As a tendency in philosophy, signifies the insistence on usefulness or practical consequences as a test of truth.

Catholic Encyclopedia. . 2006.

     Catholic_Encyclopedia Pragmatism
    Pragmatism, as a tendency in philosophy, signifies the insistence on usefulness or practical consequences as a test of truth. In its negative phase, it opposes what it styles the formalism or rationalism of Intellectualistic philosophy. That is, it objects to the view that concepts, judgments, and reasoning processes are representative of reality and the processes of reality. It considers them to be merely symbols, hypotheses and schemata devised by man to facilitate or render possible the use, or experience, of reality. This use, or experience, is the true test of real existence. In its positive phase, therefore, Pragmatism sets up as the standard of truth some non-rational test, such as action, satisfaction of needs, realization in conduct, the possibility of being lived, and judges reality by this norm to the exclusion of all others.
    Although the Pragmatists themselves proclaim that Pragmatism is but a new name for old ways of thinking, they are not agreed as to the immediate sources of the Pragmatic movement. Nevertheless, it is clear that Kant, who is held responsible for so many of the recent developments in philosophy and theology, has had a deciding influence on the origin of Pragmatism. Descartes, by reason of the emphasis he laid on the theoretical consciousness, "I think, therefore I exist", may be said to be the father of Intellectualism. From Kant's substitution of moral for theoretical consciousness, from his insistence on "I ought" instead of "I think", came a whole progeny of Voluntaristic or non-rational philosophies, especially Lotze's philosophy of "value instead of validity", which were not without influence on the founders of Pragmatism. Besides the influence of Kant, there is also to be reckoned the trend of scientific thought during the last half of the nineteenth century. In ancient and medieval times the scientist aimed at the discovery of causes and the establishment of laws. The cause was a fact of experience, ascertainable by empirical methods, and the law was a generalization from facts, representing the real course of events in nature. With the advent of the evolution theory it was found that an unproved hypothesis or hypothetical cause, if it explains the facts observed, fulfils the same purpose and serves the same ends as a true cause or an established law. Indeed, if evolution, as a hypothesis, explains the facts observed in plant and animal life, or if a hypothetical medium, like ether, explains the facts observed in regard to light and heat, there is no reason, say the scientists, why we should concern ourselves further about the truth of evolution or the existence of ether. The hypothesis functions satisfactorily, and that is enough. From this equalization of hypothesis with law and of provisional explanation with proved fact arose the tendency to equalize postulates with axioms, and to regard as true any principle which works out well, or functions satisfactorily. Moreover, evolution had familiarized scientists with the notion that all progress is conditioned by adjustment to new conditions. It was natural, therefore, to consider that a problem presented to the thinking mind calls for the adjustment of the previous content of the mind to the new experience in the problem pondered. A principle or postulate or attitude of mind that would bring about an adjustment would satisfy the mind for the time being, and would, therefore, solve the problem. This satisfaction came, consequently, to be considered a test of truth. This account, however, would be incomplete without a mention of the temperamental, racial, and, in a sense, the environmental determinants of Pragmatism. The men who represent Pragmatism are of the motor-active type; the country, namely the United States, in which Pragmatism has flourished most is pre-eminently a country of achievement, and the age in which Pragmatism has appeared is one which bestows its highest praise on successful endeavour. The first of the Pragmatists declares that Pragmatism rests on the axiom "The end of man is action", an axiom, he adds, which does not recommend itself to him at sixty as forcibly as it did when he was thirty.
    In a paper contributed to the "Popular Science Monthly" in 1878 entitled "How to make our Ideas clear", Mr. C. S. Peirce first used the word Pragmatism to designate a principle put forward by him as a rule to guide the scientist and the mathematician. The principle is that the meaning of any conception in the mind is the practical effect it will have in action. "Consider what effects which might conceivably have practical bearings we consider the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object." This rule remained unnoticed for twenty years, until it was taken up by Professor William James in his address delivered at the University of California in 1898. "Pragmatism", according to James, "is a temper of mind, an attitude; it is also a theory of the nature of ideas and truth; and finally, it is a theory about reality" (Journal of Phil., V, 85). As he uses the word, therefore, it designates
    ♦ (a) an attitude of mind towards philosophy,
    ♦ (b) an epistemology, and
    ♦ (c) a metaphysics.
