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hernan

Pragmatism

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I am a fan of Pragmatism (Peirce et alia) as well as Objectivism but I recall that Rand was critical of Pragmatism for some reason though I cannot now find her argument.

What was Rand's main criticism of Pragmatism? Can someone help me with a citation?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism

http://www.radicalacademy.com/amphilosophy7.htm

http://atheism.about.com/od/philosophyscho.../pragmatism.htm

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I think her main problem with Pragmatism(as an ethical system) is that it is unprincipled in that one must make ethical assessments with every new situation one finds oneself in. Also, it is impossible to know beforehand whether or not the action you wish to take is right or wrong, one must "try it out" and find out if it was good only after the fact. Not a very good device for a prescriptive science.

Basically the problem is with this:

It can be summarized by the phrase “whatever works, is likely true.” Because reality changes, “whatever works” will also change — thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth.

Reality is an absolute, it doesn't change. What worked yesterday, for a lot of things, will work tomorrow. Of course there are certain variables that change in each situation, but the fundamental framework does not.

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I think her main problem with Pragmatism(as an ethical system) is that it is unprincipled in that one must make ethical assessments with every new situation one finds oneself in. Also, it is impossible to know beforehand whether or not the action you wish to take is right or wrong, one must "try it out" and find out if it was good only after the fact. Not a very good device for a prescriptive science.
These are certainly part of Ayn Rand's critique of Pragmatism, but I don't believe it was her main problem, because these things are merely consequences of the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of Pragmatism, a philosophy she once described as "a bad recycling of Kantian-Hegelian premises" ("Don't Let it Go--Part II" The Ayn Rand Letter, pg 19).

It can be summarized by the phrase “whatever works, is likely true.”

This is not what Pragmatism claims. Pragmatism claims that the true is what works. That is drastically different. Pragmatists do not claim that if something works, it's probably true--they claim that if something works, that makes it true, and that that is all that anyone can possibly know about truth. ("'The true,' to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as 'the right' is only the expedient in the way of our behaving." -William James, The Meaning of Truth, preface).

Because reality changes, “whatever works” will also change — thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth.
Pragmatists do not usually recognize a "reality" that "changes." They recognize only what works--they are extreme empiricists. If what works changes, they do not make inferences about antecedent causes in metaphysical reality outside of human experience--they regard that as entirely unknowable, if not nonexistent. There are different variations on Pragmatism, but in the Peirce/Dewey school or the James school of Pragmatism, I think metaphysical assumptions about reality are usually out.

I am a fan of Pragmatism (Peirce et alia) as well as Objectivism but I recall that Rand was critical of Pragmatism for some reason though I cannot now find her argument.
There is not just one reason that Ayn Rand was critical of Pragmatism.. She spent much of her time criticizing it for different reasons.

But I think understanding the Objectivist arguments against Pragmatism would probably be easier if you research Leonard Peikoff's criticisms of Pragmatism first. When I put "Pragmatism" into the search engine of the Objectivism Research CD-ROM, I got tons of hits from AR, but, at least in the first several excerpts I read through, when she mentions it, she already assumes that the reader is familiar with the major positions of Pragmatism, as well as the Objectivist positions, and seems to expect the reader to be able to figure out for himself what her objections would be.

But Dr. Peikoff has several articles that go into detail explaining what Pragmatism is, and putting it in perspective of its relevance to the history of philosophy, and analyzing it from an Objectivist perspective.

The best, most detailed explanation of Pragmatism I've heard was from Dr. Peikoff's History of Modern Philosophy lecture series. He devotes at least a whole lecture to Pragmatism. There are two Peikoff articles in The Ayn Rand Letter dealing with Pragmatism, one called "Pragmatism Versus America," the other called "Altruism, Pragmatism, and Brutality," (which I haven't read all the way through, but I skimmed through them and they seem relevant and consistent with the method I described in which he explains the Pragmatist position before critiquing it).

