Pragmatism and Analytic Philosophy

With the many debated philosophical views early in history, pragmatism and analytic philosophy were the first to propose that truth is relative to a time, place, and purpose, and is thus ever changing in light of new data. Pierce, the rightful creator of pragmatism, viewed pragmatism as a rule for determining the meaning of ideas. To determine either the meaning or truth of an idea, its usefulness and workability must be evaluated to establish whether the idea or thought helps us obtain satisfactory relations with our environment. This philosophical movement is uniquely American due to its focus on a propositions meaning and truth relative to its intended use through analyzing how the propositions sentence is constructed in our language. Unique to this movement as well was the development of behaviorism, identity theory, and functionalism; these developments led to the fact that beliefs and other mental phenomena are likewise to be explained in terms of their unique functions—the specific roles they play relative to sensory data and other mental states and to behavioral output. Considering that these developments have led analytic philosophers to develop a factual philosophy used by many psychologists today, I would have to say this is a unique contribution from American pragmatism and analytical philosophy as well; these were the first philosophies to be treated as a history of ideas instead of the history of the philosophies of individuals.

The main idea that separates American pragmatism and analytic philosophy from European thinking of that same time period was the idea that the purpose of thought is to help us obtain satisfactory relations with our surroundings; by contrast, European philosophies focused on the anguish and despair that humans have to inevitably face. Also, Europeans focused on the attitudes and interactions of the individual and society, while Americans focused on thoughts and developing concepts that explain how we use thoughts to solve practical problems; I find the European philosophies to be more dismal and depressing in explaining human behavior, while the American philosophies during that time are more practical and directive.


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