    James's epistemology and metaphysics will be described in sections III and IV. The attitude which he calls Pragmatism he defines as follows: "The whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our lives, if this world-formula or that world-formula be the true one" (Pragmatism, p. 50). Thus, when one is confronted with the evidence in favour of the formula "the human soul is immortal", and then turns to the considerations put forward by the sceptic in favour of the formula "the human soul is not immortal", what is he to do? If he is a Pragmatist, he will not be content to weigh the evidence, to compare the case for with the case against immortality; he will not attempt to fit the affirmative or the negative into a "closed system" of thought; he will work out the consequences, the definite differences, that follow from each alternative, and decide in that way which of the two "works" better. The alternative which works better is true. The attitude of the Pragmatist is "the attitude of looking away from first things, principles, categories, supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts" (op. cit., 55).
    This view of the scope and attitude of philosophy is sustained in Professor James's numerous contributions to the literature of Pragmatism (see bibliography), in lectures, articles, and reviews which obtained for him the distinction of being the most thorough-going and the most eminent, if not the most logical, of the Pragmatists. Next in importance to James is Professor John Dewey, who in his "Studies in Logical Theory" and in a number of articles and lectures, defends the doctrine known variously as Instrumentalism, or Immediate Empiricism. According to Dewey, we are constantly acquiring new items of knowledge which are at first unrelated to the previous contents of the mind; or, in moments of reflection, we discover that there is some contradiction among the items of knowledge already acquired. This condition causes a strain or tension, the removal of which gives satisfaction to the thinker. An idea is "a plan of action", which we use to relieve the strain; if it performs that function successfully, that is, satisfactorily, it is true. The adjustment is not, however, one-sided. Both the old truths in the mind and the new truth that has just entered the mind must be modified before we can have satisfaction. Thus there is no static truth, much less absolute truth; there are truths, and these are constantly being made true. This is the view which, under the names Personalism, and Humanism, has been emphasized by Professor F. S. Schiller, the foremost of the English exponents of Pragmatism. "Humanism", and "Studies in Humanism" are the titles of his principal works. Pragmatism, Schiller thinks, "is in reality only the application of Humanism to the theory of knowledge" (Humanism, p. xxi), and Humanism is the doctrine that there is no absolute truth, but only truths, which are constantly being made true by the mind working on the data of experience.
    On the Continent of Europe, Pragmatism has not attained the same prominence as in English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, writers who favour Pragmatism see in the teachings of Mach, Ostwald, Avenarius, and Simmel a tendency towards the Pragmatic definition of philosophy. James, for instance, quotes Ostwald, the illustrious Leipzig chemist, as saying, "I am accustomed to put questions to my classes in this way: in what respects would the world be different if this alternative or that were true? If I can find nothing that would become different, then the alternative has no sense" (Pragmatism, p. 48). Avenarius's "Criticism of Experience", and Simmel's "Philosophie des Geldes" tend towards establishing the same criterion. In France, Renouvier's return to the point of view of practical reason in his neo-Criticism, the so-called "new philosophy" which minimizes the value of scientific categories as interpretations of reality, and which has its chief representative in Poincaré, who, as James says, "misses Pragmatism only by the breadth of a hair", and, finally, Bergson, whom the Pragmatists everywhere recognize as the most brilliant and logical of their leaders, represent the growth and development of the French School of Pragmatism. Side by side with this French movement, and not uninfluenced by it, is the school of Catholic Immanent Apologists, beginning with Ollé-Laprune and coming down to Blondel and Le Roy, who exalt action, life, sentiment, or some other non-rational element into the sole and supreme criterion of higher spiritual truth. In Italy, Giovanni Papini, author of "Introduzione al pragmatismo", takes his place among the most advanced exponents of the principle that "the meaning of theories consists uniquely in the consequences which those who believe them true may expect from them" (Introd., p. 28). Indeed, he seems at times to go farther than the American and English Pragmatists; when, for instance, in the "Popular Science Monthly" (Oct., 1907), he writes that Pragmatism "is less a philosophy than a method of doing without philosophy".
