical empirism cf. James), for logic (cf. Toulmin's Uses of Argument), for aesthetics (cf. Dewey / cultural philosophy), for philosophy of mind (cf. Rorty but also Dewey), philosophy of science (instrumentalism; cf. Edward Reed).
    • While the current article indicates otherwise, I think it is quite possible to determine some key points. The similarity between individual pragmatists is way greater than for example between analytic philosophers.
    • There is no point in discussing each philosopher separately unless in specific warranted occasions. There are individual articles about individual pragmatists so there is no need to rehash those.
  • Reactions to pragmatism: Russell, realists, current reactions to Rorty & co. as well as some counter-replies
  • Further reading:
    • I'd recommend esp. Menand and de Waal as far as secondary literature goes.
    • For primary yet introductionary literature I'd recommend James' Pragmatism, esp. lectures I, II and VI; James' paper about radical empirism; Dewey's Reconstruction in philosophy; perhaps Putnam's Pragmatism: an open question (although I found that one to be quite boring)
    • The most important works: Peirce (?); James (Pragmatism); Dewey (Reconstruction in Philosophy, Quest for Certainty, Experience and Nature, Three Independent factors in Morals); Schiller (perhaps none?); Rorty (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature); Putnam (?); Haack (?)

Stdbrouw 15:46, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

I've gun an' dun it.

Well, as nobody replied to my proposal, I went ahead and put it in practice. It's a major revision. There's still a lot of work that could be done, but it didn't seem opportune (condering how Wikipedia works) to keep the article for myself until I thought it was perfect.

Some notes:

  • A lot of stuff from the old article is actually preserved! Please search the article before re-adding stuff you think disappeared but is absolutely necessary.
  • The article is currently centered on 'the big three' (Dewey, James, Peirce) and to a lesser extent on Rorty and Toulmin. This is simply because I know these thinkers best. There should be more about Peirce (he's a bit underrepresented) and various additions from more recent pragmatists (e.g. Haack) should be incorporated.
  • However this is an article about pragmatism and insofar as neopragmatists diverge to a bigger extent from classical pragmatism, I think you should put the info in the section about neopragmatism or in the individual article about it, not use it as basic exemplifications of pragmatism in the rest of the article.
  • I've cleaned the bibliography to include only those sources I have actually used, or where it was clear that previous contributors had used them.
  • There are exactly two semi-personal judgments in the article: "Pragmatism flourished at a time when psychology and epistemology weren't so separated as they are now (Dewey was an educator, James a psychologist) and is currently enjoying renewed attention probably due to the loosened grip of analytic philosophy on academia and the rising popularity of naturalized epistemology." and "It is probable, considering the advent of postanalytic philosophy and the diversification of Anglo-American philosophy, that more philosophers will be influenced by pragmatist thought (Daniel Dennett, a student of Quine, is a good example) without necessarily publicly committing themselves to that philosophical school." We could discuss these on the talk page if anybody sees the need to.

Stuff that needs to be checked most urgently:

  • Please help make the subsections about Philosophy of Religion, Logic and Philosophy of Mind better - those are fields that I know too little of in relation to pragmatism.
  • Please spell-, grammar and stylecheck. English is not my native tongue.

Stdbrouw 15:38, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Thank you! Quite the improvement. - Atfyfe 02:15, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I can dig up a citation for your claim: "Pragmatism flourished at a time when psychology and epistemology weren't so separated as they are now." I have a book by the name of "Psychologism" that supports that statement. Your claim about Quine and Dennett seems right too, many philosophers couldn't really be called pragmatists but explicitly state the significant influence the pragmatists had on them. - Atfyfe 02:19, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
This is a very good, comprehensive article. I just came here to read about the subject after reading one James's quotes in a paper: "For a difference to be a difference, it it must make a difference." I can copyedit the article if you want an outsider's perspective. Out of curiosity - do you have any sources that talk about modern use of the term "pragmatist" not necessarily in conjunction with philosophy? For example, I often hear politicians called "pragmatists" and I'm quite certain they are not philosophers. --Mus Musculus 05:12, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Happy to know people think it's an improvement. Copy editing is always welcome. The modern use you're referring to is covered by the link to an article about its "non-technical uses". Stdbrouw 16:04, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the re-write! I can and will be of use soon. Cheers, ParvatiBai 18:46, 6 February 2007 (UTC)


