Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition, founded in the United States during the late nineteenth century, which prioritizes human experience, practical methods, and scientific knowledge for dealing with philosophical issues. Accordingly, pragmatism has lasted far longer than typical isms, and remains robust today because it stays aloof from purely intellectual fads while allying only with current understandings of humanity and nature. Pragmatism was the first form of empiricism to put rationalisms in its shade, and it was the first to incorporate evolutionary ways of thinking into every aspect of philosophizing. Indeed, one might say that each new generation rediscovers and reinvents its own versions of pragmatism by applying the best available practical and scientific methods to philosophical problems of contemporary concern.
Prominent pragmatists are usually skilled practitioners in a scientific field, and quite familiar with methods and research in areas such as mathematical logic, linguistics, cognitive science, social psychology, biology, or physics. Most intellectuals who have done pragmatist-style work have not inhabited philosophy departments; most humanities, social science, life science, and natural science fields have been hospitable to pragmatist-minded scholars turning to speculative work at some point during their careers. Pragmatists have contributed to every core philosophical issue and every topical philosophical problem—from aesthetics to zombies, and from the philosophy of accounting and architecture to the philosophy of zoology. At least one hundred books about pragmatism or pragmatists are published each year worldwide; adding books containing substantial discussion of pragmatist ideas probably triples that total. Any brief survey of recent work in pragmatism must therefore be superficial and selective. This survey emphasizes more dynamic varieties of recent pragmatism, culled from fields where pragmatism is either influential or at least receiving fresh attention. It also contains reliable expositions of pragmatism and explorations of major pragmatists. A comprehensive bibliography for recent works is incorporated in The Continuum Companion to Pragmatism, edited by Sami Pihlström. John Shook’s Pragmatism: An Annotated Bibliography, 1898-1940 covers the classical era of pragmatism. Many more bibliographies and guides to pragmatism’s history and thinkers are available at David Hildebrand and John Shook’s Pragmatism Cybrary http://www.pragmatism.org/. This essay discusses books that provide an overview of pragmatism, those that treat classical and contemporary pragmatism, and those that discuss pragmatism’s interdisciplinary nature, relating it to behavioral, moral, social, political, multicultural, and religious topics.
John R. Shook, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org) is on the University of Buffalo’s EdM Science and the Public faculty; Tibor Solymosi, PhD (email@example.com) is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.