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13 Rules Of Pragmatism

Pragmatism is the pursuit of real world results and knowledge. The pragmatist recognizes the complexity and frequent absurdity of things. They also recognize their limited power in changing any of this such that they view life as a process of compromise. The following are a few basic principles that might make you a pragmatist.


Recognizing your limited power and how much you depend on circumstances and other people. Overestimating yourself isn't pragmatic.

Context Matters

Adapt to every situation -- there is no universal approach that always works.

Nuance Matters

Black and white thinking ignores the reality that is almost always somewhere in between. Explore the true depth of things. For example, phasing your words in a slightly different way may completely change the reaction of your audience.

Intent Matters

People are more than what they say or do. Try to read intent. For example, an angry customer who is saying they disagree with your policies who is actually trying to get a little respect.


Avoid universal and inflexible rules that have little application in the real world, that isolate you from others or make you less open.

The Human Experience Matters

For humans, everything is defined in terms of the human experience. From this perspective, elements of this experience such as emotion are just as real as physical reality.

Time is Real

Time is very real. Try to respect its harsh realities -- it runs at a constant pace and can never be reversed. For humans, it is very limited. The future is unknown and can't be predicted with any certainty.

There's More Than One Way To Do It

There is no perfect art, right way or correct decision. Seek perfection if it's useful to do so but know that it probably doesn't exist -- at least for humans.

Essential Complexity

Overthinking and overdoing are common mistakes to avoid. Minimalism sounds like a good idea but is ideological and somewhat irrational. Essential complexity is a more pragmatic approach -- make things complex where they need to be complex, make things simple if they can be simple.

Failure Exists

Pragmatists like getting things done in the real world and aggressively seek paths around complex road blocks. In this pursuit it is helpful to remember that failure does exist. Pushing forward with a failing approach is not pragmatic. This being said, it can be hard to tell when something is failing.

Distrust Certainty

People crave certainty. This is the root of many failures of pragmatism such as ideological thinking. Certainty may exist but should be distrusted -- everything is open to challenge.

Defer Things

Try to defer judgement. Seemingly bad things may turn out to be good and vice versa. Defer decisions until they need to be made. Doing nothing is often your best option.

Don't Become a Monster

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
It's good to adapt to situations but avoid mirroring the negativity of others. For example, kindness may defeat injustice better than more injustice.


The rules above are disputable and non-authoritative but are based on pragmatist traditions such as legal pragmatism.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about pragmatism.
Human Factors
Optimistic Drift
Outrun The Bear
Pragmatic Principles
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The definition of pragmatism with examples.

Outrun The Bear

An overview of outrun the bear - a common story, joke and truism.


The definition of nonconformity with examples.

Positive Expectations

An overview of positive expectations with examples.


An overview of practical thinking and behavior with examples.

Through The Looking Glass

The meaning of the phrase through the looking glass.

Real World

An overview of the real world with examples.

2 + 2 = 5

An overview of two plus two equals five with examples.

Theory Examples

A list of well known theories.

Illogical Success

An overview of illogical success.

Optimistic Drift

An overview of optimistic drift.

Rational Thought

The difference between rational thought and logic.

Independent Thinking

The definition of independent thinking with examples.

Grandfather Paradox

The common solutions to the grandfather paradox.

Reason Opposite

A list of antonyms of reason and rationality.

Key Concepts

An overview of key concepts with examples.


An overview of adulthood with examples.

Common Sense

An overview of common sense with examples.

Fluid Intelligence

An overview of fluid intelligence with examples.

Rational Influence

An overview of rational influence with examples.
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