There are some interesting sections in The Ominous Parallels in which Dr. Peikoff explains Pragmatism in its relationship to Nazi and Fascist ideology, and their counterparts in American politics, which is definitely worth reading (see pages 56-64 especially).

Also, there is a lecture available for free download at the Ayn Rand Institute website's registered users page called "Why Should One Act on Principle?" which includes many relevant criticisms of Pragmatist morality.

[edit: spelling & clarity]

Edited by Bold Standard

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Thanks to both of you for your generous replies.

I think her main problem with Pragmatism(as an ethical system) is that it is unprincipled in that one must make ethical

assessments with every new situation one finds oneself in.

It's not clear to me that this is necessarily the case though I can easily see how it might be so. It does seem to me that:

*) it is in our rational self interest to take consequences of choices into account when making a choice, and

*) it is more efficient, pragmatic, to consider classes of choices and consequences, to derive principles, than to treat every situation as entirely unique.

Pragmatism claims that the true is what works.

This better fits with what I've read of Pragmatism. Pragmatism has an interesting way of disposing of unimportant arguments.

The best, most detailed explanation of Pragmatism I've heard was from Dr. Peikoff's History of Modern Philosophy lecture series.

I have his OPAR but not the others you cited. Is the relevant lecture available online?

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FYI, Hernan -

You may want to invest in The Lexicon or the AR Research CD. Both offer a quick way to get at the answer to "What did Ayn Rand say about: X?" quickly. It (The Lexicon) is my "go to" reference whenever I have a question like that.

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*) it is more efficient, pragmatic, to consider classes of choices and consequences, to derive principles, than to treat every situation as entirely unique.
I agree. I think one of the ironies of Pragmatism, given its name, is that its unprincipled ethics and Kantian/Hegelian metaphysics and epistemology make it exasperatingly impractical.

This better fits with what I've read of Pragmatism. Pragmatism has an interesting way of disposing of unimportant arguments.
And important ones. (The existence and nature of objective reality is an important one).

I have his OPAR but not the others you cited. Is the relevant lecture available online?
Unfortunately, the History of Modern Philosophy lecture series is not available for free download.. You can buy it from the Ayn Rand Bookstore, but I can't look it up for you right now because their server seems to be down. It's pretty expensive, but if you have access to an Objectivist Campus Club near you, they can get it for free. The whole History of Western Philosophy lecture series is really good.. The Pragmatism lecture is on the second lecture set, Modern Philosophy (the first set deals with Ancient Philosophy through the Enlightenment, and the second is Kant to the present, or at least to the 1960s when the lectures were given).

The other relevant lecture on "Why Should One Act on Principle?" is available for free online, at aynrand.org you just have to register with the website. It's free. Once you register, just go to the registered users page, and scroll down about halfway, and it's there on the left.

Edited by Bold Standard

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I agree. I think one of the ironies of Pragmatism, given its name, is that its unprincipled ethics and Kantian/Hegelian metaphysics and epistemology make it exasperatingly impractical.

I guess I don't expect to discover values from Pragmatism but only to use it as a filter and tool of focus.

And important ones. (The existence and nature of objective reality is an important one).

That would only be the case if the existence and nature of objective reality were without consequence. I realize that one can interpret Pragmatism as implying that reality doesn't exist but this seems to me to be a rather unpragmatic interpretation as you noted above. Whether or not objective reality actually exists it is certainly useful to think of it as existing and according to Pragmatism that makes it true that objective reality does exist.

(On the other hand, properties attributed to objective reality that don't have consequences are at the least uninteresting and arguably, according to Pragmatism, untrue.)

Unfortunately, the History of Modern Philosophy lecture series is not available for free download.. You can buy it from the Ayn Rand Bookstore...

You may want to invest in The Lexicon or the AR Research CD. Both offer a quick way to get at the answer to "What did Ayn Rand say about: X?" quickly. It (The Lexicon) is my "go to" reference whenever I have a question like that.

I'll look into obtaining these if the cost is within my budget. Thanks for the references.

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Also, there is a lecture available for free download at the Ayn Rand Institute website's registered users page called "Why Should One Act on Principle?" which includes many relevant criticisms of Pragmatist morality.

