On Pragmatism

I’d never considered pragmatism to be anything much more than a non ideological outlook on life but after reading a post stressing how debilitating an effect it can have on the thought process, I can see that I’m mistaken and need to rethink the meaning clearly in my own mind. Doug Reich gave a great analysis here, http://dougreich.blogspot.com/2009/04/say-cheese.html .

I have difficulty accepting that a human mind can consistently hold a pragmatic outlook, deciding that reality is what everyone believes it to be. I can however, easily see that an inconsistent pragmatic approach with deviations allowing both reasoning and perceptual powers to smooth over the areas involving life and death rational decisions.

Because so much of the world we live in consists of applying manmade rules to human actions, the pragmatist is often able to function well and even to be financially successful. There are individuals who thrive in regulatory environments, where all the rules are laid out and memorization brings success. But the success would unfold only for the strongest minds as the economy of understanding complex things by way of cohesive ideas is not available to the consistent pragmatist and, only those people with exceptional memory skills could cope.

The economy of thinking made possible by using a rational, conceptual based system to integrate ideas into understandable pieces allows even the people with lesser intellectual capacity to fully understand complex thoughts.

But the pragmatist evaluation and its application to the sciences provides an explanation to a phenomena that has long troubled me. I often wondered at the absurdity of some of the flaky so-called scientific studies or reports, claiming proof for an idea that logic or induction proves without any statistical analysis. Something like an evening news report documenting that most obese people eat more than the people with no weight problems, or some similar fact totally reasonable with out any study.

I believe the researchers hold the view that a fact can only be discerned from observation, that for the experiment to be objective the researchers must be completely unbiased to the point of ignoring reason, until the results are tabulated and then, only statistical analysis constitutes proof.

Does the true pragmatist fully rejects induction as a means to knowledge?

I have always considered pragmatism to be a beneficial trait for a person in business and a despicable vote-gathering tool in a politician. I’m beginning to see the personal destruction that the inability to understand the world or the actions of people around oneself would bring to any questioning individual. We all require an understandable future to feel comfortable about the future.

Without the ability to do inductive thinking, all issues boil down to my poll verses your poll. To the pragmatist, numbers count, status of supporter count, even the sophistication of the presentation makes a difference. Only the facts, if not presented glamorously are ignored.

Is there any thinking going on or is every thing decided by the opinion of an other, an outsider because the individual has lost ability to discriminate? Does the pragmatist inevitably derive any sense of self-worth from the opinions of others? Is the modern belief that we need rules for everything the normal outcome of pragmatic thought? Is it responsible for the elitist idea, that the common guy lacks the ability to look after their own life and needs help?

I think it is the basis of the belief that only what has taken place before can be properly evaluated, the financial community’s statement, ” we’re in new ground here. We’ve never tried this before so we don’t know if the printing of this much money will work”. And the pirate situation, where we fear the sailors may get hurt if the are given guns, or we don’t know who to punish to stop the piracy.

More to come.

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