Pragmatism is an American philosophy from the early 20th century. According to Pragmatism, the truth or meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences rather than anything metaphysical. It can be summarized by the phrase “whatever works, is likely true.” Because reality changes, “whatever works” will also change — thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth. C.S. Peirce on Pragmatism:
C.S. Peirce, who coined the term Pragmatism, saw it as more a technique to help us find solutions than a philosophy or solution to problems.
Peirce used it as a means for developing linguistic and conceptual clarity (and thereby facilitate communication) with intellectual problems. He wrote: “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” William James on Pragmatism:
William James is the most famous philosopher of Pragmatism and he’s the one who made Pragmatism itself famous.
For James, Pragmatism was about value and morality: the purpose of philosophy was to understand what had value to us and why. James argued that ideas and beliefs have value to us only when they work. James wrote on Pragmatism:
“Ideas become true just so far as they help us to get into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience.” John Dewey on Pragmatism:
In a philosophy he called Instrumentalism, John Dewey attempted to combine both Perice’s and James’ philosophies of Pragmatism.
It was thus both about logical concepts as well as ethical analysis. Instrumentalism describes Dewey’s ideas the conditions under which reasoning and inquiry occurs. On the one hand it should be controlled by logical constraints; on the other hand it is directed at producing goods and valued satisfactions.
What is the Role of a Teacher According to Pragmatism?
According to pragmatism teacher is a friend, guide and philosopher to the child. He must educate the child in social environment so that he may attain social efficiency. There must be positive relationship between teacher and taught. His behavior towards children must be sympathetic. His attitude should be democratic and child must have academic freedom. His function is to suggest problems to his pupils and to stimulate them to find for themselves solutions which will work. His emphasis is not on the knowledge as arranged and systematized in the text-books. He wants the children to do one experiment or to have a particular experience. ‘Doing’ is more important than knowing. Like Socrates the Pragmatist teacher wants “his pupils to think and act for them, to do rather than to know, to originate rather than to repeat.” Pragmatism and School
John Dewey maintains that school is a ‘Miniature Society’ here a child gets real experiences to act and behave according to his interests, aptitudes and capacities. Pragmatists regard school as a social institution where the child gains real experiences of actual life which develop in him social sense and a sense of duty towards society and the nation. Group games, working in laboratories and studying in libraries with others are the various activities and experiences which inculcate in children social qualities, social attitudes together with a spirit of mutual help and cooperative activities. In this way, according to Pragmatism the school is not a centre of education alone but it is also a community centre of various activities and experiences. Contribution of Pragmatism in Education
It lays more stress on social and vocational efficiency.
It gives important place to teacher.
It stresses on child-centered education.
New teaching methods are the contribution of pragmatism.
It lays more stress on experience and learning by doing.
Evaluation of Pragmatism
Opposition of Pre-determined Ideas
Pragmatism opposes pre-determined ideals and values. They are man-made and change according to the changes in circumstances, time and place. Opposition of Eternal Truth
Pragmatism does not have any faith in eternal truth. Pragmatists believe that if the result of an activity is satisfactory then it is true otherwise not. No Fix System of Education. Pragmatism provides academic freedom to every institution which leads them nowhere. Pragmatism gives no fixed ideal to education. Such an education is bound to be fruitless. Emphasis on Material and Negation of Spiritual Values
There is no room for spiritual values in pragmatism. It gives more Weight age to material values. Without spiritual values, we cannot achieve happiness, contentment and peace of mind and can go astray. Laxity in Discipline
Pragmatism allows full freedom to the child who is not proper at the school stage and it leads to serious chaos and confusion. Condemnation of Formal Education
Pragmatism advocates that all knowledge should be acquired through direct personal experiences. But knowledge is so vast and the span of life so short, that it is quite impossible to receive all knowledge through direct experiences. Hence acquiring all knowledge needs personal experiences and formal education both. Negation of the Past
Pragmatism gives undue importance to the present. It ignores both past and future. The study of past is important to understand the present. Also there is need to link the present with future. Pragmatism is a Method Only. Pragmatism is not a philosophy of life but only a method of education, growth and development. In the words of William James “There is absolutely nothing new in the pragmatic method. It is just empirical attitude. It has no dogmas and no doctrines save its methods.” Pragmatism believes in Pluralism which is not proper. Merits of Pragmatism Project Method
Project method is a gift of pragmatism. Through this method child attains knowledge by solving his practical problems. He performs the problematic acts in natural conditions. This method lays emphasis on learning through experiences. Importance of Child
Opposing bookish knowledge and formal education, pragmatism lays great stress upon the development of child’s individuality by his own efforts. This makes education child- centre. Emphasis on Activity
The principle of learning by doing is the main contribution of pragmatism. Children are active by nature. It emphasizes on the activity of the child. It prepares the child for future life in a very effective manner. Revolutionized the Process of Education
This philosophy has infused life and zest in contribution. The concepts of ‘New Education’, ‘Progressive Education’ and Activity-centre curriculum which have changed the education outlook are the contribution of pragmatism. Social and Democratic Education
Pragmatism infuses in a child a spirit of freedom, initiative, equality and also a sense of responsibility in relation to rights and duties of a citizen. This develops in the child love for democratic values and social efficiency which bring harmonious adjustment and development of personality. Progressive Attitude
Pragmatism emphasizes the qualities of freedom initiative expression, experiences congenial, environment, purposeful creativity and development of human values for the welfare of whole mankind. In the words of Rusk
“It is merely a stage in the development of a new Idealism that will do full justice to reality, reconcile the practical and spiritual values and result in a culture which is the flower of efficiency.” Pragmatism is an attitude and a way of living which, opposing the old doctrines of Idealism and Naturalism inspires the individual to look ahead and creates new values for an unknown future so that he leads a better, happier and a richer life.