“Pragmatism has become the guiding philosophy of our age” – Tara Smith

19 10 2010

Something which I encounter on a daily basis and which frustrates me no end is the prevalence of pragmatist epistemology in our society.  People seem to refuse to think in principle.  One example that comes to mind:  In Australia most people wouldn’t dream it was possible to privatize our water industry, yet the food industry is private (although overly-regulated like most industries).  Incidentally, guess where Australians experience rationing?  That’s right, we are subjected to water restrictions and constant media arguments and water crises in this country.  We need privatisation of our waterways and a free market for water pricing.   (see also “Frequently asked questions about water / wastewater privatization“)

Anyway, if you keep your ears open, you’ll often hear people talk about the virtue of compromise and diplomacy, using equivocations in their language, or saying catch phrases like “well that might work for some, but not for me” or “there’s always two sides to a story” etc. 

Compromise in particular is seen as good in of itself.  Extremism is a dirty word as I’m sure everyone would know.  Idealism is bad per se.  Note context is thrown out the window.  eg/ It’s not that ideology X is better or worse than ideology Y.  The implicit belief amongst many is that adhering to any ideological principles is inherently wrong. 

Let me just quickly hone in on the topic of compromise because it’s very easy to see why practising compromise can be highly problematic.  Let’s say two solutions to a problem A and B are proposed.  The options are that A is correct and B is incorrect or B is correct and A is incorrect.  Or neither are correct.  Or A and or B are partially correct.  
A common result of compromising is that a halfway point between proposals A and B is met and it is both ineffective and unsatisfactory to both parties.  This happens so often on political issues and it’s no surprise that most people are so disillusioned with politics these days. 

But why do people automatically think that a mid-way compromise point between A and B is the best outcome?  The answer is pragmatism. 

Tara Reid has a one hour freely available talk on pragmatism.  And she has written a very good summary article in the Objective Standard:  “The Menace of Pragmatism”  (to read the full article you need to subscribe). 

The Ayn Rand Institute have released many videos (for free) of Objectivist talks on philosophy.  I would highly recommend checking them out and subscribing to ARCTV at http://arc-tv.com/

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