General Characteristics of Pragmatism ( Human inquiry (i.e., what we do…
General Characteristics of Pragmatism
06/11/17 17:15 - 17:35
The project of pragmatism has been to find a middle ground between philosophical dogmatisms and skepticism and to find a workable solution (sometimes including outright rejection) to many longstanding philosophical dualisms about which agreement has not been historically forthcoming.
Knowledge is viewed as being both constructed and based on the reality of the world we experience and live in.
Rejects traditional dualisms (e.g., rationalism vs. empiricism, realism vs. antirealism, free will vs. determinism, Platonic ap- pearance vs. reality, facts vs. values, subjectivism vs. objec- tivism) and generally prefers more moderate and commonsense versions of philosophical dualisms based on how well they work in solving problems.
Places high regard for the reality of and influence of the inner world of human experience in action.
Recognizes the existence and importance of the natural or physical world as well as the emergent social and psychological world that includes language, culture, human institutions, and subjective thoughts.
Justification comes in the form of what Dewey called “warranted assertability".
Replaces the historically popular epistemic distinction between subject and external object with the naturalistic and process- oriented organism-environment transaction.
Theories are viewed instrumentally (they become true and they are true to different degrees based on how well they cur- rently work; workability is judged especially on the criteria of predictability and applicability).
According to Peirce,“reasoning should not form a chain which is no stronger than its weakest link, but a cable whose fibers may be ever so slender, provided they are sufficiently numerous and intimately connected” (1868, in Menand, 1997, pp. 5–6).
Endorses fallibilism (current beliefs and research conclusions are rarely, if ever, viewed as perfect, certain, or absolute).
Human inquiry (i.e., what we do in our day-to-day lives as we interact with our environments) is viewed as being analogous to experimental and scientific inquiry. We all try out things to see what works, what solves problems, and what helps us to survive. We obtain warranted evidence that provides us with answers that are ultimately tentative (i.e., inquiry provides the best answers we can currently muster), but, in the long run, use of this “scientific” or evolutionary or practical epistemology moves us toward larger Truths.
Instrumental truths are a matter of degree (i.e., some estimates are more true than others). Instrumental truth is not “stagnant,” and, therefore, James (1995: 1907) states that we must “be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.”
Views current truth, meaning, and knowledge as tentative and as changing over time. What we obtain on a daily basis in research should be viewed as provisional truths.
Endorses a strong and practical empiricism as the path to de- termine what works.
Capital “T” Truth (i.e.,absoluteTruth) is what will be the “final opinion” perhaps at the end of history. Lowercase “t” truths (i.e., the instrumental and provisional truths that we obtain and live by in the meantime) are given through experience and experimenting.
Endorses practical theory (theory that informs effective practice; praxis).
Generally rejects reductionism (e.g.,reducing culture, thoughts, and beliefs to nothing more than neurobiological processes).
Prefers action to philosophizing (pragmatism is, in a sense, an anti-philosophy).
Organisms are constantly adapting to new situations and en- vironments. Our thinking follows a dynamic homeostatic process of belief, doubt, inquiry, modified belief, new doubt, new inquiry, . . . , in an infinite loop, where the person or re- searcher (and research community) constantly tries to improve upon past understandings in a way that fits and works in the world in which he or she operates. The present is always a new starting point.
Takes an explicitly value-oriented approach to research that is derived from cultural values; specifically endorses shared values such as democracy, freedom, equality, and progress.
Offers the “pragmatic method” for solving traditional philosophical dualisms as well as for making methodological choices.
Endorses eclecticism and pluralism (e.g., different, even con- flicting, theories and perspectives can be useful; observation, experience, and experiments are all useful ways to gain an un- derstanding of people and the world)