Saturday, 14 January 2017

Visceral Pragmatism

Before we go any further, I should perhaps add little more clarity to cloudy waters. I've always been a pragmatist, my father taught me, but what is a pragmatist. It seems nobody is really sure. I certainly do not fit in with your stereotypical pragmatist. My problem is with how some cite pragmatism as mitigation, a means to an end, when doing bad things. Schopenhauer perhaps laid the foundation for the negative connotation surrounding pragmatism. He hypothesised about a biological idealism in which he states 'what is useful to an organism to believe, might differ wildly from what is true'.

Pragmatism developed in the late 19th century but even then the flaws were apparent. Charles Sanders Pierce, in an attempt to distance himself from those using pragmatism to further their own ends, invented the word pragmaticism. Unfortunately his 'pragmaticism' adhered strictly to logic and statistical analysis. This, like other forms of stereotyping may work for the majority of cases, but it is hardly one size fits all. It may prove to be right more often than wrong, but is that enough.

To accept it as such, countermands the principles of pragmatism. If all the factors are not considered when making a decision, how can it be termed pragmatic. On that basis I have coined my own phrase with 'visceral pragmatism'. First let's take the literal dictionary definitions of pragmatism.
pragmatism (n.)
  1. The pursuit of practicality over aesthetic qualities; concentrating on facts rather than emotions or ideals.
  2. In politics it is the theory problems should be met with practical solutions rather than ideological ones.
  3. In philosophy it is the idea beliefs are identified with the actions of a believer, and the truth of beliefs with success of those actions in securing a believer's goals; the doctrine that ideas must be looked at in terms of their practical effects and consequences.

I have no complaints with the first definition as a way of thinking, it pretty much mirrors my own philosophy on life. However, I have a proviso and that is instinctual knowledge. Visceral pragmatism would appear to be an oxymoron at our current level of scientific discovery, yet science is flawed due to our inadequacies. These are due to ignorance, tunnel vision, and an offhand dismissal of anything yet to be proven. It is like looking through a keyhole, you may get a good idea of what lies beyond the door but haven't the full picture.

This brings us on to political pragmatism. As a reasonably intelligent being, I object to political forms of pragmatism. I feel I am mature enough to know the truth, yet advocates of Schopenhauer (Nietzsche, Freud, Tolstoy, Wagner, to name but a few), feel it would be counter-productive allowing overt public debate on certain matters. Conversely, I do understand how problematical blanket transparency can be. The issue I have is who makes the decisions on what exactly can be divulged to Joe Public. It all smacks of control and manipulation. "It's for your own good" simply doesn't wash. I might not be a genius but from what I've seen and heard over the years, neither are politicians. This is very often where pragmatism gives way to a sinister personal agenda.

Talking of which, we arrive at the philosophical definition of pragmatism, one that is quietly swept under the religious carpet. If we take this third definition literally it would be necessary, on current and historical evidence, to ban religion. Even accepting the existence of some supreme being, it is obvious he no longer keeps in touch (if he ever did), and hasn't done for more than 1,000 years, suggesting he doesn't really give a toss about us or this planet.

Initially my thoughts were against banning religion, I regarded it as a necessary evil. Being brought up Catholic, I do have an inside view on how it works. This outdated method of control, should really have been laid to rest with the introduction of judicial systems, but outside of a democracy, legal systems are largely ineffective and open to abuse. I found as a child religion moderated our behaviour, this was a good thing. We knew nothing of the adult world but hell and damnation was a real threat in our imaginative childhood. Of course we grew up and knew it was just one of many foreboding lies parents tell their children to make them behave.

Another thing I considered beneficial, was for groups of people to congregate and generate positivity. I believe positive energy is a by-product of such gatherings and to be lauded, albeit for a different reason than perceived by those gathered. Things have changed now though. Religion is frequently used to generate negative energy, by preaching hate and intolerance. For that reason I have revised my opinion and would be in favour of a 'keep your beliefs to yourself' type ban.

Many times I have written about personal life (and death) experiences. As quite a sceptical person, I would be loathe to believe these accounts had I not experienced them myself. There is no doubt in my mind science is still in its infancy, how often in the past has the 'impossible' suddenly become not only possible but commonplace. For this reason I am reluctant to dismiss anything out of hand. It is where pragmatism and I begin to part company.

This is why I came up with the concept of 'visceral pragmatism', drawing a conclusion based as much on strong instinctual feelings as on verifiable fact or logic. Some things in life defy logic.

Here at the 'Deep End' it is the intention to post articles on a variety of topics. The views are what I would imagine to be pretty unique. I agree in part with many different philosophical views, but only in part as they all seem to disagree with one another. It is reasonable to assume my views are at the very least rare.

I am not asking you to believe what I say, or to adopt my philosophy, I would just like you to open your minds and think for yourselves. Your life on this Earth is brief, don't waste it striving for things you don't need and listening to self-serving people.

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