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Pragmatism

Peter Simonson


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Pragmatism is an international philosophical movement that coalesced in the two decades before World War I, and has reverberated widely since. From the beginning, it featured communication, sometimes as an explicit concept, and more generally by emphasizing interaction, community, and communicable consequences as key components of knowledge, meaning, politics, ethics, aesthetics, and selfhood. In the twentieth century, pragmatism was often characterized as a “distinctly American” philosophy associated with four thinkers – Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. In fact, the movement developed in a trans-Atlantic network of letters and print that included a number of European philosophers. Pragmatism's center of gravity has generally been on American soil, but the family of philosophical positions it names grew up in dialogue with European, and especially German, thought ( Joas 1993 ). Recent historical work has broadened the pragmatist genealogy considerably ( Simonson 2001 ). Pragmatism has long served as a covering term for a variety of related, but distinct positions. James publicly launched “the principle of pragmatism” in an 1898 lecture, but credited Peirce, whom he heard use it during a meeting of the later-famous “Metaphysical Club” ( Menand 2001 ). The principle named a position Peirce had established several years earlier, that the meaning of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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