[in-struh-men-tl-iz-uh m]

noun Philosophy.

the variety of pragmatism developed by John Dewey, maintaining that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem and that the value of ideas is determined by their function in human experience.

Origin of instrumentalism

First recorded in 1905–10; instrumental + -ism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for instrumentalism

Historical Examples of instrumentalism

  • For instrumentalism, however, the alleged dilemma simply does not exist.

  • On the contrary, instrumentalism is the only theory to which deduction is not a mystery.

  • In the logic of Instrumentalism, truth has been identified with usefulness and the good with the satisfactory.

    Creative Intelligence

    John Dewey, Addison W. Moore, Harold Chapman Brown, George H. Mead, Boyd H. Bode, Henry Waldgrave, Stuart James, Hayden Tufts, Horace M. Kallen

  • But it differs widely from the instrumentalism of the Neo-Hegelian school both in its form and derivation.

    John Dewey's logical theory

    Delton Thomas Howard

  • Dewey's instrumentalism rests upon a very special psychological interpretation, which puts action first and thought second.

    John Dewey's logical theory

    Delton Thomas Howard

British Dictionary definitions for instrumentalism



a system of pragmatic philosophy holding that ideas are instruments, that they should guide our actions and can change the world, and that their value consists not in their truth but in their success
an antirealist philosophy of science that holds that theories are not true or false but are merely tools for deriving predictions from observational data
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012