Charles Pierce & William James

COMMON NOTION: a ‘pragmatist’ is a person who is focused on results, someone who gets things done and finds solutions to problems despite ideological and political differences. This is not entirely in accordance with the philosophical interpretation of pragmatism.

PHILOSOPHICAL NOTION: Pragmatism concerns the understanding of the meanings of phenomena in terms of their consequences (…) The pragmatist philosophical view of thinking is to help define the uncertainties that occur in experience (…) Thinking, i.e. critical anticipation of and reflection on the relation between defining and solving a problem, is part of pragmatism in the philosophical definition of the term (…) In the philosophical interpretation of pragmatism, cognition is closely related to action and is not to be understood by means of abstract and general theories. The understanding of learning as innovative is grounded in this open-ended and creative relation between
thinking and action as both anticipatory and reflective (…) The philosophical pragmatism, however, provides a way to understand learning as an experimental responsiveness to change and as such it facilitates creative action and thinking.

THE PRAGMATIC METHOD. The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. Is the world one or many?—fated or free?—material or spiritual?—here are notions either of which may or may not hold good of the world; and disputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle (…) The term was first introduced into philosophy by Mr. Charles Peirce in 1878 (James, 1907)



Elkjaer, B., 2009. Pragmatism: A learning theory for the future. In Contemporary Theories of Learning Learning theorists … in their own words, Knud Illeris (ed.), London & New York: Routledge, pp. 74-89

James, W., 2013 (1907). Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. The Project Gutenberg EBook of Pragmatism, retrieved here

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