Pragmatism as a school of philosophy arose in (and has remained for the most part confined to) North America in the late 19th century. Pragmatism's most well-known and influential early theorists included Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. Though not as well-known or widely appreciated internationally—or even within American academic philosophy—as many European philosophers, these “classical” American pragmatists continue to inform a diverse and evolving contemporary American pragmatism.

Perhaps most fundamentally, “all [pragmatists] agree in their rejection of foundationalist epistemology.” Pragmatist anti-foundationalism should not, however, be thought to reflect an antirealism or antinaturalism. The early pragmatists, particularly Peirce and Dewey, were intensely interested in theorizing the nature of scientific inquiry—in large part for the sake of the development of the ...

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