RE: MD Gardner on Pragmatism

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Feb 02 2003 - 02:16:41 GMT

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    Rick, Matt and all pragmatists:

    RICK wrote:
        Pragmatism is method. Just like the scientific method. And I have no
    doubt that Hitler could have twisted pragmatism to support his views in
    precisely the same way he twisted science to support his views (haven't you
    ever seen those diagrams purporting to scientifically show why Aryans were a
    master race?). But so what? That Hitler could exploit pragmatism for his
    own purposes doesn't negate pragmatism anymore than the fact that Hitler
    could exploit science for his own purposes would negate science.
        I don't know of any philosophical system or method that can't be somehow
    exploited or twisted into supporting positions it never intended to,
    including the MoQ.

    DMB says:
    Right. Its true. There's nothing to prevent people from distorting ideas for
    their own twisted purposes. And to criticize an idea just because its not
    immune to such abuse is a totally invalid criticism. I couldn't agree more.
    But I think the problem with pragmatism is that no such distortion is needed
    for it to result in a moral nightmare. I think this is what Pirsig is saying
    about James' brand of Pragmatism. He's saying that genuine, undistorted and
    unpolluted pragmatism can lead to these moral nightmares, not by abusing it
    but simply using it as it really is. And he didn't see any way to stop it
    from doing so. On the other hand, aside from wild distortions, the MOQ's
    brand of pragmatism DOES have a way to prevent this problem.

    What Phaedrus saw was that the MOQ avoided this attack by making it clear
    that the good to which truth is subordinate is intellectual and DQ, not
    practicality. The misunderstanding of James occurred because there was no
    clear intellectual framework for distinguishing social quality from
    intellectual and Dynamic Quality, and in his Victorian lifetime they were
    monstroously confused. But the MOQ states that practicality is a SOCIAL
    pattern of good. It is immoral for truth to be subordinated to social values
    since that is a lower form of evolution devouring a higher one.
    The idea that satisfaction alone is the test of anything is very dangerous,
    according to the MOQ. There are different kinds of satisfaction and some of
    them are moral nightmres. The Holocaust produced a satisfaction among Nazis.
    That was quality for them. They considered it to be practical. But it was a
    quality dictated by low level static social and biological patterns whose
    overall purpose was to retard the evolution of truth and DQ. James would
    probably have been horrified to find that Nazis could use his pragmatism
    just as freely as anyone else, but Phaedrus didn't see anything that would
    prevent it. But he thought that the MOQ's classification of static patterns
    of good prevents this kind of debasement.

    Whad'ya think, Matt? Does your friend RR address this issue? Does he somehow
    escape Pirsig's point that practicality is only a social good?


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