Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Pragmatism is the American philosophy inaugurated by Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) but owing much of its popularity and influence to William James (1842–1910) and John Dewey (1859–1952). The influence of pragmatism declined by the middle of the twentieth century but went on to enjoy a resurgence as a result of the work of Richard Rorty (1931–2007) and others. At the core of pragmatism is the idea that thinking does not aim to copy or represent the world but is itself a form of active engagement with the world. The political implications of this idea are controversial, but many have thought that pragmatist ideas provide a basis for a defense of democratic values. This entry reviews the history and central ideas of pragmatism and then describes its implications for political theory, especially as a justification for democracy. Pragmatism originated in the discussions of the so-called metaphysical club at Harvard University around ...