I find the explanations and thematic analyses admirably clear. I'm a bit concerned because the organization seems to bounce all over the place. Why not start with Pierce, then move on to James, then Dewey, rather than do the half-historical half-thematic arrangement (Dewey and Schiller pop up...where have they come from)? Because there is so much individual disagreement among the 'big three,' a thematic arrangement seems to imply more consensus than actually existed and somewhat obscures the historical evolution of the ideas. Cheers, ParvatiBai 22:07, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

I disagree: there already exist articles about these individual thinkers, this one is about the general philosophical school so evidently it is chiefly about the viewpoint they share rather than those points on which they disagree (although of course, those have to be indicated as well and if you think the current article fails on that point then by all means improve it). Viewing pragmatism as merely a sequence of thinkers (as you suggest) would be at the cost of losing coherence. Of course there is no real consensus among pragmatists but I don't think the article is currently fooling people into thinking that there is. Although of course the specifics of the current organisation are debatable, its general outline seems to be to be pretty similar to other articles about movements or schools, e.g. both utilitarianism and minimalism (two semi-random choices) first handle origins and general characteristics, and then move on to move detailed analyses, using various thinkers from the school in question to explicate the points that are made in those analyses, and then if necessary finish with related issues (in our case neopragmatism, contemporary ties and criticism).
Anyway, perhaps you could suggest some concrete proposals? Stdbrouw 16:50, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

About your copy-editing: good work! I've changed two things though, check the diff-page: (1) I've reinserted "the loosened grip", might not be ideal, but de-emphasis doesn't seem right either. Dunno, change it back if you want. (2) "Depending on how loosely 'pragmatism' is interpreted, a number of other thinkers could be linked to it" seemed to suggest that these thinkers can actually be considered proto-pragmatists, which would be a bit far-fetched (although not impossible, e.g. some analytic philosophers who see Socrates as a proto-analyticist). Rather, their thoughts have actually influenced the classical pragmatists and are "in a way" related. So I've weakened that statement. Stdbrouw 16:51, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

Thank you. I'll get through the rest of the article copy-edit soon. Very good points about the structure. I still think some folk sort of pop up randomly but I'll see if I can work on that without disrupting your work. I thought 'loosened grip' was a bit POV (I don't like analytic philosophy either but we can't describe it as if it were a thug, can we?) Cheers, ParvatiBai 16:58, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Hm, you're probably right. Anyhow, maybe what is needed is not less but more random popups, so that people know they are used as examples, not as a weird sort of zig-zag through history. Dunno. Change as you see fit and then if I feel an incredible urge to change something back we'll talk about it overhere. Stdbrouw 00:08, 16 February 2007 (UTC)

Dewey in Metaphysical Club?

I do not believe Dewey was a member of the Metaphysical Club, as stated in the article. I don't have the book handy to verify, but I imagine he was too young. Editor437 05:24, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

I've checked it, and you are correct. He would've been 13 or 14 years old when the Metaphysical Club got started, and Menand does not refer to him as one of its members later on. Stdbrouw 00:03, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
the confusion probably started because Menard does have a Chapter on Dewey, even though Dewey was indeed too young to be a "member of the club." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Prof1950 (talkcontribs) 01:38, 6 January 2012 (UTC)


The 'pragmatist' attack on phenomenology from the anti-Cartesian section doesn't make sense to me, given that phenomenology is all *about* the world as we experience it, since it posits that we can't get beyond our a priori data. I am also wary of using PMN in this context because using Rorty to defend the natural sciences seems odd. Can someone cite me something that would explain this section a little more clearly? Cheers, ParvatiBai 00:19, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

It's about naturalism, not about 'defending the natural sciences'. Most pragmatists attack both phenomenology and correspondence because of their a priori and non-naturalistic or anti-psychologistic character. Furthermore any attempt to posit 'the mind' as a starting point (like Descartes and like phenomenology) is criticized by Peirce (check "The Fixation of Belief"), Dewey (in the Influence of Darwin..., in Experience and Nature as well I think) and quite a few others. If you've read PMN it should be clear how it is an attack on anti-cartesianism and a plea for naturalism. Remember that this is one of Rorty's earlier and more analytic works. The sentence part "Pragmatists criticized the former for an inability to relate meaningfully to the world as we experience it" may have to be rewritten though, I agree. Stdbrouw 22:32, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

New Structure...?