Well, I sat through this and while it is certainly interesting and he make some useful points it doesn't really address the core matter of Pragmatism but rather some debate about the value of principles which I assume someone must have questioned.

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Well, I sat through this and while it is certainly interesting and he make some useful points it doesn't really address the core matter of Pragmatism but rather some debate about the value of principles which I assume someone must have questioned.

He addresses the core of pragmatism in The Ominous Parallels. Also, he addresses the historical (Hegelian) roots of pragmatism and its founders, including their explicit statements that reality is unknowable. I suggest picking that book up or renting from a library as it will fill you in on the truth about pragmatism and how it is totally impractical.

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He addresses the core of pragmatism in The Ominous Parallels. Also, he addresses the historical (Hegelian) roots of pragmatism and its founders, including their explicit statements that reality is unknowable. I suggest picking that book up or renting from a library as it will fill you in on the truth about pragmatism and how it is totally impractical.

I'm a little skeptical of this.

I looked at http://www.peikoff.com/op/home.htm and it seems like he is targeting something rather different, tangential to what I've read of Pragmatism.

Who is Peikoff claiming as the founders of Pragmatism? I've read Pierce, James, and Dewey. (Hegal is at least mentioned here as one minor point of inspiration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism).

I don't remember reading any of those individuals claiming that explicit statements of reality are unknowable but only imperfect.

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I looked at http://www.peikoff.com/op/home.htm and it seems like he is targeting something rather different, tangential to what I've read of Pragmatism.

Oh, it's not the central point of the book, so it isn't mentioned on that web page, but he does spend at least a chapter discussing it. Pragmatism is the major American philosophy so in order to show where America is and what direction it is going in, philosophically, he has to go into very good detail about Pragmatism. Trust me, he hits on exactly the area you are discussing and asking questions about.

Who is Peikoff claiming as the founders of Pragmatism? I've read Pierce, James, and Dewey. (Hegal is at least mentioned here as one minor point of inspiration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism).

James and Dewey at least. I'm pretty sure a few more are discussed.

I don't remember reading any of those individuals claiming that explicit statements of reality are unknowable but only imperfect.

I'm going from memory here, so it may be as you say. However, doesn't that essentially boil down to the same thing? It does in the way they mean it anyway, and Dr. Peikoff presents the full explanation in The Ominous Parallels. That's definitely the text you're looking for.

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Oh, it's not the central point of the book, so it isn't mentioned on that web page, but he does spend at least a chapter discussing it. Pragmatism is the major American philosophy so in order to show where America is and what direction it is going in, philosophically, he has to go into very good detail about Pragmatism. Trust me, he hits on exactly the area you are discussing and asking questions about.

My main hesitation with this book is that it looks very political (i.e. libertarian). It does seem like an interesting book on the primary subject but I'm bored of political arguments.

And given your other comment I remain skeptical that it addresses my main question. My concern is that Peikoff is flogging a straw man or, at least, a real philosophical position not held by myself.

James and Dewey at least. I'm pretty sure a few more are discussed.

I'm going from memory here, so it may be as you say. However, doesn't that essentially boil down to the same thing? It does in the way they mean it anyway, and Dr. Peikoff presents the full explanation in The Ominous Parallels. That's definitely the text you're looking for.

This sounds to me as if you are saying that all shades of gray are nonwhite and therefore equal to black. It seems an elementary matter to demonstrate the imperfectio of our knowledge of reality, pick any scientific field for example where new knowledge is always being acquired. Perhaps there is some difference in the use of terms or meanings that I'm missing?

I do recognize that there are those (many in fact, but far from a majority) who treat the assertion that knowledge is imperfect as a basis for claiming that everything is relative and that there is no objective truth. But that is not the Pragmatic position as far as I know (though my knowledge may be imperfect there).

Edited by hernan

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My main hesitation with this book is that it looks very political (i.e. libertarian). It does seem like an interesting book on the primary subject but I'm bored of political arguments.

