Pragmatic / Pragmatist Theory of Truth

Discipline: Philosophy

American scientist and philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) defined truth as 'the opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate' (see Buchler).

His disciple William James (1842-1910) held that truth was indeed agreement with reality, but that what counted as 'agreeing with reality' was what worked, in the sense of ultimately satisfying us. He even allowed that our emotions could legitimately influence this (also see: emotive theory of truth).

The theory is particularly tempting in the advanced sciences, where any kind of simple correspondence with reality seems to be precluded by the nature of the concepts and methods involved.

J Buchler, ed., The Philosophy of Peirce (1940), 38;
W James, The Meaning of Truth (1909)


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