We seem to have a mish-mash of positions held by pragmatists, rather than a structured presentation of pragmatism. For example, while many pragmatists have an ethical position, there is no pragmatist ethics. Similarly, while many pragmatists have famous relationships to logic (Peirce developing parts of logic, Schiller attacking it, Putnam's quantum-logic), there is no pragmatist logic. I suggest we break the article into three parts:

Central Two Tenets of Pragmatism
Theory of Meaning
Theory of Truth

Themes in Pragmatism
Elimination of the Fact/Value Distinction
Anti-Cartesianism (No "paper" doubt)
Importance of Evolution
Making Truth
Conceptual Relativity
Unity of Reason (Practical and Theoretical Reason are One)

Famous Pragmatist Positions falling Outside Pragmatism
Ethics (e.g. Will James' ethics)
Logic (Peirce's developments in logic, Schiller's attack on logic)

- Atfyfe 19:15, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, it's a difficult discussion. As we talked about earlier, it's imperative that we recognize the ways in which pragmatists disagree or just say different and unrelated things, but without losing view of the shared perspective/method. Limiting the section of 'central pragmatist tenets' to a theory of meaning and a theory of truth would I think be at a loss of the broader view of philosophy that pragmatism stands for. A thematic arrangement might be warranted for what is currently "pragmatism in other fields of philosophy", but personally I think the other sections (neopragmatism, criticism, ...) are fine as they are (qua structure).
I'm not sure about your specific proposal though. E.g. while William James' Will To Believe argument is his own and not necessarily shared by other pragmatists, it is not unrelated to the rest of his thought. The same goes for Schiller's attack on logic: not a lot of pragmatists agree with all the specifics of his argument but some form of critique at the absolutist pretense of some logicians is shared by a lot of pragmatists.
So I'd propose a re-arranging or rethinking of the 'other fields...' section and perhaps it would be a good thing to switch 'central tenets' and 'epistemology' around as well.
Anyway, it's food for thought - I'm definitely not saying that the current structure is perfect. (And apologies if I seem overprotective of those parts of the article that I've contributed to.) —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Stdbrouw (talkcontribs) 20:08, 14 March 2007 (UTC).

Mutability of Truth

Why is 'ideally epistemically justified' supposed to be that different from Peirce and Dewey's positions? And why is the section so tough on James, especially since in the first few paragraphs his ideas were not, in my opinion, represented correctly? Rorty agrees with James' premise, he just disagrees with the way James put it, and the quote doesn't make that clear. Cheers, ParvatiBai 22:58, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

I don't think it's unfair to James, it's just that his view is very unpopular even among pragmatists. I think it is important to include the internal conflict inside of pragmatism over the mutability of truth, and also point out that James and Schiller are out of step with most pragmatists for what they argue. In fact, I am personally very sympathetic to James on this point, but he shouldn't be represented in a positive light just because I like him. James is very lonely on this point, and even his friends (Rorty, Peirce) have found this position very unpalatable (so much so Peirce famously calls it a "seed[ ] of death". As for 'ideally epistemically justified', that phrase is meant to indicate what Peirce and Dewey put forth.
That being said, this article could be improved by showing what Rorty did like about James. - Atfyfe 02:01, 26 April 2007 (UTC)
Well put and reasonable. But NPOV means we don't represent anything in a 'positive' or 'negative' light, we represent what the person actually said, and then criticism/discussion of that by others. So I thought it was important to try and be as accurate as possible vis-a-vis James' real position. He was not dealing with what Rorty calls 'uninteresting truth claims,' aka correspondence claims. Clearly on that view the earth is round and has always been round. Our epistemic understanding of that, however, has fluctuated, and that's they type of thing he's dealing with. Cheers, ParvatiBai 15:41, 26 April 2007 (UTC)
I don't think it is so clear that under James' epistemology, that the Earth is round has always been true. James makes it clear that beliefs are made true by their fruits, so for those who the belief that the Earth was flat worked for, that belief was true. It was only when someone tried sailing around the Earth that the belief that the Earth was flat finally failed, and thereby became untrue. James' position is probably like this: "The belief that 'The Earth is flat' was true, but now the belief that 'The Earth was always round' is true" Most philosophers--and even pragmatists--find this to be a very bizzare account of truth. James was dealing with the fact that our epistemic understanding of beliefs fluctuate, but since James' account of truth is so connected to our epistemic understanding (rather than metaphysical correspondence), James is led to make the claim that truth fluctuates too. Best, Atfyfe 05:35, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