I'm not sure what this means. I would describe it as more philosophical than political. It's primary thesis is that Kantian philosophy is the ultimate foundation for the Nazi Reich. I found it a fresh perspective on a topic that others always bring circumstantial causes to (such as "onerous reparations", etc...)

The Lexicon has about 4 pages on Pragmatism, and mutliple references, both Rand and Peikoff. Peikoff identifies Dewey as developing the political incarnationf pragmatism.

Edited by KendallJ

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My main hesitation with this book is that it looks very political (i.e. libertarian). It does seem like an interesting book on the primary subject but I'm bored of political arguments.

It's not libertarian, although at first glance I could see how you might think so. Naturally, the subject is politics and history, but again, trust me, he goes into Metaphysics and Epistemology very deeply. He has to, in order to address the philosophic origins of the politics in question. You won't be disappointed.

And given your other comment I remain skeptical that it addresses my main question. My concern is that Peikoff is flogging a straw man or, at least, a real philosophical position not held by myself.

Obviously, the position that you, personally, hold may not be directly addressed. But the position of Dewey and James, etc, most certainly are.

Perhaps there is some difference in the use of terms or meanings that I'm missing?

Yes, it is a very different thing to say that there can be holes or errors in our knowledge from saying that we cannot possess correct knowledge.

I do recognize that there are those (many in fact, but far from a majority) who treat the assertion that knowledge is imperfect as a basis for claiming that everything is relative and that there is no objective truth. But that is not the Pragmatic position as far as I know (though my knowledge may be imperfect there).

It is, for that is indeed the Pragmatic position. ;)

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It's not libertarian, although at first glance I could see how you might think so. Naturally, the subject is politics and history, but again, trust me, he goes into Metaphysics and Epistemology very deeply. He has to, in order to address the philosophic origins of the politics in question. You won't be disappointed.

Obviously, the position that you, personally, hold may not be directly addressed. But the position of Dewey and James, etc, most certainly are.

Yes, it is a very different thing to say that there can be holes or errors in our knowledge from saying that we cannot possess correct knowledge.

It is, for that is indeed the Pragmatic position. :)

I just did a quick flip through On Pragmatism (Cornelis De Waal) which is a survey of the three main Pragmatic philosphers and can't find anything that bears resemblance to what you assert. However, I'll pick up a copy Ominous Parallels since it looks interesting anyway and see if your claims bear out. I'll also do a more careful reread of On Pragmatism to see if I can find a correspondence between your claims (and what you expect that I'll find in Ominous Parallels) and the claims of the Pragmatists.

One point that bears attention at this point: the distinction between the claim that our knowledge is imperfect, and even the claim that the human condition is such that our knowledge will always be imperfect, is quite different from the claim that we cannot possess correct knowledge. The falsity of the latter claim is easily refuted by examples from mathematics.

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The falsity of the latter claim is easily refuted by examples from mathematics.

I'm glad you think so; not everyone does!

However, there are those who would poisonously argue that we can know only mathematically deduced truths, and that certainty of induced knowledge is impossible. Of course, someone usually comes along and points out that mathematical axioms are induced and then uses the skepticism of induction to throw out the whole thing and degenerate into nihilism. Of course, that's nonsense; induction can and does lead to certainty about at least some things, if one keeps the context of one's statements of knowledge under control. (Dr. Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand covers this in detail)

Anyhow, after you have a look at The Ominous Parallels, I'll still be here if you want to compare notes.

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However, there are those who would poisonously argue that we can know only mathematically deduced truths, and that certainty of induced knowledge is impossible. Of course, someone usually comes along and points out that mathematical axioms are induced and then uses the skepticism of induction to throw out the whole thing and degenerate into nihilism. Of course, that's nonsense; induction can and does lead to certainty about at least some things, if one keeps the context of one's statements of knowledge under control. (Dr. Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand covers this in detail)

I can certainly see the form of the argument: induction is inherently less reliable than deduction therefore, one might argue, claims derived by induction are prone to an additional type of error (revision by new facts) and "therefore" ought not be considered truth. But I have yet to find this degeneration to nihilism that you assert in the Pragmatic writings.

