Pragmatic Analysis – Week 4
Pragmatism is the branch of philosophy that assesses truth in terms of
effect, outcome and practicality.
Pragmatists claim that truth depends on the degree to which a concept or
theory provides us with useful results in the process of solving problems.
Metaphysical truths by their nature cannot actually be fully known.
Truth is transcendent, constant, a universal one
Truth is “out there” waiting to be discovered
Truth becomes a sort of label, a quality that a thing can possess or lack, and it
is always dependent on background factors.
Truth is local, contingent, contextual, historical and therefore we need to:
problem solve, assess outcomes/effects, measure and produce tangible
results/benefits and examine and rationalize consequences
Everyday practical affairs: what works, what doesn’t work
William James (1842-1910)
Focus on the individual; pragmatism as a means of personal growth to
achieve one’s goals and solve individual problems
Radical empiricism – "the only things that shall be debatable among
philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from experience“;
experience includes both particulars and relations between those particulars,
and that therefore both deserve a place in our explanations.
John Dewey (1859-1952)
Focus on society and larger social issues. As an educational reformer, he
argued against rote memorization and for the development of problem-
solving skills in order to make individuals more productive and responsible
Pragmatic Meliorism – meliorism is belief that the world can be made better,
not through metaphysics, but through dedication to developing material,
real-world solutions to improve human life in the world.
Richard Rorty (1931-2007)
Important figure in overcoming on of the key criticisms against Pragmatism:
Relativism – the belief that diverse approaches and theories related to a
given subject are all equally correct.
Rorty drew an important line between relativism in the metaphysical sense
and possibilities as they apply to the real world.
Pragmatists are relativistic when it comes to metaphysical theories in the
sense that all searches for essential truth are equally valid because none of
them makes any real difference. When it comes to lived experiences, pragmatists entertain options only to the
point that they can be discussed, tested and selected in the process of
A Pragmatic Approach to the Government Regulation of Media:
Consequences refer to the clear effects of a given regulation on society at
large. Consequences must be beneficial to society if we are to deem the
regulation a good one.
Contingencies are the socio-cultural/historical factors at play during the
creation of a regulation. The social norms of any given moment, as well as
predominant mediums or types of technology present all form a group of
It is important to understand that when factors are both a regular and
contingent, they are regular in their presence but contingent upon one
another at any given time.
The first set of regular contingencies is the tension between free speech and
The second set of regular contingencies is the interplay between government
regulation and media self-regulation
Issues in the Regulation of American Media:
Regulations designed to prevent media monopolies have focused historically
on limiting the amount of a given market that any one company can own.
Regulations in this tradition often work toward the practical goal of ensuring
that healthy competition remains a vital part of the American media
Historical example of anti-monopoly regulation is the Financial Interest and
Syndication Rules (so ABC, NBC and CBS didn’t have too much power).
Syndication refers to the process of producing and selling programming.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 shifted the regulations on ownership
patterns in broadcast, telephone and cable industries. An owner is restricted