Making decisions requires a set of criteria be drafted to assist in the evaluation process. Pragmatism offers an alternative philosophy to underpin designing this system. In Western philosophy, there are two main explanations of how to think about any complex situation. One is to use Plato's ideal forms, which involve comparing the actual situation to some ideal. The other is Aristotle's dialectic, which involves setting up a balanced competitive process and awaiting its ever-changing insights. Mathematics, theory, Abraham religions, landscape gardening and liberal democracy provide examples of the former. Evolution, Schumpeter's capitalism, Marx's socialism and Rorty's pragmatism provide examples of the latter. Whereas Aristotle refers to people, evolution to species, Schumpeter to products, and Marx to class, Rorty's pragmatism refers to the linguistic concepts we have patterned from our past experiences. This paper develops this stream of pragmatism and explains how it can be used to design the system of selection of the criteria used to make and evaluate decisions. Two rapid decision-making situations are reviewed as a demonstration. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.