The Pragmatic Origins of Symbolic Interactionism and the Crisis of Classical Science

Document Type



This paper examines the continuities between pragmatist philosophy and interactionist sociology. Its central thesis is that twentieth-century pragmatism and symbolic interactionism represented a revolt against classical rationalism and marked an early attempt at assimilating the nonclassical ideas of modern science. The relativist premises of pragmatist and interactionist thinkers are evident in their assumptions that the active self is central to the understanding of the world's meaningful structure, that any statement of fact must indicate the practical context within which the fact is established, that indeterminacy is endemic to objective reality, and that pattern and structure are best understood as events or emergent processes. An argument is made that concerted efforts are needed to establish symbolic interactionism as the sociological counterpart of nonclassical, relativist science.


Inquiry (Theory of knowledge); Interaction (Philosophy); Pragmatism; Symbolic interactionism


Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Theory, Knowledge and Science


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