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Leonhirth, William James and the Uncertain Universe. Craig, Dewey and Gadamer on Practical Reflection: Toward a Methodology for the Practical Disciplines. Horne, Truth or Consequences: Pragmatism, Relativism, and Ethics.

American Pragmatism and Communication Research

Meyer, Pragmatism and Mediated Communication. Perry, Shattering the Mirror: Tate, Intersections of Feminism and Pragmatism: Possibilities for Communication Theory and Research. Jacobson, Habermas, Dewey, and Pragmatism. Shepherd, Pragmatism and Tragedy, Communication and Hope: The Routledge Communication Series covers the breadth of the communication discipline, from interpersonal communication to public relations, offering textbooks, handbooks, and scholarly reference materials. Learn More about VitalSource Bookshelf. An eBook version of this title already exists in your shopping cart. If you would like to replace it with a different purchasing option please remove the current eBook option from your cart.

American Pragmatism and Communication Research. The status of second-order pragmatism as a sufficiently comprehensive vantage point is rendered dubious if it is understood as a product or upshot of a first-order construction. More generally, one might also question whether practical benefit or purpose constitutes a sufficiently comprehensive and neutral reference point for the task at hand.

In fact, as a constructionist, Craig ought to agree.


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But this threatens the metamodel with a potentially debilitating circularity, and the appeal to pragmatism does not provide any respite from this difficulty. Namely, rather than describing and elucidating anything recognisable as a full pragmatist tradition, his proposal amounts to a particular rendering of the communicative gist of pragmatism.

Yet, I believe it is fair to say that such references to a tradition are typically understood as entailing a possibly plural history and possibly conflicting personalities. Not only is the presentation of the traditions included in the metamodel markedly ahistorical; it is also difficult to shake the suspicion that the metatheoretical matrix is a something of a procrustean bed for communication theories. True, the metamodel is construed as a tool for limited purposes, which does not even attempt to capture all the relevant work in the field; but it nonetheless postulates rather strict criteria for traditionhood.

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Thus, the question of whether the proposed demarcation of the quintessence of pragmatist communication theory constitutes a tradition in any pertinent sense at all ought to be raised. Thus, there would seem to be at least some bona fide pragmatists out there in the field. What seems to be on offer is more like a normatively constitutive paradigm. That is, it is less a matter of an actual historical practice and more of a postulation of a demarcating standard.


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In response, I would contend that the particular delineation of pragmatism proposed by Craig, if taken seriously as an intellectual guiding light, may have the adverse effect of denying communication theory the full access to pragmatism as a living philosophical and social-scientific tradition of thought. Ironically, in spite of its professed pluralism, the metamodel conception of pragmatism can be reductive, in effect excluding several vital facets of the broader pragmatist tradition — including its sometimes penetrating intra-tradition disputes.

In conclusion, I will therefore identify three such aspects that I believe to be either obscured or excluded by the metamodel demarcation. Significantly, the original notion of pragmatism emerges precisely from C. However, in contrast to Peirce, who stresses the pursuit of truth, Dewey emphasises the transformative aspect of inquiry; it is not primarily a matter of adjusting individual and subjective habits to accord with reality, but rather a holistic and dynamic process by which entire situations or contexts are transformed. Successful inquiry does not entail individual satisfaction; it implies objective changes.

But for Dewey, methodical inquiry is not ultimately undertaken to obtain objective knowledge, but to re-organize and improve human life.

Pragmatism (William James and Charles Sanders Peirce)

However, this should not lead us to overlook the substantial similarities between these pragmatist outlooks; at heart, the Peircean and Deweyan perspectives agree in replacing the ancient philosophical concern with knowledge with a dynamic conception of inquiry. Rortyan neopragmatists tend to treat the focus on inquiry as a suspect remnant of scientism, without due consideration for the deep epistemological significance of the concept for the classical pragmatists. And although I cannot develop this argument at all here, there are certain reasons to maintain that the apparent divergence between Peirce and Dewey is not as wide as it may at first seem.

Both of their perspectives can in the end be interpreted as laboratory approaches focused on the development of individual and social habits of action. From a Peircean-Deweyan point of view, this entails an undeservedly negative assessment of habit.

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Without real habits — that is, habits of action that truly work, as many of our ways of doing things seem to do — inquiry is not even possible. Instead of treating habitualisation as an obstacle to inquiry, it is more appropriate to view optimally functional habits as enablers of inquiry.

Or, to put the matter differently, the pragmatist affirms the real pragmatic efficacy of habits including theoretical concepts — their consequentiality — and is therefore normatively faced with the constant challenge of producing the habits most conducive to inquiry and amelioration. No doubt, the same point could be made with reference to many of the principal approaches he identifies, but the adverse consequences of the severance may be most tangible in the case of semiotics and pragmatism.

More than that, from a Peircean point of view, pragmatism cannot be straightforwardly removed from its semiotic context without losing something vital. By identifying the semiotic and the pragmatistic as independent traditions in communication theory, Craig seems to leave no place for the Peircean point of view, where pragmatism is primarily a theory of the clarification of meaning, closely aligned to a permeating semiotic point of view as well as a variant of common-sensist philosophy.

Mead — such philosophical issues should not be excluded from the purview of communication theory on the basis of disciplinary postulation. What his account will inevitably miss and exclude is the Peircean conception of a profound interconnection between the semiotic and the pragmatistic; and thereby the metamodel arguably fails to cover the full range of communication-theoretical options in the way promised.

Whether due to logical or psychological constraints, human inquirers — even on a purported metalevel — tend to look for coherent explanations and interpretations, although perfect consistency is always beyond mortal reach.

Consequently, Craig must acknowledge that he views the bigger picture — the meta-metalevel — from some perspective, be it constructionist or pragmatist. As noted, he is open about his biases; but he does not appropriately recognise that this renders his postulation of incommensurable traditions incongruous, as he does not seem to find it all that difficult to explicate them within one framework of communication. The justification for this move is that it should on the one hand elucidate the main alternatives in the field and on the other hand promote discussion between otherwise fenced-in perspectives.

But I feel that there is little to be gained in defining the pragmatist tradition along the lines drafted by Craig. If one accepts his incommensurabilist premise, but rejects the constitutive and instrumentalistic principles underlying the metamodel on first-order grounds, then meaningful exchange and cross-paradigm fertilisation ends up being both theoretically and practically impossible.

That is, a non-pragmatist reading of the model on the metalevel would produce clearly defined but ultimately isolated pockets of theory on the ground.


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  6. Inquiry would be blocked. But of course the reality of the field is more complex, confusing, and fecund than this schematic model would suggest. The way forward, I believe, is not the elevation of the researcher to a constitutive-pragmatist metalevel, but rather the investigation of the ways in which pragmatist philosophy may provide better or worse platforms for explicating communicative phenomena and developing communicative habits than its alternatives.

    Perspectives on Theory , Thousand Oaks, Sage. The broader issue of the proper nature and limits of communication theory is beyond the scope of this brief review. But as an academic subject, communication inquiry is usually classified as a social science. Schiller by both Peirceans and anti-Peircean pragmatists.

    Pragmatism as a Communication-Theoretical Tradition

    Peirce himself was somewhat ambivalent regarding attempts to define pragmatism, in spite of his numerous attempts to characterise pragmatism as a philosophical principle. In a letter to Schiller he asserted: However, I do not wish to define it at present. Author retains copyright and grants the European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.

    European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy. Contents - Previous document - Next document. Pragmatism and the Social Sciences: A Century of Influences and Interactions, vol. Outline The Constitutive Logic of the Metamodel.