William James often associated truth with usefulness (utility), but overall his conception of truth was not pure in this regard. It shares some elements of the correspondence and coherence theory. For Dewey and Pierce this is even more the case.

So was there a philosopher who did propose and defend a “pure” pragmatic conception of truth? One which defines truth by utility only?

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    Depends on what you mean by "pure". If one takes utility in the long run and all things considered, as the classical pragmatists did, some elements of correspondence and coherence inevitably follow anyway. If one does not, as in the more simplistic conceptions occasionally advanced by applied practitioners (like Bridgman, Milton Friedman or Hawking) it is trivial to produce discrediting examples. And it is not that they defended it under scrutiny, the subtleties just did not come up in their limited applications. Even James's version was excoriated as too simplistic.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 0:41
  • @Conifold by “pure” I mean that you start out with a definition of truth that is based solely on utility. Did James do that? Or weren’t the elements of correspondence / coherence present already from the start (and not deduced)?
    – viuser
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 6:47
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    American pragmatists all did it, see Stanford's chapter on Instrumentalism. But they ask for sustained utility when applied in whatever combinations for whatever purposes (including purely epistemic ones), so it better be coherent. And Peirce, say, also asks for assent by ideal reasoners with unlimited resources at the end of indefinitely long ideal inquiry (albeit concerned with "practical bearings"), that no conceivable practice would shake. So it hardly differs from Aquinian "correspodence" assured by God himself.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 7:07
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    It makes little sense to ask for "pure" pragmatist theory of truth. Pragmatism is not so uch about the definition of truth but about what counts as a criteria for asserting that a statement/theory is true. Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 9:14
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA The linked text directly contradicts your claim.
    – viuser
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


I do not know what you mean by "pure". Do you mean pragmatic truth relied upon to the exclusion of other types of philosophical truth? Robert Brandom is considered a neopragmatist. So that might be a starting point.

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