Differences between Pragmatism and Idealism

Pragmatism differs from idealism in proposing that the value of an ideology or proposition is determined by its effectiveness and practicality, while idealism is concerned primarily with the ideal behind the proposition.

The terms idealism and pragmatism can, however, have several different meanings, but in most interpretations the pragmatic point of view focuses on existence as it is and not as it should be. Pragmatists see the validity of a theory based on its results or consequences, rather than its underlying ideals and antecedents.

The pragmatic point of view holds that investigations into the nature and existence of things must begin “in media res”, which in Latin means “in the middle of things.” The point at which questioning begins depends on historically determined and conditioned prejudices. According to pragmatism, philosophy does not precede scientific analysis, but is continuous with it instead. Philosophy should not rule from above, but rather take the explicit from accepted standards of current best practice.

As a descriptive philosophical term, “pragmatism” first appeared in the press, in the late 19th century, when William James used it in a speech given at the University of California. John Dewey was a more recent proponent of pragmatism whose writings had a significant influence on American intellectual thought for much of the 20th century.

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Pramatism x Idealism

Pragmatism and idealism are two opposing philosophical approaches. Pragmatism is a philosophical approach that assesses theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. Idealism, on the other hand, refers to any philosophy that claims that reality is mentally constructed or immaterial. The fundamental difference between pragmatism and idealism is that pragmatism considers practical consequences of an action as its main component, while idealism considers mental entities or thoughts and ideas as its main component.

What is Pragmatism?

Pragmatism is a philosophical approach that assesses theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. This philosophical tradition was developed in the United States in the late 19th century. Charles Sanders Peirce is considered the founder of this tradition. William James, George Hubert Mead and John Dewey are also considered to be their main defenders. For pragmatists, thinking is a guide to prediction, problem solving and action. The practical consequences of an action or thought are the main components of pragmatism.

According to pragmatists, more philosophical themes, such as the nature of knowledge, concepts, science, beliefs and language can be seen in terms of their practical applications. Pragmatism emphasizes this practical application of thoughts, acting on them to test them in experiments.

What is idealism?

Idealism is a term that refers to many philosophical positions, such as subjective idealism, objective idealism, absolute idealism, and transcendental idealism. Idealism can basically refer to any philosophy that believes that fundamental reality is made up of ideas or thoughts. So, according to idealists, they are mental entities, not physical entities that are real things. Idealism is monism, but it is in direct contrast to other beliefs, such as materialism, physicalism and realism.

In general discourse, idealism can also refer to a person’s high ideals; generally considered to be impractical or unrealizable.

What is the difference between pragmatism and idealism?


  • Pragmatism is a philosophical doctrine that assesses theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.
  • Idealism refers to any philosophy that states that reality, or reality, as we may know it, is mentally constructed or immaterial.

Main Components:

  • Pragmatism considers practical consequences of an action as its main component.
  • Idealism considers mental entities or thoughts and ideas as its main component.


  • Pragmatism considers thought as a guide for prediction, problem solving and action.
  • Idealism considers thoughts and ideas as the only real entities.


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