Why Pragmatism Works for Me

15 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2005


In this Article the author explores the growth of her interest in pragmatic legal theory. Pragmatism is often portrayed as a kind of black hole in the philosophical universe. It is defined not by the weight of its theories but instead by the counterweight of its anti-theoretical teachings. Whatever the reason, pragmatism's lack of adherents has resulted in a number of misconceptions about its limitations. Among them are: (1) Pragmatism is banal in the sense that it only tells us to continue with our common sense practices (2) Pragmatism is relativistic in that it reduces everything to viewpoint and perspective and (3) Pragmatism undermines our idealism and does not help us to lead morally better lives. One reason why these misunderstandings develop is that there are many different forms of pragmatism. But, the author argues, the deeper reason is that pragmatism - like the theories it endorses - must be read in the context of the practices that generate it and the goals it serves. Therefore, rather than pick apart the arguments and counterarguments among the various positions, the author chooses to share her experience with pragmatism and the meaning it has acquired in her life.

Keywords: Pragmatic legal theory, pragmatism

Suggested Citation

Wells, Catharine P., Why Pragmatism Works for Me. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=753569

Catharine P. Wells (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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