False information

Where did this come from:

Georg Hegel for his introduction of temporality into philosophy, Francis Bacon who coined the phrase "knowledge is power" and perhaps even the Ancient Sophists for their humanism and attention to informal logic.

I know this would untrue to say of Peirce and James. Is this in reference to Dewey? Dewey did do a lot of work on Hegel early on, but did it influence him to develop pragmatism? What is this "introduction of temporality into philosophy" claim? Sophists did influence F.C.S. Schiller but later in life (not in its development), and Schiller's lasting influence on pragmatism has been minimal. - Atfyfe 04:35, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

I believe that section used to state that these thinkers could in some way be called precursors but that it is not certain if the pragmatists were in fact influenced by them. So either that statement should go back in, or the info out (which you apparently chose for). Dewey speaks favorably of Bacon in his Reconstruction in Philosophy, as well as sophism (though I should check it, not sure anymore). Dewey recalled later, about Hegel: "his synthesis of object and subject, matter and spirit ... (was) a liberation" although apparently James loathed Hegel (source: Menand). It probably didn't lead him directly to pragmatism - but then, it is unlikely that any one of the listed thinkers did so. The "introduction of temporality" referred to Hegel's challenge to the idea of an unchanging reality, and the way that philosophers often look at perception, i.e. as something that's instant. Whereas pragmatists often emphasize that our search for knowledge is a temporal and active process. I think it's less obvious that Kant and Berkeley belong on that list though. Stdbrouw 20:21, 15 May 2007 (UTC)
Further false claims:
a combination of metaphysical realism and psychologism sometimes termed instrumentalism
Instrumentalism, for sure, but the pragmatists were not psychologistic nor metaphysical realists. Furthermore, I don't know what it would be to say that instrumentalism results from a combination of psychologism and metaphysical realism. Lastly, why are we calling the pragmatist's naturalists? Peirce, for example, had a very elaborate metaphysics that included a good deal of non-physical objects (his category of "thirdness"). - Atfyfe 04:44, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
Eh, yes they were :-) Especially James and Dewey didn't separate psychology from epistemology, and both thought that epistemological questions can and should be settled empirically, not on the basis of a priori argumentation. Hence psychologism. Also, pragmatists don't doubt that there is an external world and that it's that world that we see and have knowledge about. Hence metaphysical realism.* (By the way, this is backed up by Hildebrandt his "Beyond realism and antirealism".) Naturalism because pragmatists don't resort to transcendental categories or the like, because they are empirical/empiricist thinkers, and were all inspired by Darwin's thought and its importance for epistemology. Hence naturalism. Naturalism is a pretty broad term, and I don't think his metaphysics are anti-naturalistic in any way.
So basically, I think your removals were a bit over-eager - the information is not obviously false, although probably some of it is debatable. Stdbrouw 20:21, 15 May 2007 (UTC)
  • I've seen ";metaphysical realism" used to mean two very different things. Putnam, and before him Holt and probably others, use it to denote representational/mirror realism whereas others use it merely to denote that there "is something out there". When that last definition is adopted, pragmatism is a metaphysical but not an epistemological realism. But it's a tricky discussion of course, because many pragmatists have tried to overcome the realism/idealism/anti-realism debate, so placing them within those containers isn't always possible. Stdbrouw 15:06, 17 May 2007 (UTC)
It sounds like the characterization of "psychologism" as "a critical aspect of pragmatist epistemology" is at best original research (see WP:NOR) and at worst POV. The psychologism article is in sad shape. The central problem is that everyone thinks with their head which is subject to "psychology" in some vague sense, but the article doesn't nail this down. If someone has criticized pragmatism as "psychologism with bells and whistles" or some such thing then the article should say that. Mistercupcake 08:36, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

