prag·​ma·​tism | \ ˈprag-mə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce pragmatism (audio) \

Definition of pragmatism

1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism
2 : an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief

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Other Words from pragmatism

pragmatist \ ˈprag-​mə-​tist How to pronounce pragmatist (audio) \ adjective or noun
pragmatistic \ ˌprag-​mə-​ˈti-​stik How to pronounce pragmatistic (audio) \ adjective

Examples of pragmatism in a Sentence

To put it rather more crudely, he is trying to sell his integrationist and reformist agenda using traditionalist legal wrappings. It is, of course, this pragmatism, which sometimes comes across as slippery casuistry, that so annoys his critics. — Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books, 16 Aug. 2007 These are books without slogans, manuals that favor subtlety over simplicity, moderation over bombast, pragmatism over ideology. — Jonathan Tepperman, New York Times Book Review, 16 Oct 2005 … compromise (or better yet, its spirit) symbolizes the necessary pragmatism expected of politics in a pluralist society. — Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings … , 1996 The right person for the job will balance vision with pragmatism.
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Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, a new pragmatism has started to take hold of a lopsided binational relationship that has never been easy but which has faced new challenges under Mr. Trump, some analysts say. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Trump hosts Mexican president as populism meets pragmatism," 8 July 2020 Spencerian pump, the scientific method permeated American popular culture and influenced the major American intellectual movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, notably pragmatism and behaviorism. Jessica Riskin, The New York Review of Books, "Just Use Your Thinking Pump!," 17 June 2020 The pragmatism of the new generation earns them a hearing among policymakers, says Christian Odendahl, an economist at the Centre for European Reform. The Economist, "Hey, big spenders Germany opens the money tap," 11 June 2020 Outside In’ is a love story that prioritizes patience and pragmatism over passion. Mekado Murphy, New York Times, "Lynn Shelton Movie Moments," 16 May 2020 My experience with Fauci suggested that this last statement was perhaps a triumph of pragmatism over accuracy. Michael Specter, The New Yorker, "How Anthony Fauci Became America’s Doctor," 10 Apr. 2020 But is a little pragmatism too much to expect from guys making millions of dollars to coach football? Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Sit back and enjoy as college football coaches are triggered by transfer rule," 5 Feb. 2020 Tencent, meanwhile, has chosen pragmatism over the blind chase for revenue. Washington Post, "China Tech Can’t Spend Its Way Out of This Mess," 20 Sep. 2019 Their absence leaves Biden with far fewer allies in his push for pragmatism over ideological purity., "Seven big questions heading into the third Democratic debate, to be carried on ABC:," 13 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pragmatism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pragmatism

circa 1864, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pragmatism

see pragmatic

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Time Traveler for pragmatism

Time Traveler

The first known use of pragmatism was circa 1864

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Statistics for pragmatism

Last Updated

18 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for pragmatism


How to pronounce pragmatism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pragmatism

formal : a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories

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