Indeed, it is my impression that Pragmatism would say good enough in practice is good enough to be true thus short circuiting the attack on inductive knowledge. Pragmatism was heavily influenced by science and the scientific method which has induction at its heart.

I'll try to keep an open mind on this when I read Ominous Parallels but my impression remains that the criticism is not of Pragmatism but of subjectivsm/relativism.

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The knowledge that something is "good enough in practice" is very different from the knowledge why it is good enough in practice. The why is, essentially, knowledge of how the identities of the things in question cause those things to act. The why is absolute and certain, it is the essence of induction and of the scientific method, and it is far more than just "good enough in practice".

The knowledge that something is "good enough in practice" does not involve discovering the identities and causal relations of the things in question. It bears absolutely no relation to induction or to the scientific method, and relegates pragmatism to the category of things that are not "good enough in practice".

A theory of knowledge which says "do not attempt to discover identities and causalities" - which condemns discovering why something works in favor only of discovering that it usually seems to work - is necessarily predicated on one or both of two basic premises: first, that a fixed, stable reality - with identity and causality - does not exist, so there isn't a real why; or second, that the human mind is not capable of discovering and grasping reality, that even if a fixed, stable reality - with identity and causality - does in fact exist, we wouldn't be able to grasp it. On either premise, we as humans are unable to discover why anything is true, and so we are relegated to discovering that it usually works.

But reality exists. It is fixed and stable. Everything in it possesses identity. Everything has a certain set of properties and acts in a certain set of ways. And we as humans have the cognitive ability to discover these things. On any question, we have the ability to discover why. This premise contradicts the premises on which pragmatism (especially as it seems you understand it) relies. And that is why pragmatism is wrong.

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One point that bears attention at this point: the distinction between the claim that our knowledge is imperfect, and even the claim that the human condition is such that our knowledge will always be imperfect, is quite different from the claim that we cannot possess correct knowledge. The falsity of the latter claim is easily refuted by examples from mathematics.

How do you reconcile this claim with the summary from the source you cited in the opening post, (I realize it is just a summary page, but seems to directly contradict.)

What is Pragmatism?:

Pragmatism is an American philosophy from the early 20th century. According to Pragmatism, the truth or meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences rather than anything metaphysical. It can be summarized by the phrase “whatever works, is likely true.” Because reality changes, “whatever works” will also change — thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth.

Doesn't correct knowledge without ever allowing to claim final truth destroy any possible basis or standard for ethics other than "what works" which you can only know after the fact, and only guess at before so?

Edited by KendallJ

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The knowledge that something is "good enough in practice" is very different from the knowledge why it is good enough in practice. The why is, essentially, knowledge of how the identities of the things in question cause those things to act. The why is absolute and certain, it is the essence of induction and of the scientific method, and it is far more than just "good enough in practice".

The knowledge that something is "good enough in practice" does not involve discovering the identities and causal relations of the things in question. It bears absolutely no relation to induction or to the scientific method, and relegates pragmatism to the category of things that are not "good enough in practice".

A theory of knowledge which says "do not attempt to discover identities and causalities" - which condemns discovering why something works in favor only of discovering that it usually seems to work - is necessarily predicated on one or both of two basic premises: first, that a fixed, stable reality - with identity and causality - does not exist, so there isn't a real why; or second, that the human mind is not capable of discovering and grasping reality, that even if a fixed, stable reality - with identity and causality - does in fact exist, we wouldn't be able to grasp it. On either premise, we as humans are unable to discover why anything is true, and so we are relegated to discovering that it usually works.

But reality exists. It is fixed and stable. Everything in it possesses identity. Everything has a certain set of properties and acts in a certain set of ways. And we as humans have the cognitive ability to discover these things. On any question, we have the ability to discover why. This premise contradicts the premises on which pragmatism (especially as it seems you understand it) relies. And that is why pragmatism is wrong.