Neopragmatism and The New Pragmatists

People seem to be unclear on the fact that there are two different contemporary schools of pragmatism at odds with one another. One school is rooted in Rorty's work from the 1980's, and another more recent school wanting to draw upon the classical pragmatists and annoyed at the way in which Rorty has done so. To help clear this up, here is the info appearing on the dust-jacket of a recent book on the anti-Rorty side describing the divide (The New Pragmatists, Misak 2007:

Pragmatism is the view that our philosophical concepts must be connected to our practices--philosophy must stay connected to first order inquiry, to real examples, to real-life expertise. The classical pragmatists, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, put forward views of truth, rationality, and morality that they took to be connected to, and good for, our practices of inquiry and deliberation.
When Richard Rorty, the best-known contemporary pragmatist, looks at our practices, he finds that we don't aim at truth or objectivity, but only at solidarity, or agreement within a community, or what our peers will let us get away with saying. There is, however, a revisionist movement amongst contemporary philosophers who are interested in pragmatism. When these new pragmatists examine our practices, they find that the trail of the human serpent is over everything, as James said, but this does not toss us into the sea of post-modern arbitrariness, where truth varies from person to person and culture to culture. The fact that our standards of objectivity come into being and evolve over time does not detract from their objectivity. As Peirce and Dewey stressed, we are always immersed in a context of inquiry, where the decision to be made is a decision about what to believe from here, not what to believe were we able to start from scratch--from certain infallible foundations. But we do not go forward arbitrarily.
That is, these new pragmatists provide accounts of inquiry that are both recognizably pragmatic in orientation and hospitable to the cognitive aspiration to get one's subject matter right. The best of Peirce, James, and Dewey has thus resurfaced in deep, interesting, and fruitful ways, explored in this volume by David Bakhurst, Arthur Fine, Ian Hacking, David Macarthur, Danielle Macbeth, Cheryl Misak, Terry Pinkard, Huw Price, and Jeffrey Stout

- Atfyfe 05:13, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

New Section: Political Philosophy/Implications

Could someone that knows more than me about it start a section about pragmatism and politics? RedHouse18 18:44, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

What exactly do you have in mind. So what you *might* have in mind is Richard Rorty/Cornel West-ish neopragmatism, which does have a political aspect to it. However, I suspect that you are thinking about pragmatism in its non-technical sense (the way it is often used in politics). - Atfyfe 23:27, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

Some adjustments

Hi, I've made some adjustments per my earlier remarks and based upon some recent reading I did. I'll walk through them here so it's easy to discuss possible criticism.

Edits: 0. I've read through the entire article and reworded or rephrased some things. Nothing controversial. I've also removed some of the stub-notices. Some sections are still pretty small but they're not just one or two sentences anymore.

1. Origins: "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)" -- this is more in line with the rest of the article, where there is conflicting evidence about how Peirce felt about James. (The article used to side, as per my original contribution, with Menand.)

2. Inspirations: I've reinserted Hegel and Bacon (Atfyfe has not responded to my defense of them so I consider this reinsertion to be warranted) but have left out Berkeley because he's too vague an inspiration and little reference to him can be found (some in James, if I remember correctly). If someone is in favor of removing Hegel he should (imo) also remove Kant as both were indeed an inspiration but they both also met with quite some criticism from pragmatists. I've referenced Terry Pinkard's contribution in Misak 2007 who acknowledges the link with the caveat that for Hegel reason could not be a naturalistic notion. I've left out the sophists because, well, they're old. ;-)

3. I've deleted "For most pragmatists, truth is what is useful in the long term." because even when we speak of the "long term", most pragmatists would not agree, and indeed, in other parts of the article we've all tried our best (I think) to discredit that simplistic view of pragmatism.

