pragmatism

Pragmatism was the first American contribution to philosophy. The term was coined by Charles Pierce, who defined it as a method whose primary goal was clarification of thought. He thought that beliefs produce habits, and the way to tell apart beliefs is by the habits they produce. William James interpreted one of Pierce’s essays, but Pierce was unhappy with James’ direction, so he changed the name to pragmaticism, which he said was ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers. James saw Pragmatism as a theory of meaning and a theory of truth. His theory of meaning was “There can be no difference anywhere that does not make a difference elsewhere.” His theory of truth said that truth, in our ideas means their power to work.

John Dewey was the longest living of the pragmatists. He was more concerned with social psychology than individual psychology. His philosophical interests were in education, politics, and morality. Dewey was influenced by Charles Darwin, and believed that advanced organisms develop by learning habits. As their environment becomes more complex, they become more intelligent when their habit fails to perform. Dewey believed that the world was not a collection of substances, but rather relationships. He believed that scientific techniques should be applied to the development of values and social reform. He believed in fully developing people as human beings because every person has something to contribute to society.

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