    In fairness to the Pragmatists it must be recorded that, when they claim to shift the centre of philosophic inquiry from the theoretical to the practical, they explain that by "practical" they do not understand merely the "bread and butter" consequences, but include also among practical consequences such considerations as logical consistency, intellectual satisfaction, and harmony of mental content; and James expressly affirms that by "practical" he means "particular and concrete". Individualism or Nominalism is, therefore, the starting-point of the Pragmatist. Indeed Dr. Schiller assures us that the consequences which are the test of truth must be the consequences to some one, for some purpose. The Intellectualism against which Pragmatism is a revolt recognizes logical consistency among the tests of truth. But while Intellectualism refers the truth to be treated to universal standards, to laws, principles, and to established generalizations, Pragmatism uses a standard which is particular, individual, personal. Besides, realistic Intellectualism, such as was taught by the Scholastics, recognizes an order of real things, independent of the mind, not made by the mind, but given in experience, and uses that as a standard of truth, conformity to it being a test of truth, and lack of conformity being a proof of falseness. Pragmatism regards this realism as naive, as a relic of primitive modes of philosophizing, and is obliged, therefore, to test newly-acquired truth by the standard of truth already in the mind, that is, by personal or individual experience. Again, there underlies the pragmatic account of knowledge a Sensist psychology, latent, perhaps, so far as the consciousness of the Pragmatist is concerned. For the Pragmatist, although he does not affirm that we have no knowledge superior to sense knowledge, leaves no room in his philosophy for knowledge that represents universally and necessarily and, at the same time, validly.
    Knowledge begins with sense-impressions. At this point the Pragmatist falls into his initial error, an error, however, of which the idealistic Intellectualist is also guilty. What we are aware of, say both the Pragmatist and the Idealist, is not a thing, or a quality of an object, but the state of self, the subjective condition, the "sensation of whiteness", the "sensation of sweetness" etc. This error, fatal as it is, need not detain us here, because, as has been said, it is common to Idealists and Pragmatists. It is, in fact, the luck-less Cartesian legacy to all modern systems. Next, we come to percepts, concepts, or ideas. Incidentally, it may be remarked that the Pragmatist, in common with the Sensist, this time, fails to distinguish between a percept, which is particular and contingent, and an idea or concept, which is universal and necessary. Let us take the word concept, and use it as he does, without distinguishing its specific meaning. What is the value of the concept? The Realist answers that it is a representation of reality, that, as in the case of the impression, so here, too, there is a something outside the mind which the concept represents and which is the primary test of the truth of the concept. The Pragmatist rejects the notion that concepts represent reality. However the Pragmatists may differ later on, they are all agreed on this point: James, Schiller, Bergson, Papini, the neo-Critics of science and the Immanentists. What, then, does the concept do? Concepts, we are told, are tools fashioned by the human mind for the manipulation of experience. James, for example, says "The notions of one Time, one Space ... the distinctions between thoughts and things ... the conceptions of classes with subclasses within them ... surely all these were once definite conquests made at historic dates by our ancestors in their attempts to get the chaos of their crude individual experiences into a more shareable and manageable shape. They proved of such sovereign use as Denkmittel that they are now a part of the very structure of our mind" (Meaning of Truth, p. 62).