4. "Hilary Putnam, however, developed his internal realism around the idea that a belief is true if it is ideally epistemically justified.": changes 'however' into 'also', because it accords with what Dewey and Peirce say, not diverges from it. If the author of this sentence meant something else, it should be specified more clearly.

5. I've "translated" the part about Joseph Margolis, as it was written in silly-talk, and removed the criticism of Arthur Danto. It's simply not true that he is "unwilling to accept the fully culturally primed 'nature' of perception" as indeed one of his key insights is that art happens against a cultural background that guides our interpretation. --- Might need another touch-up though. Also, to whomever inserted the stuff about Margolis & Religion: if you take parts from a main article, don't forgot to include the reference as well!

General issues (hopefully to be discussed): 1. I think the introduction unfairly describes the current state of pragmatism by making it a sort of war between two competing schools, whereas there's also post-cartesian philosophy, post-analytic philosophy, neoclassical pragmatism and pragmatists like Todd Lekan working on ethics who feel little for the current epistemological debates between pragmatists. It also makes a very quick jump from the classic pragmatists to the 60's - not everything needs to be mentioned but perhaps it needs to be mentioned that it was more like a resurgence rather than a rebirth. Also, the introduction is not in line with what is said in the section on "Analytical, neoclassical and neopragmatism" where analytic, continental and neoclassical pragmatism are the main distinctions that are being made. I'd propose not to make too much fuss about "New Pragmatists" as the contributors in Misak range from Arthur Fine and Ian Hacking (post-analytic, more or less) to more analytically minded contributions to neoclassical thought to contributions I don't know how to term. The term "New Pragmatists" seems more like a publisher's sales pitch than anything else, really. However, I'm having difficulty coming up with something that would be more appropriate. Ideas?

(By the way, on a personal note: I think the contributions to Misak 2007 are generally speaking pretty bland. There is some interesting stuff but mostly it reeks of pragmatism in decay rather than "New Pragmatism". Too bad.)

2. I'm worried that perhaps people are all to eager to split pragmatists into camps. Sure, there were disagreements in the days of James and Schiller and there are disagreements now, but at some points I almost felt as if Schiller and Rorty are used as a scapegoat for all that is bad in pragmatism, so as to shine a better light on other pragmatists. That's not very fair nor very objective -- although admittedly, even some professional philosophers seem to do it and I've often been tempted to do the same because people are so often misled by misconstruals of pragmatism as relativism, idealism, etc. On a more positive note: I think that if we'd remove on or two of these "scapegoat references" the article would actually be really balanced between providing an accurate overview and being cautious enough to warn the reader what pragmatism is not about.

3. I'm in favor of keeping the organisation of the article more or less as-is, but agree with atfyfe that it should be made more clear that the contributions of pragmatism in different fields are very diverse and that no view usually counts as standard doctrine for pragmatists.

4. This article is actually pretty good. High five and thumbs up for everyone's contributions! Maybe we should aim for 'featured article' some time in the future and think out steps that will get us there?

Stdbrouw 17:04, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

2 Paras from criticism

The following paragraphs were removed from criticism section:

Edmund Husserl criticized psychologism, a critical aspect of pragmatist epistemology, in his The Prolegomena of Pure Logic. Gottlob Frege, an important founder of analytic philosophy, did the same in his The Foundations of Arithmetic. Their major criticism is that "psychology", because of its naturalism, evaded the radical and genuine problem of "the life of the spirit" as Husserl claimed in The Vienna Lecture. Pragmatists insist that the exact opposite is the case.

Pragmatism suffered another kind of deprecation. Because of the immense popularity of analytic philosophy and its emphasis on ahistorical inquiry into what it considered perennial problems, the classical pragmatists were either ignored, forgotten, or caricatured after their deaths. This is especially the case with Schiller. Secondary sources on the work of Schiller are extremely rare, and his primary works are not often studied.