This is a different argument that we've seen so far but it seems quite odd.

If I know that 1+1=2 but I don't know why, it is not the case that 1+1=2 is false. The truth of a claim does not rest on knowing why the claim is true though that might help in understanding and explaining it or exploring similar claims, etc.

What Pragmatism observes is that our time and attention is finite and that there is no use (it is not in our rational self interest) to obsess about differences that have no consequence and thus that consequence drives the differences that interest us.

Now it certainly may be the case that Pragmatism is incomplete, that it provides the equilvalent that 1+1=2 without the why. I noted early on that I didn't expect to discover values from Pragmatism. Pragmatism tends to take these for granted. Nevertheless, it does not follow from this that Pragmatism is necessarily wrong.

Moreover, it's not clear to me at this point where Pragmatism and Objectivism conflict except insofar as Objectivism might concern itself with details that are inconsequential. The differences cited prior to your post did not correspond to the Pragmatism I was familiar with.

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How do you reconcile this claim with the summary from the source you cited in the opening post, (I realize it is just a summary page, but seems to directly contradict.)

Because reality changes, “whatever works” will also change — thus, truth must also be changeable and no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth.

I'm guessing that this is the sentence that is bothering you. I hadn't run across this claim in my readings of Pragmatism by the indviduals cited though I can see how Progmatism could be twisted in support of this claim. It would sure help if the article provided a citation for this claim. I'll dig around and see what I can find.

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Your posts are, in general, full of "Pragmatism is not this ... and isn't that either ...." (In that regard, it's very akin to the Wikipedia article.) But there's little helpful information as to what Pragmatism actually is. What does Pragmatism actually say about the nature of reality and of knowledge? Is it possible to form abstract, objective, absolute, and certain knowledge? Why (what gives an element of knowledge those various properties)?

Pragmatism says: go with what works, but don't bother figuring out why it works. But if you never bother figuring out why something works, then how do you know that it does work? There are a number of possible answers, including: I just intuitively know it works; I just want it to work; I've had some experience with it working before. An Objectivist would immediately recognize the first two options as the epistemologies of intrinsicism and subjectivism. The third option is the one offered by Pragmatism: go with what's worked in the past, but don't bother figuring out why it's worked in the past. But then how do you know that what's worked in the past will continue to work in the future, especially in new contexts where nobody's tried it before? Moreover, why should you go with what's worked in the past, without ever bothering to figure out why it's worked in the past?

Without knowing why something works, you can never figure out whether it will continue to work, especially in new contexts, without possibly putting your life on the line. Sure, playing fetch with the dog works on land. Are you willing to try it a mile below the surface of the Pacific?

If it's not clear to you where Pragmatism and Objectivism conflict, here it is. Pragmatism says: go with what has worked in the past, without ever bothering to figure out why it has worked in the past. Objectivism says: your success in life, indeed, your very life, requires that you figure out why things work the way they do.

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Hernan, I think one thing to consider is that a philosophy is made up of what its adherents explicitlyclaim it is, plus those things which the explicit claims imply. To that end, philosophies can contain inconsistencies between what they claim and what they imply. I can think of examples where a philosophy specifically denies a principle but then implicitly requires that principle to exists (one could argue that Kant's "pure reason" is anything but reason).

The Objectivist assessment of pragmatism is as a complete (explicit and implicit) set of principles. We can certainly debate what the implied requirements of pragmatism are, but just because an adherent claims or denies some aspect, does not necessarily mean that that aspect is or isn't required by the philosophy. And conversely just because someone challenges something that the adherent didn't claim does not mean they are attacking a strawman.

I read a couple of your sources for instance and there is the claim that pragmatism denies skepticism. I would argue that pragmatism, regardless of what it denies, accepts skepticism, or in otherwords when you say that,

One point that bears attention at this point: the distinction between the claim that our knowledge is imperfect, and even the claim that the human condition is such that our knowledge will always be imperfect, is quite different from the claim that we cannot possess correct knowledge. The falsity of the latter claim is easily refuted by examples from mathematics.

