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PRAGMATISM

According to James, the term pragmatism is derived from the Greek word pragma which means action
or practice or activity from which in the words practice and practical have been derived.

Pragmatism was a philosophical tradition that originated in the United States around 1870. It is a
philosophical tradition that interprets truth in terms of the practical effects of what is believed and, in
particular, the usefulness of these effects. The philosophy that the truth of an idea is dependent on its
workability; ideas or principles is true so far as they work. For pragmatists, only those things that are
experienced or observed are real.

Pragmatists believe that reality is constantly changing and that we learn best through applying our
experiences and thoughts to problems, as they arise. The universe is dynamic and evolving, a
"becoming" view of the world. There is no absolute and unchanging truth, but rather, truth is what
works. Pragmatism is derived from the teaching of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who believed
that thought must produce action, rather than linger in the mind and lead to indecisiveness.

It can be summarized by the phrase whatever works, is likely true. Because reality changes, whatever
works will also change thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final
or ultimate truth.

A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems. Using,


experimenting, and/or acting on a given idea in certain circumstances; whatever these results are, these
are to be considered the whole of what one knows of that idea.

The most important of the classical pragmatists were Charles Sanders Peirce (18391914), William
James (18421910) and John Dewey (18591952).

Charles Sanders Peirce, who coined the term Pragmatism, saw it as more a technique to help us
find solutions than a philosophy or solution to problems.

He formulated a method of looking at reality; discerning what is true and what is false. What he
needed was a theory of MEANING.

William James is the most famous philosopher of Pragmatism and hes the one who made
Pragmatism itself famous. He further advanced Peirces Theory of Truth. The world came to
know pragmatism in a systematic way because of him.

For James, Pragmatism was about value and morality: the purpose of philosophy was to
understand what had value to us and why. James argued that ideas and beliefs have value to us
only when they work.
In a philosophy he called Experimentalism or Instrumentalism, John Dewey attempted to
combine both Peirces and James philosophies of Pragmatism. It was both about logical
concepts as well as ethical analysis. Instrumentalism describes Deweys ideas the conditions
under which reasoning and inquiry occurs. On the one hand it should be controlled by logical
constraints; on the other hand it is directed at producing goods and valued satisfactions.

He believed that learners must adapt to each other and to their environment. Schools should
emphasize the subject matter of social experience. All learning is dependent on the context of
place, time, and circumstance. Different cultural and ethnic groups learn to work cooperatively
and contribute to a democratic society. The ultimate purpose is the creation of a new social
order. Character development is based on making group decisions in light of consequences.

FORMS OF PRAGMATISM

HUMANISTIC PRAGMATISM

This type of pragmatism is particularly found in social sciences. According to it the satisfaction of human
nature is the criterion of utility. In philosophy, in religion and even in science man is the aim of all
thinking and everything else is a means to achieve human satisfaction.

EXPERIMENTAL PRAGMATISM

Modern science is based upon experimental method. The fact that can be ascertained by experiment is
true. No truth is final, truth is known only to the extent it is useful in practice. The pragmatists use this
criterion of truth in every field of life. The human problems can be solved only through experiment.

NOMINALISTIC PRAGMATISM

When we make any experiment we attend to the result. Our aim is examination of the material. Some
hypothesis about the results invariably precedes every experiment. According to nominalist pragmatism,
the results of an experiment are always particular and concrete, never general and abstract.

BIOLOGICALPRAGMATISM

Experimentalism of John Dewey is based upon this biological pragmatism according to which the
ultimate aim of all knowledge is harmony of the man with the environment. Education develops social
skill which facilitates ones life. The school is a miniature society which prepares the child for future life.
PRINCIPLES OF PRAGMATISM
a) PLURALISM
Philosophically, the pragmatists are pluralists. According to them there are as many words as human
beings. The ultimate reality is not one but many. Everyone searches truth and aim of life according to his
experiences.
b) EMPHASIS ON CHANGE
The pragmatists emphasize change. The world is a process, a constant flux. Truth is always in the
making. The world is ever progressing and evolving. Therefore, everything here is changing.
c) UTILITARIANISM
Pragmatists are utility is the test of all truth and reality. A useful principle is true. Utility means
fulfillment of human purposes. The results decide the good and evil of anything, idea, beliefs and acts.
Utility means satisfaction of human needs.
d) CHANGING AIM AND VALUES
The aim and values of life change in different times and climes. The old aims and values, therefore,
cannot be accepted as they are. Human life and the world is a laboratory in which the aims and values
are developed.
e) INDIVIDUALISM
Pragmatists are individualists. They put maximum premium upon freedom in human life. Liberty goes
with equality and fraternity. Everyone should adjust to his environment.
f) EMPHASIS ON SOCIAL ASPECTS
Since man is a social animal therefore, he develops in social circumstances. His success is success in
society. The aim of education is to make him successful by developing his social personality.
g) EXPERIMENTALISM
Pragmatists are experimentalists. They give more importance to action than ideas. Activity is the means
to attain the end of knowledge. Therefore, one should learn by doing constant experimentation which is
required in every field of life.