Philosophical pragmatism originated in the United States in the late 19th century. Some historians of philosophy have described the history of American pragmatism in terms of an “eclipse narrative”: dominant in the early 20th century, followed by a mid-century decline and, eventually, a late-century resurgence. Defenders of this narrative often point to the influx of European philosophers around WWII, and the rise of “analytic” philosophy, as the main reasons for pragmatism’s initial eclipse. While the eclipse narrative is common in the philosophical literature, it is not without controversy. Unfortunately, the contemporary debate tends to rely on anecdotal evidence and contested lines of influence between prominent philosophers. My approach in this thesis is uniquely different. I instead approach the history of pragmatism empirically by using modern bibliometric techniques and using a large data set of papers (nearly 90,000 in all) to track the mentions of salient words connected to American pragmatism over several decades. This allows us to determine what American philosophers were actually talking about and when they were talking about it. My method provides a valuable perspective into a contemporary debate in the history of philosophy and, I conclude, is very much in the spirit of pragmatism itself.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (BS)

Department, Program, or Center

Department of Philosophy (CLA)


John Capps

Advisor/Committee Member

Evelyn Brister

Advisor/Committee Member

Bernard Brooks


RIT – Main Campus