American Pragmatism and Communication Research

American Pragmatism and Communication Research

American Pragmatism and Communication Research

American Pragmatism and Communication Research

Synopsis

This monograph examines the past, present, and potential relationship between American pragmatism and communication research. The contributors provide a bridge between communication studies and philosophy, subjects often developed somewhat in isolation from each other. Addressing topics, such as qualitative and quantitative research, ethics, media research, and feminist studies, the chapters in this volume: *discuss how a pragmatic, Darwinian approach to inquiry has guided and might further guide communication research; *advocate a functional view of communication, based on Dewey's mature notion of transaction; *articulate a pragmatist's aesthetics and connect it to Deweyan democracy; *discuss the similarities and differences between Dewey's notion of inquiry and the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer; *apply accommodation theory, linked to symbolic interactionism and more generally to the social behaviorism of George H. Mead and his followers, to media research; *interpret media-effects evidence in light of pragmatist ideas about inquiry; and *argue that pragmatism theorizes about despair and life's sense of the tragic. This book is written to be readily accessible to students and professional academics within and outside the field of communication studies without extensive training in specialized areas of communication study.

Excerpt

This book concerns the past, present, and potential relationships between American pragmatism and communication research. Pragmatism is a pluralistic concept. According to one version, for example, it is a philosophical worldview, of which change is a categorical feature (Pepper, 1942). According to another, it is a method of settling philosophical disputes such as monism versus pluralism by examining their observable consequences (James, 1907), including those that guide research practice. At various points, this volume focuses on various forms. For most of these, its influence across a broad range of scholarly disciplines, including communication, continues to grow (e.g., see chap. 1, this volume).

Unfortunately, many misconceptions and exaggerations about pragmatism remain as well. Here, I attempt to dispel these instead of presenting a formal essentialist definition. The Darwinian roots of pragmatism might discourage the latter. As time passes, pragmatism is apt to evolve.

First, pragmatism is not a Machiavellian philosophy of expedience, which casts principles aside. Instead, it demands that we judge principles by their broad consequences. In this light, no contradiction need exist between morality and expediency. Second, pragmatists do not inherently oppose theory. In fact, for me, social psychologist Kurt Lewin's famous statement that nothing is so practical as a good theory summarizes its orientation quite well. Scientific theories have revolutionized our lives, and philosophical ones condition the ways that human societies operate. Expe-

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