    A concept, therefore, is true if, when we use it as a tool to manipulate or handle our experience, the results, the practical results, are satisfactory. It is true if it functions well; in other words, if it "works". Schiller expresses the same notion in almost identical words. Concepts, he tells us, are "tools slowly fashioned by the practical intelligence for the mastery of experience" (Studies in Humanism, p. 64). They are not static but dynamic; their work is never done.For each new experience has to be subjected to the process of manipulation, and this process implies the readjustment of all past experience. Hence, as Schiller says, there are truths but there is no truth; or, as James expresses it, truth is not transcendent but ambulatory; that is to say, no truth is made and set aside, or outside experience, for future reference of new truth to it; experience is a stream out of which we can never step; no item of experience can ever be verified definitely and irrevocably; it is verified provisionally now, but must be verified again to-morrow, when I acquire a new experience. Verificability and not verification is the test of experience; and, therefore, the function of the concept, of any concept or of all of them, goes on indefinitely.
    Professor Dewey agrees with James and Schiller in his description of the meaning of concepts. He appears to differ from them merely in the greater emphasis which he lays on the strain or stress which the concept relieves. Our first experience, he says, is not knowledge properly so-called. When to this is added a second experience there is likely to arise in the mind a sense of contradiction, or, at least, a consciousness of the lack of coördination, between the first and the second. Hence arises doubt, or uneasiness, or strain, or some other form of the throes of thinking. We cannot rest until this painful condition is remedied. Therefore we inquire, and continue to inquire until we obtain an answer which satisfies by removing the inconsistency which existed, or by bringing about the adjustment which is required. In this inquiry we use the concept as a "plan of action"; if the plan leads to satisfaction, it is true, if it does not, it is false. For Dewey, as for James and Schiller, each adjustment means a going over and a doing over of all the previous contents of experience, or, at least, of those contents which are in any way relevant or referrable to the newly-acquired item. Here, therefore, we have once more the doctrine that the concept is not static but dynamic, not fixed but fluent; its meaning is not its content but its function. The same doctrine is brought out very forcibly by Bergson in his criticism of the categories of science. The reality which science attempts to interpret is a stream, a continuum, more like a living organism than a mineral substance. Truth in the mind of the scientist is, therefore, a vital stream, a succession of concepts, each of which flows into its successor. To say that a given concept represents things as they are can be true only in the fluent or functional sense. A concept cut out of the continuum of experience at any moment no more represents the reality of science than a cross-section of a tissue represents the specific vital function of that tissue. When we think we cut our concepts out of the continuum: to use our concepts as they were intended to be used, we must keep them in the stream of reality, that is, we must live them.
    If we pass now from the consideration of concepts to that of judgment and reasoning, we find the same contrast between the intellectual Realist and the Pragmatist as in the case of concepts. The intellectual Realist defines judgment as a process of the mind, in which we pronounce the agreement or difference between two things represented by the two concepts of the judgment. The things themselves are the standard. Sometimes, as in self-evident judgments, we do not appeal to experience at the moment of judging, but perceive the agreement or difference after an analysis of the concepts. Sometimes, as in empirical judgments, we turn to experience for the evidence that enables us to judge. Self-evident truths are axiomatic, necessary, and universal, such as "All the radii of a given circle are equal", or "The whole is greater than its part". Truths that are not self-evident may change, if the facts change, as, for instance, "The pen I hold in my hand is six inches long". There are necessary truths, which are a legitimate standard by which to test new truths; and there are truths of fact, which, as long as they remain true, are also legitimate tests of new truth. Thus, systems of truth are built up, and part of the system may be axiomatic truths, which need not be re-made or made over when a new truth is acquired.
