Discipline: Philosophy

Theory, originally developed by American scientist and philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), that the meanings of concepts and propositions lay in their possible effects on our experiences and practices. He also originated the pragmatic theory of truth.

Peirce was thinking mainly of scientific or intellectual concepts, and called his own view pragmaticism when his follower William James (1842-1910) broadened the theory to cover the senses and emotions.

Another notable pragmatist was the American educationalist John Dewey (1859-1952). More generally, pragmatist features can be found in many philosophers otherwise not closely related, such as Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903-1930), and many writers associated with conventionalism, instrumentalism, operationalism and positivism.

A Rorty, ed.. Pragmatic Philosophy (1966)


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