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 pragmatism (audio) \ adjective or noun
pragmatistic \ ˌprag-​mə-​ˈti-​stik How to pronounce pragmatism (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 However, Sweden seems to have settled on its final strategy primarily through a mix of unorthodox scientific conclusions, pragmatism, and folkvett, a particularly Swedish notion of common sense. Mallory Pickett, The New Yorker, "Sweden’s Pandemic Experiment," 6 Apr. 2021 Perhaps that’s why the collective’s members reject pragmatism, which has marooned, displaced, and confined so many Black Americans in the service of everyone’s needs but their own. Justin Davidson, Curbed, "MoMA’s First Show on Race and Architecture Chooses Lofty Ideas Over Pragmatism," 2 Apr. 2021 The genesis of the piece for me really came from so many of the Conservative Party history books associating its winning record with qualities like unity, competence, pragmatism. The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, "The Cousinhood that Still Rules Britain," 17 Mar. 2021 Both trends are born more of political pragmatism than dogma. New York Times, "In Israeli Election, a Chance for Arabs to Gain Influence, or Lose It," 21 Feb. 2021 This resolution was a matter of political pragmatism rather than hard science. New York Times, "A Secret War. Decades of Suffering. Will the U.S. Ever Make Good in Laos?," 16 Mar. 2021 Springtime is the right time to daydream, but with the Sun moving into heedless Aries by the end of the week, a dash of pragmatism can keep a good trip from going off the rails. Gala Mukomolova,, "Your Horoscope This Week: March 14, 2021," 14 Mar. 2021 Both trends are born more of political pragmatism than dogma. Adam Rasgon,, "In Israeli election, a chance for Arabs to gain influence — or lose it," 22 Feb. 2021 His great strength as a critic was his pragmatism, his commitment to assess the performance in front of him on its own terms while casting a skeptical eye at gimmickry. New York Times, "Peter G. Davis, Music Critic of Wide Knowledge and Wit, Dies at 84," 19 Feb. 2021

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

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for pragmatism



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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