    All this is swept aside by the Pragmatist with the same contempt as the naive realism which holds that concepts represent reality. There are no necessary truths, there are no axioms, says Pragmatism, but only postulates. A judgment is true if it functions in such a way as to explain our experiences, and it continues to be true only so long as it does explain our experiences. The apparent self-evidence of axioms, says the Pragmatist, is due, not to the clearness and cogency of the evidence arising from an analysis of concepts, much less is it due to the cogency of reality; it is due to a long-established habit of the race. The reason why I cannot help thinking that two and two are four is the habit of so thinking, a habit begun by our ancestors before they were human and indulged in by all their descendants ever since. All truths are, therefore, empirical: they are all "man-made"; hence Humanism is only another name for Pragmatism. Our judgments being all personal, in this sense, and based on our own experience, subject to the limitations imposed by the habits of the race, it follows that the conclusions which we draw from them when we reason are only hypothetical. They are valid only within our experience, and should not be carried beyond the region of verifiable experience. Pragmatism, as James pointed out, does not look backward to axioms, premises, systems, but forward to consequences, results, fruits. In point of fact, then, we are, if we believe the Pragmatist, obliged to subscribe to the doctrine of John Stuart Mill that all truth is hypothetical, that "can be" and "cannot be" have reference only to our experience, and that, for all we know, there may be in some remote region of space a country where two and two are five, and a thing can be and not be at the same time.
    The attitude of Pragmatism towards metaphysics is somewhat ambiguous. Professor James was quoted above (Sec. II) as saying that Pragmatism is "finally, a theory of reality". Schiller, too, although he considers metaphysics to be "a luxury", and believes that "neither Pragmatism nor Humanism necessitates a metaphysics", yet decides at last that Humanism "implies ultimately a voluntaristic metaphysics". Papini, as is well known, puts forward the "corridor-theory", according to which Pragmatism is a method through which one may pass, or must pass, to enter the various apartments indicated by the signs "Materialism", "Idealism", etc., although he confesses that the Pragmatist "will have an antipathy for all forms of Monism" (Introduzione, p. 29). As a matter of fact, the metaphysics of the Pragmatist is distinctly anti-Monistic. It denies the fundamental unity of reality and, adopting a word which seems to have been first used by Wolff to designate the doctrines of the Atomists and the Monadism of Leibniz, it styles the Pragmatic view of reality Pluralistic. Pluralism, the doctrine, namely, that reality consists of a plurality or multiplicity of real things which cannot be reduced to a basic metaphysical unity, claims to offer the most consistent solution of three most important problems in philosophy. These are:
    ♦ (1) The possibility of real change;
    ♦ (2) the possibility of real variety or distinction among things; and
    ♦ (3) the possibility of freedom (see art. "Pluralism" in Baldwin, "Dict.of Philosophy and Psychology").
    It is true that Monism fails on these points, since
    ♦ (1) it cannot consistently maintain the reality of change;
    ♦ (2) it tends to the Pantheistic view that all distinctions are merely limitations of the one being; and
    ♦ (3) it is inevitably Deterministic, excluding the possibility of true individual freedom (see art. MONISM).
    At the same time, Pluralism goes to the opposite extreme, for:
    ♦ (1) while it explains one term in the problem of change, it eliminates the other term, namely the original causal unity of all things in God, the First Cause;
    ♦ (2) while it accounts for variety, it cannot consistently explain the cosmic harmony and the multitudinous resemblances of things; and
    ♦ (3) while it strives to maintain freedom, it does not distinguish with sufficient care between freedom and causalism.
    James, the chief exponent of Pragmatic Pluralism, contrasts Pluralism and Monism as follows: "Pluralism lets things really exist in the each-form or distributively. Monism thinks that the all-form or collective-unit form is the only form that is rational. The all-form allows of no taking up and dropping of connexions, for in the 'all' the parts are essentially and externally co-implicated. In the each-form, on the contrary, a thing may be connected by intermediate things, with a thing with which it has no immediate or essential connexion.... If the each-form be the eternal form of reality no less than the form of temporal appearance, we still have a coherent world, and not an incarnate incoherence, as is charged by so many absolutists. Our 'multiverse' still makes a 'universe'; for every part, though it may not be in actual or immediate connexion, is nevertheless in some possible or mediate connexion with every other part, however remote" (A Pluralistic Universe, 324). This type of union James calls the "strung-along type", the type of continuity, contiguity, or concatenation, as opposed to the co-implication or integration type of unity advocated by the absolute Monists. If one prefers a Greek name, he says, the unity may be called synechism. Others, however, prefer to call this tychism, or mere chance succession. Peirce, for instance, holds that the impression of novelty which a new occurrence produces is explicable only on the theory of chance, and Bergson seems to be in no better case when he tries to explain what he calls the devenir réel.