The first paragraph is not obviously relevant to pragmatism - the relationship between psychologism and pragmatism is unclear, mostly because the psychologism article is vague. The second paragraph lacks cites, and it is not clear how the lack of research on Schiller is notable. I think Menand has a quote on the relative waxing and waning of Pragmatism, but it is on an NPR website as an audio clip. Mistercupcake 09:41, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

I removed Stanley Fish from the list at the end of the article. There are sufficient grounds to consider him a pragmatist or neo-pragmatist. What he has in common with Rorty is due to the latter's postmodernism. If Fish is a pragmatist, it would be solely on pragmatism defined as anti-foundtationalism, whereas pragmatism implies more than that. Also, although I'm not an expert, I don't think Fish ever refered himself as a "pragmatist". Nekrorider (talk) 02:35, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Merge with Conceptual pragmatism and French Pragmatism

The articles Conceptual pragmatism and French Pragmatism are stubs that cannot currently stand on their own. Until enough information is provided on these specific subjects to warrant individual articles, the little information on these stubs should be introduced into the main Pragmatism page.

Neelix (talk) 23:46, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

The article Conceptual pragmatism was created 18:23, 4 May 2006 Logicalsemanticist (Talk | contribs). The current text of that article has found a place in the main article, Pragmatism. The stub does not seem likely to be expanded, but its history should be preserved. --Newbyguesses - Talk 01:40, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
The article French pragmatism was created 14:57, 8 June 2004 Jafro (Talk | contribs). The current text of that article has found a place in the main article, Pragmatism. The stub does not seem likely to be expanded, but its history should be preserved. --Newbyguesses - Talk 01:47, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Should the merger notice be removed from this article, then? B7T (talk) 23:59, 10 July 2008 (UTC)


I propose adding the template that says there is a list of references at the end of the article but much of the direct sources are incomplete (sorry, I can't seem to find it at this moment)... This article says a lot of things but doesn't give many references to where the information has come from. Wikipedia protocol is that every fact should have a source. It would be great to get this cleared up so the article will be more clearly sourced, especially because of the philosophical nature of the subject. Thanks Kristamaranatha (talk) 03:56, 5 September 2008 (UTC) Edit: I found the template and added it - my comment remains that this article needs to be properly sourced. Kristamaranatha (talk) 04:00, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:John Dewey.jpg

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The opening summary to this page is terrible. Suggest rewrite to move the origins and persons involved into a topic below the TOC, and just provide a short concise definition in the pre-TOC summary.--Super Jamie (talk) 05:00, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. But the description in wiktionary glows in comprehensibility and other splendors: that one can be used as a pattern. Said: Rursus () 15:59, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

"Both Peirce and Dewey connect the definitions of truth and warranted assertability."

The above sentence, in the "(1) Mutability of truth" sub-sub-section in "Pragmatist Epistemology" seems problematic. Peirce certainly did not identify or equate truth with warranted assertability, if "warranted assertability" means assertabiity in virtue of research actually done, and the rest of that paragraph makes that dis-identification clear. I don't know what Dewey thought, and so I haven't simply leapt into making a revision. Now, the sentence doesn't speak of an identification but only of a vague "connection." In what sense do Peirce and Dewey connect the definitions of truth and warranted assertability? Do they connect them in the same sense? The Tetrast (talk) 06:00, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Garbled, doesn't flow, doesn't give the laymen a good idea

Find any laymen who doesn't understand this concept, and ask him to read this article. He would not be able to give you a general idea of what it is. This article is disorganized and doesn't flow. That being said, I won't do anything to fix it. (talk) 14:43, 21 October 2009 (UTC)


I noticed that someone removed Pirsig from the list of pragmatists and I just wanted to add a note in support of his removal.

