Of all the philosophies we discuss here, pragmatism has seemed to many to be the most distinctively American in its outlook. This comment has seldom been meant as praise of pragmatism or of the pragmatic outlook. It is, rather, intended as a derogatory dismissal of pragmatism because of its sharp break with the traditional canons of philosophic respectability, its impatience (at least in its popular form), with precise analysis, its opposition to granting any privileged status in the universe to the human mind, its bold sweeping away of distinctions which had stood for centuries, and its post‐ Darwinian biological emphasis on change, growth, and process as the object of philosophic understanding.
Arthur O. Lovejoy, long professor of philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University and adherent to the school of critical realists (see Chapter 8, section I), wrote one of the most penetrating criticisms or pragmatism. He pointed out that the very term "pragmatism" itself was so uncritically used that it had thirteen different meanings in the literature of the then ( 1908) still young movement. It is true, of course, that some of the differences which Lovejoy found were so slight and trivial as to be of no account save to a determined opponent. It is also true that the pragmatists themselves had pointed to the most important of Lovejoy's distinctions. Nevertheless the fact that such a criticism could be made indicates a fair degree of technical carelessness in the pragmatic writers.
There is a sense in which we can refer to pragmatism as distinctively American without indicating either praise or blame, eulogy or derogation. To suggest this in any detail would require a lengthy discussion of the distinctive elements in American culture and a demonstration that pragmatism is the expression in terms of a phil