    The gist of Pluralism is that "Things are 'with' one another in many ways, but nothing includes everything or dominates over everything" (ibid., p. 321). One of the consequences of this view is that, as Schiller says ("Personal Idealism", p. 60), "the world is what we make it". "Sick souls", and "tender-minded" people may, as James says, be content to take their places in a world already made according to law, divided off into categories by an Absolute Mind, and ready to be represented in the mind of the beholder, just as it is. This is the point of view of the Monist. But, the "strenuous", and the "tough-minded" will not be content to take a ready-made world as they find it; they will make it for themselves, overcoming all difficulties, filling in the gaps, so to speak, and smoothing over the rough places by establishing actual and immediate connexions among the events as they occur in experience. The Monistic view, James confesses, has a majesty of its own and a capacity to yield religious comfort to a most respectable class of minds. "But, from the human (pragmatic Pluralist) point of view, no one can pretend that it does not suffer from the faults of remoteness and abstractness. It is eminently a product of what I have ventured to call the Rationalistic temper.... It is dapper, it is noble in the bad sense, in the sense in which it is noble to be inapt for humble service. In this real world of sweat and dirt, it seems to me that when a view of things is 'noble', that ought to count as a presumption against its truth, and as a philosophic disqualification" (Pragmatism, pp. 71 and 72). Moreover, Monism is a species of spiritual laziness, of moral cowardice. "They [the Monists] mean that we have a right ever and anon to take a moral holiday, to let the world wag its own way, feeling that its issues are in better hands than ours and are none of our business" (ibid., p. 74). Pluralistic strenuosity suffers no such restraints; it recognizes no obstacle that cannot be overcome. The test of its audacity is its treatment of the idea of God. For the Pluralist, "God is not the absolute, but is Himself a part.... His functions can be taken as not wholly dissimilar to those of the other smaller parts — as similar to our functions, consequently, having an environment, being in time, and working out a history just like ourselves, He escapes from the foreignness from all that is human, of the static, timeless, perfect absolute" (A Pluralistic Universe, p. 318). God, then, is finite. We are, indeed, internal parts of God, and not external creations. God is not identical with the universe, but a limited, conditioned, part of it. We have here a new kind of Pantheism, a Pantheism of the "strung-along" type, and if James is content to have his philosophical democratic strenuosity judged by this result, he has very effectively condemned his own case, not only in the estimation of aristocratic Absolutists but also in that of every Christian philosopher.
    It has been pointed out that one of the secrets of the popularity of Pragmatism is the belief that in the warfare between religion and Agnosticism the Pragmatists have, somehow, come to the rescue on the side of religious truth (Pratt, "What is Pragmatism", p. 175). It should be admitted at once that, by temperamental disposition, rather than by force of logic, the Pragmatist is inclined to uphold the vital and social importance of positive religious faith. For him, religion is not a mere attitude of mind, an illumination thrown on facts already ascertained, or a state of feeling which disposes one to place an emotional value on the truths revealed by science. It adds new facts and brings forward new truths which make a difference, and lead to differences, especially in conduct. Whether religions are proved or not, they have approved themselves to the Pragmatist (Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 331). They should be judged by their intent and not merely by their content. James says expressly: "On Pragmatic principles, if the hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word, it is true" (Pragmatism, p. 299). This is open to two objections. In the first place, what functions or "works satisfactorily" is not the existence of God, but belief in the existence of God. In the struggle with Agnosticism and religious scepticism the task of the Christian apologist is not to prove that men believe in God but to justify that belief by proving that God exists; and in this task the assistance which he receives from the Pragmatist is of doubtful value. In the second place, it will be remembered that the Pragmatist makes experience synonymous with reality. The consequences, therefore, which follow from the "hypothesis of God" must fall within actual or possible human experience, not of the inferential or deductive kind, but experience direct and intuitional. But it is clear that if we attach any definite meaning at all to the idea of God, we must mean a Being whose existence is not capable of direct intuitional experience, except in the supernatural order, an order which, it need hardly be said, the Pragmatist does not admit. We do not need the Pragmatist to tell us that belief in God functions for good, that it brings order into our intellectual chaos, that it sustains us by confidence in the rationality of things here, and buoys us up with hope when we look towards the things that are beyond. What we need is assistance in the task of showing that that belief is founded on inferential evidence, and that the "hypothesis of God" may be proved to be a fact.
