Pragmatism was driven primarily by an attempt to make Philosophy a more “scientific” enterprise especially in light of the problem of Skepticism which says that knowledge of objective truth is impossible (or, at least, very unlikely).
The rapid advance of the natural sciences in the 18th and 19th Centuries made many philosophers feel left behind. There was a concern that Philosophy was too rooted in metaphysical and epistemological paradigms that were outdated. American intellectuals in particular were interested in rethinking the old ideas of Western Philosophy and adapting them to a radically empirical methodology which emphasized practicality over infallible truth. The pragmatists sought to redefine philosophical discourse in the language of the natural sciences to bring it into line with what they saw as the progress of Western Civilization since the Enlightenment.
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Read a more detailed account of Pragmatism from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.