I can see how Pirsig's views would be similar to William James' with respect to James' radical empiricism (aka neutral monism). However, I find the claim that Pirsig is a pragmatist strange. Notice, for example, that James' radical epiricist metaphysics is not a part of his pragmatism (as James himself says). - Atfyfe (talk) 05:03, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

In Our Time

The BBC programme In Our Time presented by Melvyn Bragg has an episode which may be about this subject (if not moving this note to the appropriate talk page earns cookies). You can add it to "External links" by pasting {{In Our Time|Pragmatism|p003k9f5}}. Rich Farmbrough, 03:19, 16 September 2010 (UTC).

Done. The Tetrast (talk) 11:53, 16 September 2010 (UTC).

Problematic lede

The current first paragraph of the lede to this article strikes me as very problematic. For one it is entirely uncited. More substantially, it makes some dubious claims -- for example, I doubt all pragmatists, especially classical pragmatists (vs neopragmatists), would agree without qualification that "knowledge is a social phenomenon", and that certainly is not the most defining characteristic of pragmatism, as it is presented now. And it is written in a very colloquial, unprofessional tone. I am tempted to strike it entirely and replace it with something summarizing the "Central tenets" section, specifically noting the primacy of practice (of course), anti-reification, naturalism, anti-skepticism, fallibilism, and verificationism.

In fact, the second paragraph of the current lede pretty much already does that. So I think I am going to remove the current first paragraph, and maybe integrate some parts of it into the second paragraph to explain the various -isms listed there. --Pfhorrest (talk) 19:26, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

To anyone qualified: Please rewrite this article

This article is garbage. It is much too narrative and relentlessly obfuscated. — Preceding unsigned comment added by MikeWarcholik (talkcontribs) 14:54, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

Santayana inclusion

Santayana may have influences some of the important pragmatists, but he regarded pragmatism as "heresy" Article might discuss his influence, but he should be included in the introduction. Rmrwiki (talk) 05:27, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Article quality

From the number of persistent complaints it looks like reassessment is order. Rmrwiki (talk) 05:27, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Dewey quote

There is a somewhat garbled quote to Dewey on theory and practice that I have now seen re-quoted several times with this page as a the source. I think we ought to help people get it right.

In section 3.1, we currently have:

"As John Dewey put it, there is no question of theory versus practice but rather of intelligent practice versus uninformed practice."

The actual quotation is:

"The only distinction worth drawing is not between practice and theory, but between those modes of practice that are not intelligent...and those which are."

The source is Experience and Nature, page 268 in Vol. of the Later Works [1925/1981]

And yes, I could try and fix it myself, but every time I try to do anything that involves a note to a reference, I screw it up. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:27, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Introductory sentence

"a denial of the fact-value distinction, a high regard for science" -- unless we are talking of the social sciences, these two are opposite positions. Both should be removed unless a citation surfaces. Narssarssuaq (talk) 12:01, 28 March 2012 (UTC)

I think what that is driving at is that questions of value can be answered by the same methods as questions of fact -- by the scientific method.
However, as denial of the fact-value distinction is certainly not a defining characteristic of pragmatism, I'm fine with removing it. I do think, though, that a high regard for science generally is a defining characteristic of them. --Pfhorrest (talk) 17:31, 28 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't know whether this will help, since I know little of the other pragmatists, but Peirce came to view truth (i.e., that of a true sign, especially a true proposition) as logical goodness and as a species of ethical goodness, and ethical goodness as a species of esthetic goodness, which last he characterized not as beauty but as admirableness, and held that what is most basically admirable is concrete reasonableness. Thus he classified (philosophical) logic as a normative study based on the normative studies of ethics and esthetics, and this was important to his proof of pragmatism, though I don't know much about that (attempted) proof. Now, all of that is not a simple abolition of the distinction between truth and goodness, and, as to factuality, Peirce did not define "truth" and "fact" interchangeably. The Tetrast (talk) 20:41, 28 March 2012 (UTC).

Longstanding nonsense opening sentence and quality of this entry

For a long while the opening of this article has been:

Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice.[citation needed]

I thought it was recent vandalism but the citation tag indicates that it has been here since at least January 2012. Seriously? This entry needs the attention of an educated and vigilant editor. I will try to pay more attention to it, but the entry is a bit of a mess right now. - Atfyfe (talk) 22:30, 24 April 2013 (UTC)