12 September 2010

Just the Way Things Are

Once a myth is seen to be a myth, it no longer is. That is, if you call a myth a myth it no longer functions as a myth, as a way to make sense of the world that people believe in. The people who believe something is a myth no longer believe in it.

I wonder if a philosophy is similar. Today, pragmatism is characterized by the fact that people don't think of this philosophy as a philosophy. To call yourself pragmatic is, of course, to say that you are not ideological or philosophical.

Once we see pragmatism as every bit as philosophical as the Enlightenment before it, we might begin to find it lessen its hold on our collective consciousness.


Anonymous said...

"Pragmatism" in politics just means giving up in the first quarter so nobody has to get sweaty and dirty.

Lifehiker said...

My fast research indicates that "pragmatism" is clearly a philosophy, although many people may not be aware of this fact. This philosophy says something like "the true meaning of an idea can only be known by the physical outcomes of putting it into action".

I like the general idea of pragmatism, but I'd add that assessing those "physical outcomes" requires deciding which outcomes are more favorable than others - and that's the rub.

For example, some Florida preacher might decide that the practical consequence of burning Quran's would be to start a worldwide war between Christians and Muslims - and that's a favorable outcome, for him. For me, it's a real loser. Yet we may both claim to be "pragmatists". Huh?

Anonymous said...

Neat post, Ron. So, do you read William James? It sounds to me like you don't like the philosophy of pragmatism. Correct?

Ron Davison said...

Jen, Thomas & LH, I'm actually a fan of pragmatism. I think it was a big improvement over the Enlightenment thinking before it. I guess I was simply trying to make the point that pragmatism - like any of the philosophies - can become the way things are rather than the way we see things. Prescription lenses are a wonderful thing - as long as you can take them off when you need to read or sleep or ... Same way with worldviews. (Which I guess, come to think of it, is sort of pragmatic, thinking that pragmatism ought to be adopted only when it works and discarded when it doesn't.) Oh, and Jen? I think William James was a genius.