It’s cool to pretend you’re anti-ideology – but you might as well put a tattoo on your forehead reading “Ignoramus”

7 04 2009

Why? Because pragmatism is a form of ideology.  It’s anti-principle but this is still an approach to epistemology. 

All humans have metaphysical and epistemological beliefs even if they don’t realise they do.  Even if they are like most people’s absorbed through society, religion, traditions, movies etc. 

Lately political leaders such as Rudd and Obama, as well as media commentators such as Michael Costa in the Australian are claiming that “extreme” ideologies ie: full capitalism vs total communism are the problem. 

What a convenient way for them to trash on Austrian economic theory.  (while pretending to pay lip service to it)

They are making a number of major errors.  Firstly they are falsely assuming a necessary theory practise dichotomy. 
To any scientist this is obviously a false theory of epistemology.  I use theoretical calculations every day in my job and guess what – they work bloody well.   
This theory – practise dichotomy has dominated philosophy since David Hume’s “problem with induction”. 

Secondly they are suggesting that “extreme” means bad.  It doesn’t – some things like are great in extremes (eg/ reason), some things are terrible even in small amounts (eg/ Nazis).  In addition, to dismiss something because it is “extreme” means destroying creativity and change and introducing stagnation ie: every new idea initially can be classed as extreme because it’s not accepted by a majority.

Thirdly, they are showing their ignorance.  They too have an ideology – pragmatism (or it’s close relatives utilitarianism and populism).
Indeed this ideology is the prevailing one of our time. 

For an excellent essay on pragmatism see “The menace of pragmatism” by Tara Smith:

The main problem with pragmatism is that it wears a mask of being practical.  However it is not.  It is short range, anti-principle, compromising and context dropping. 

Pragmatism is primarily based in epistemology and has it’s roots in philosophers such as C.S. Pierce, William James and the father of modern education John Dewey. 

The problems with pragmatism are many. 
Once you have dropped principled standards of judgement, how can you evaluate your ideas?
Pragmatism does not reject arbitary claims and erroneously treats ideas equally blurring the lines between legitamite and illegitamite compromise.
Pragmatism can only be short range because principles are rejected.  This leads to the behaviour of drug addicts – short term gain, long term pain. 
And of course it’s prevalence and disguise of usefulness is a major problem. 

Considering the very process of conceptualization is itself a generalization, it’s not hard to see the value of generalization and therefore principles as a valid epistemological tool. 

Considering all science is based on induction, it’s not hard to see that induction is a valid epistemological tool. 

The politicians are preaching pragmatism and this philosophy is hurting all of us.




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