I would argue that this is an irrelevant distinction, when it comes to pragmatist ethics. Either view wipes out an objective standard of value, i.e. there is no prgamatist meta-ethics. One will do so in favor of nothing (or whim). The other will do so in favor of "what works", which might as well be nothing.

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Your posts are, in general, full of "Pragmatism is not this ... and isn't that either ...." (In that regard, it's very akin to the Wikipedia article.) But there's little helpful information as to what Pragmatism actually is. What does Pragmatism actually say about the nature of reality and of knowledge? Is it possible to form abstract, objective, absolute, and certain knowledge? Why (what gives an element of knowledge those various properties)?

I've been going primarily on the few writings I've ready by the three originators. The above quote about "reality changes" was quite peculiar to me and I'm trying now to find out where it came from. (I had missed it the first time I found that reference concentrating instead on the books and Wikipedia.) I sounds more like social constructivism than Pragmatism but it was there in the About summary so I'll find out where it came from.

Pragmatism says: go with what works, but don't bother figuring out why it works. But if you never bother figuring out why something works, then how do you know that it does work? ...The third option is the one offered by Pragmatism: go with what's worked in the past, but don't bother figuring out why it's worked in the past. But then how do you know that what's worked in the past will continue to work in the future, especially in new contexts where nobody's tried it before? Moreover, why should you go with what's worked in the past, without ever bothering to figure out why it's worked in the past?

This brings us to the above point. If you think that reality changes then certainly you have to worry about past experience not being a reliable guide to future exepectations. Let's set this aside as it doesn't fit with what I've read of Pragmatism though, as noted above, I will try to find out where it comes from. (So far my search for "pragmatism" with "reality changes" has not turned up anything relevant.)

It seems quite unreasonable to claim that Pragmatism is unconcerned with future expectations. Pragmatism is inspired by science and the model of science is to use the past to develop unchanging "laws" that help predict the future or the consequences of choices.

Or to put it another way, to the extent that learing "why" has consequences it is pragmatic.

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Hernan, I think one thing to consider is that a philosophy is made up of what its adherents explicitlyclaim it is, plus those things which the explicit claims imply. To that end, philosophies can contain inconsistencies between what they claim and what they imply. I can think of examples where a philosophy specifically denies a principle but then implicitly requires that principle to exists (one could argue that Kant's "pure reason" is anything but reason).

Fair enough. I think this thread has fastened around a real issue in the last few posts. I'm not yet convinced that Pragmatism entails what has been attributed to it by Objectivism but I agree with you that this is a possibility.

Another possiblity is that somewhere along the way Pragmatism mated with social constructionism and begot "reality changes" and that "no one can claim to possess any final or ultimate truth". I don't know, I'm just guessing, but that seems a plausible explanation. I'm still searching for some attribution of the claim that "reality changes" under Pragmatism.

The Objectivist assessment of pragmatism is as a complete (explicit and implicit) set of principles. We can certainly debate what the implied requirements of pragmatism are, but just because an adherent claims or denies some aspect, does not necessarily mean that that aspect is or isn't required by the philosophy.

This doesn't follow at all. Pragmatism is a very narrow philosophical slice as comapare with, say, Objectivism. It may well be that Pragmatism offers but one good idea (the overriding relevance of consequences). And I am not yet convinced that Objectivism and Pragmatism are incompatible.

I read a couple of your sources for instance and there is the claim that pragmatism denies skepticism. I would argue that pragmatism, regardless of what it denies, accepts skepticism, or in otherwords when you say that, I would argue that this is an irrelevant distinction, when it comes to pragmatist ethics. Either view wipes out an objective standard of value, i.e. there is no prgamatist meta-ethics. One will do so in favor of nothing (or whim). The other will do so in favor of "what works", which might as well be nothing.

I do know that James tried to fashion some ethics from Pragmatism but at best these were second order ethics relying on unstated first order values. So the question becomes: is Pragmatism merely incomplete (my assertion) or incorrect.

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