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Title: pragmatism

mike ely - May 26, 2008 06:15 PM (GMT)
definition here

Quorri - August 12, 2008 10:19 PM (GMT)
I had thought of pragmatism like this definition:
"The theory that ideas or principles are true so far as they work. In general, pragmatists rely on empirical or experimental methods and reject apriorism as a source of human knowledge. ..." (don't know this site, came up on a definitions search...)

And then saw this definition and was pretty unused to this way of thinking:
"In ordinary usage, pragmatism refers to behavior which temporarily sets aside one ideal to pursue a lesser, more achievable ideal." (non-technical usage)

Funny that it specifically says, "in ordinary usage" .... is this how other people are using it? Words can be so unclear :p

John Steele - August 20, 2008 10:25 PM (GMT)
Philosophically, pragmatism is the doctrine that truth is determined by utility. In other words, whether a statement is true is determined by whether, over the long term, it is useful to believe that statement. Thus: What is true is what works.

This was originated by the American philosopher Charles Pierce and put forward systematically by William James about 100 years ago. It has passed into everyday use in a way that would considerably broaden its meaning (as in the example Quorri gives), but it's useful (yes) to use it in the more precise way in order to analyze ideas and ideology. This doctrine has always been very popular among American philosophers (Richard Rorty and W.V.O. Quine are recent examples), and in general it has close linkages with the specific form of American ideology, I'd argue.

I wrote an article on the subject for the (long-ago) RCP theoretical journal, The Communist, which will be published on Kasama sometime in the next month. It was written 30 years ago, and I will be prefacing it with an introduction on ways in which it is inadequate, but it does make clear at least what the doctrine is philosophically.

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