    In a well-known passage of his work entitled "Pragmatism", Professor James sums up the achievements of the Pragmatists and outlines the future of the school. "The centre of gravity of philosophy must alter its place. The earth of things, long thrown into shadow by the glories of the upper ether, must resume its rights.... It will be an alteration in the 'seat of authority' that reminds one almost of the Protestant Reformation. And as, to papal minds, Protestantism has often seemed a mere mess of anarchy and confusion, such, no doubt, will Pragmatism often seem to ultra-Rationalist minds in philosophy. It would seem so much trash, philosophically. But life wags on, all the same, and compasses its ends, in Protestant (Protestantism) countries. I venture to think that philosophic Protestantism will compass a not dissimilar prosperity" (Pragmatism, p. 123). It is, of course, too soon to judge the accuracy of this prophecy. Meantime, to minds papal, though not ultra-Rationalistic, the parallel here drawn seems quite just, historically and philosophically. Pragmatism is Individualistic. Despite the disclaimers of some of its exponents, it sets up the Protagorean principle, "Man is the measure of all things". For if Pragmatism means anything, it means that human consequences, "consequences to you and me", are the test of the meaning and truth of our concepts, judgments, and reasonings. Pragmatism is Nominalistic. It denies the validity of content of universal concepts, and scornfully rejects the mere possibility of universal, all-including or even many-including, reality. It is, by implication, Sensistic. For in describing the functional value of concepts it restricts that function to immediate or remote sense-experience. It is Idealistic. For, despite its disclaimer of agreement with the intellectual Idealism of the Bradley type, it is guilty of the fundamental error of Idealism when it makes reality to be co-extensive with experience, and describes its doctrine of perception in terms of Cartesian Subjectivism. It is, in a sense, Anarchistic. Discarding Intellectualistic logic, it discards principles, and has no substitute for them except individual experience. Like the Reformers, who misunderstood or misrepresented the theology of the Schoolmen, it has never grasped the true meaning of Scholastic Realism, always confounding it with Intellectual Realism of the Absolutist type. Finally, by bringing all the problems of life within the scope of Pragmatism, which claims to be a system of philosophy, it introduces confusion into the relations between philosophy and theology, and still worse confusion into the relations between philosophy and religion. It consistently appeals to future prosperity as a Pragmatic test of its truth, thus leaving the verdict to time and a future generation. But with the elements of error and disorganization which it has embodied in its method and adopted in its synthesis, it has done much, so the Intellectualist thinks, to prejudge its case.
    JAMES, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, 1902); IDEM, Pragmatism (New York, 1908); IDEM, A Pluralistic Universe (New York, 1909); IDEM, The Meaning of Truth (New York, 1910); DEWEY, Outlines of Ethics (Chicago, 1891); IDEM, Studies in Logical Theory (Chicago, 1903); articles in Journal of Philosophy, etc.; SCHILLER, Personal Idealism (London, 1902); IDEM, Humanism (London, 1903); IDEM, Studies in Humanism (New York, 1907); BERGSON, L'Evolution créatrice (Paris, 1907); IDEM, Matière et mémoire (Paris, 1897); BAWDEN, Principles of Pragmatism (New York, 1910).
