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OK. I stole this title from an excellent book by Richard Rorty.  I am using it because there is a lot of misinformation about "pragmatism" floating around on this site, giving the venerable American philosophical school of pragmatism a bad name.

To read the diaries about the evils of "pragmatism" on this site, would make one think that democrats are willing to engage in abhorent compromises just to get a bill passed.

Pragmatism does not mean "compromise" but simply that the worth of any idea, program, or action should be measured by its consequences.

Pragmatism traces its roots to great early American Philosphers Charles Pierce and William James.  It continued with John Dewey, and more recently neo-pragmatists such as Richard Rorty.

As John Dewey put it, there is no question of theory versus practice but rather of intelligent practice versus uninformed, stupid practice and noted in a conversation with William Pepperell Montague that "[h]is effort had not been to practicalize intelligence but to intellectualize practice". (Quoted in Eldridge 1998, p. 5)


That's what we should be debating.  What are the consequences of a health bill that covers 94% of people, and that prevents insurance companies from dumping sick patients, etc?  Does it make a public option more difficult to obtain in the future?  If it does, is that drawback outweigh the benefits to covering additional uninsured people in the short run?

What are the consequence of passing an across the board tax-cut that includes millionaires?  Does it weaken the ecomony more than no tax-cut?  Does standing firm force Republicans to make unpopular votes than can be used in the next election?

Consequences are always difficult to predict, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Originally posted to zdefender on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:39 PM PST.


Who is your favorite pragmatist philospher?

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| 11 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people." Proverbs 31:9

    by zdefender on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:39:13 PM PST

  •  As a Fan... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, TomP

    Of Pierce, James, Dewey, and Rorty... thanks!

  •  Some will see the "absolute" and say (0+ / 0-)

    that "covering 94% of the population" is nothing and means nothing because they're not covered the way they want them to be covered.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:45:21 PM PST

    •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

      Please get some fucking education.  Read a book for once.  Pragmatism as a philosphic practice does not mean what you think it does.

      The dumb is strong in your comment.

      Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

      by TomP on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:52:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Instead of examining consequences, or asking (0+ / 0-)

        questions like the diarist is asking, such as "does this move things in the direction I want them moved?", some people will see ONLY absolutes--

        It's either "this thing" or "nothing".

        And I would appreciate less of a condescending tone.  And instead how about discussing these questions "pragmatically".

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:58:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And for your information, my view is: (0+ / 0-)

        Does a thing work?

        Does a thing move things in the direction I want them to go?

        If that doesn't meet your requirements for membership, I'm sorry.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 03:00:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  From this definition, Obama is not pragmatic (0+ / 0-)

    because he begins putting his policies into practice by compromising in advance of negotiations, which is about as far from being practical as you can get.  In fact, it qualifies as "stupid practice" à la Dewey.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:47:01 PM PST

  •  I like Rorty's books. (0+ / 0-)

    Have several at home.

    Vulgar pragmatism to some diary writers means defending anything the President does and defining any critic as a "purist."

    Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

    by TomP on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:51:06 PM PST

    •  I see more "vulgar" pragmatism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      as equating pragmatism with concession and compromise.  

      To the contrary, if the consequences of doing so are better, pragmatism can favor sticking to your position and refusing compromise.

      "Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people." Proverbs 31:9

      by zdefender on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 02:54:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for defending us Prags. (0+ / 0-)

    But the real issue is that the "Obama Wars" have been going on here at DKos for a very very long time.  This internal warfare conveniently erupts when a giant piece of progressive legislation is up for a vote (as in the current case of DADT).

    So we go round and round and round in the circle game.

    RWNM driven of course.  Not everyone is fooled luckily...and keeps their head focused on the current progressive objective.

    Don't listen to the rabid heads.  Prags and Progs are moving forward...

    •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

      Could you list for me the people here at DailyKos (hell I'll settle for one) who don't want a vote on DADT?  Or wants people to vote no on it?

      Dear Wall Street: If you want to stop feeling like a piñata, stop stuffing yourself with our f#@$ing candy.

      by TooFolkGR on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 03:52:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Roots of Pragmatism is Bible (0+ / 0-)

    For me, I trace the roots of pragmatism to Matthew 7:16-20 ending with "wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them."  

  •  Like idealism, realism and a host of other words, (0+ / 0-)

    pragmatism was a pre-existing word picked up by a particular group, in this case, philosophers. Whenever this happens, I think it is more appropriate to use the vrnacular, the ordinary, everyday meaning outside of that special narrow usage. In the first place, some such terms are picked up by or assigned to more than one phenomenon, such as both a school or philosophy and a literary and/or artistic movement.

    Really, should the primary usage of "body" be that used by oenophiles? Should the primary meaning of "normal" be perpendicular?

    Back in my day, and in my dad's as well, pragmatic/pragmatism had to deal with making do with what was available to solve a problem, reach a goal, etc. A classic example was the guy whose trailer tongue began to bounce and, behold, the nut had vibrated off of the stem of the ball. He dug a pair of Vice Grip (tm) pliers out of the toolbox in his trunk, clamped them firmly around the stem of the hitch ball and drove merrily away.

    That was pragmatic, he was a pragmatist and that was pragmatism in action. He used anything that would do the job, to get the job done. There are two elements, usig whatever works, and solving the problem/accomplishing the task/getting the job done. This is the meaning that was pretty much always the meaning in recent times outside of the philosophical movement.

    Recently, on this site, and perhaps in other political discourse, there has been a movement afoot to use it to mean something entirely different. In effect, the word is being stolen and misused in order to try to lend an air of sophistication or legitimacy to the simple "take whatever you can get" school of action. This is not remotely pragmatic, in the normal sense, because it abandons the goal and does not solve the problem at hand.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt -

    by enhydra lutris on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 07:00:58 PM PST

  •  Sorta/kinda (0+ / 0-)

    Pragmatism means different things if we're talking about metaphysics, philosophy, or politics, even if there are people who straddle more than one.  In Obama's case the pragmatist roots are Niebuhr's 'Christian pragmatism'.  In politics we usually think of realpolitik, which is something entirely different.

    There's a lot of elision between these meanings on this site.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 07:20:16 PM PST

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