The second great pragmatist was William James, who seized upon Peirce’s pragmatic principle to understand the religious life. James argued that it could be entirely reasonable to live a religious life even though one did not know with any certainty about the truth of religion. If the choice is real, important and unavoidable, one’s full decision and commitment to live a fully and deeply religious life can be as rational, coherent and defensible as any decision we make in the presence of uncertainty.
Its originator, the brilliant Charles Peirce, was a rebellious thinker who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, was gripped by both the natural sciences and the need to ponder great philosophical questions.
The pragmatists said that philosophy in the past had made the mistake of looking for ultimates, absolutes, eternal essences, substances, fixed principles, and metaphysical "block systems." The pragmatists emphasized empirical science and the changing world and its problems, and nature as the reality beyond which we cannot go. For John Dewey, experience is central...experience is the result of the interaction of the organism with its environment.
Charles S. Peirce, sometimes called the founder of pragmatism, was influenced by Kant and Hegel. Peirce considered that problems, including those of metaphysics, could be solved if one gave careful attention to the practical consequences of adherence to various ideas. Pragmatism is sometimes said to have originated in 1878, when Peirce published the article "How To Make Our Ideas Clear."
Pragmatism has traditionally had a reputation as a relativistic position in epistemology, and this has aroused suspicion among other philosophers...It turns out that the reason why this philosophy does not begin from questions of knowledge - but in no way belittles their importance, either - is not immanently epistemological. It rather is ontological.
Peirce's motivations are evident when he says that ‘the ideas of truth and falsehood, in their full development, appertain exclusively to the scientific (in a later revision he altered this to ‘experiential’) method of settling opinion’. This reflects a law which is evident from scientific experience: when different people use different methods to identify, for example, the velocity of light, we find that all tend to arrive at the same result
James's dilemma is a familiar one: it is a form of the question of how we can reconcile the claims of science, on the one hand, with those of religion and morality on the other. James introduces it by observing that the history of philosophy is 'to a great extent of a certain clash of human temperaments', between the 'tough minded' and the 'tender minded'. The tough minded have an empiricist commitment to experience and going by 'the facts', while the tender-minded have more of a taste for a priori principles which appeal to the mind. The tender minded tend to be idealistic, optimistic, and religious, while the tough minded are normally materialist, pessimistic and irreligious.
For pragmatists, only those things that are experienced or observed are real. In this late 19th century American philosophy, the focus is on the reality of experience. Unlike the Realists and Rationalists, Pragmatists believe that reality is constantly changing and that we learn best through applying our experiences and thoughts to problems, as they arise. The universe is dynamic and evolving, a "becoming" view of the world. There is no absolute and unchanging truth, but rather, truth is what works. Pragmatism is derived from the teaching of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who believed that thought must produce action, rather than linger in the mind and lead to indecisiveness
Pragmatism may be presented as a way of clarifying (and in some cases dissolving) intractable metaphysical and epistemological disputes. According to the down-to-earth pragmatist, bickering metaphysicians should get in the habit of posing the following question: “What concrete practical difference would it make if my theory were true and its rival(s) false?” Where there is no such difference, there is no genuine (that is, non-verbal) disagreement, and hence no genuine problem.
Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected. Pragmatism originated in the United States during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century.