UWM Philosophy Professor Reconsiders Pragmatism

Oct 31, 2013

Philosophy is a required course in many colleges and universities, but few of us ever get beyond that level.

A new book looks at the history of the philosophy of pragmatism.
Credit Wiley-Blackwell

But on a more basic level, we could say it's part of our everyday life, with so much tied to our 'philosophical' views - politics, managing our finances, how we raise our kids, politics, and criminal justice. 

UWM Philosophy professor Robert Schwartz take a look a back at a few American philosophers of old, and asks us to re-examine their ideas.  

They were called the pragmatists: John Dewey, William James, and Charles Sanders Peirce. And many considered their thought process as "the only true American philosophy."

"The basic idea is that one should make sure that your inquiries are grounded, your experiments are grounded in observation, grounded in reality," he says.

In his book "Rethinking Pragmatism: From William James to Contemporary Philosophy," he challenges readers to re-examine these age-old ideas and gain some current understanding.

"With many people the common usage is the pragmatists' view is 'the ends justify the means,' and that was a position they just excoriated," he says.

But really Schwartz says pragmatism is a methodology, a way of approaching life's questions, from social policy to economics to philosophy.

Schwartz is the author of the book, Rethinking Pragmatism: From William James to Contemporary Philosophy, published by Wiley-Blackwell.