    Anti-Pragmatist: PRATT, What is Pragmatism? (New York, 1909); SCHINZ, Anti-Pragmatism (New York, 1909); WALKER, Theories of Knowledge (New York, 1910); FARGES, La crise de la certitude (Paris, 1907); LECLÈRE, Pragmatisme, modernisme, protestantisme (Paris, 1909).
    Articles: Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica (April and Oct., 1910); Revue néo-scolastique (1907). pp. 220 sq. (1909), pp. 451 sq.; Revue des sciences phil. et théol. (1907), pp. 105 Sq., give an up-to-date bibliography of Pragmatism. Of the many articles which appeared on the subject from the Catholic point of view. cf.TURNER, New York Review (1906); SHANAHAN in Catholic University Bulletin (1909-); SAUVAGE, ibid. (1906-); MOORE, Catholic World (Dec., 1909). Articles criticizing Pragmatism have appeared in the Philosophical Review, CREIGETON in vols. XIII, XV, XVII; HIBBEN in vol. XVII; BAKEWELL in vol. XVII; Monist, CARUS in vols. XVIII, XIX, etc. In defence of Pragmatism many articles have appeared in the Journal of Phil. Psychol. etc., and in Mind. A recent article on the French School of Pragmatism is entitled Le pragmatisme de l'école française in Rev. de phil. (April, 1910).
    Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. — New York: Robert Appleton Company. . 1910.

Catholic encyclopedia.

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  • Pragmatism — pragmatism …   Philosophy dictionary

  • pragmatism — PRAGMATÍSM s.n. Curent filozofic idealist care, negând adevărul obiectiv, proclamă drept unic criteriu al adevărului numai ceea ce este util şi avantajos din punct de vedere practic. – fr. pragmatisme. Trimis de deka u, 05.08.2004. Sursa: DLRM … …   Dicționar Român

  • Pragmatism — Prag ma*tism, n. The quality or state of being pragmatic; in literature, the pragmatic, or philosophical, method. [1913 Webster] The narration of this apparently trifling circumstance belongs to the pragmatism of the history. A. Murphy. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pragmatism — I noun expedience, expediency, matter of factness, practical attitude, practicality, practicalness, rationality, realism, realistic attitude, realisticness, reasonableness, sensibility, sensibleness, sound thinking, unidealism, unsentimentality… …   Law dictionary

  • pragmatism — (n.) matter of fact treatment, 1825, from Gk. pragmat , stem of pragma (see PRAGMATIC (Cf. pragmatic)). As a philosophical doctrine, 1898, said to be from 1870s. Probably from Ger. Pragmatismus. As a political theory, from 1951. Related:… …   Etymology dictionary

  • pragmatism — ► NOUN 1) a pragmatic attitude or policy. 2) Philosophy an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. DERIVATIVES pragmatist noun …   English terms dictionary

  • pragmatism — [prag′mə tiz΄əm] n. 1. the quality or condition of being pragmatic ☆ 2. a method or tendency in philosophy, started by C. S. Peirce and William James, which determines the meaning and truth of all concepts by their practical consequences… …   English World dictionary

  • Pragmatism — This article is about the philosophical movement. For other uses, see Pragmatism (disambiguation). Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from… …   Wikipedia

  • pragmatism — pragmatistic, adj. /prag meuh tiz euhm/, n. 1. character or conduct that emphasizes practicality. 2. a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion… …   Universalium

  • pragmatism —    A distinctly American philosophy, pragmatism emerged in Charles Peirce s development and defence of pragmatic efficacy as a criterion for discerning the meaning of words. According to Peirce, meaning can be found in the conceivable effects… …   Christian Philosophy

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