How did pragmatism—the belief that ideas must be judged by their consequences—challenge earlier outlooks on philosophy?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that Pragmatism does challenge previous outlooks on philosophy and morality.  The notion of absolutist notions of the good are directly challenged in Pragmatism.  Thinkers like Rorty who embrace the Pragmatic idea of assessing validity and believing knowledge to be a "constructive conceptual activity" is one that flies in the face of traditional philosophical inquiry.  Pragmatism challenges the Platonic form, Aristotelian notions of the good, or Cartesian reality.  Pragmatism seeks to examine the consequences of knowledge.  In this, there is a direct challenge because there is not an absolutist notion of the good.  This does fly in the face of traditional philosophy because it does not stress an absolute notion of the good.  I think that this becomes one of the reasons why Pragmatism becomes something that is so divergent from traditional philosophical inquiry.  At the same time, I think that the Pragmatist embrace of other forms to understand reality is where another challenge to traditional philosophy is evident.  For Pragmatic thinkers like Rorty, the use of literature to understand aspects of the human condition is where I think there is a challenge to earlier outlooks on philosophy.

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