The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘What Pragmatism Is’


After awaiting in vain, for a good many years, some particularly opportune conjuncture of circumstances that might serve to recommend his notions of the ethics of terminology, the writer has now, at last, dragged them in over head and shoulders, on an occasion when he has no specific proposal to offer nor any feeling but satisfaction at the course usage has run without any canons or resolutions of a congress. His word “pragmatism” has gained general recognition in a generalized sense that seems to argue power of growth and vitality. The famed psychologist, James, first took it up, seeing that his “radical empiricism” substantially answered to the writer’s definition of pragmatism, albeit with a certain difference in the point of view. Next, the admirably clear and brilliant thinker, Mr. Ferdinand C.S. Schiller, casting about for a more attractive name for the “anthropomorphism” of his Riddle of the Sphinx, lit, in that most remarkable paper of his on Axioms as Postulates, upon the same designation “pragmatism,” which in its original sense was in generic agreement with his own doctrine, for which he has since found the more appropriate specification “humanism,” while he still retains “pragmatism” in a somewhat wider sense. So far all went happily. But at present, the word begins to be met with occasionally in the literary journals, where it gets abused in the merciless way that words have to expect when they fall into literary clutches. Sometimes the manners of the British have effloresced in scolding at the word as ill-chosen - ill-chosen, that is, to express some meaning that it was rather designed to exclude. So then, the writer, finding his bantling “pragmatism” so promoted, feels that it is time to kiss his child good-by and relinquish it to its higher destiny; while to serve the precise purpose of expressing the original definition, he begs to announce the birth of the word “pragmaticism,” which is ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.

CP 5.414
‘Pragmaticism’ (pub. 21.04.13-18:30). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Apr 21, 2013, 18:30 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Sep 17, 2017, 10:28 by Mats Bergman