• Nzomigni
    27
    From what i understand from the SEP ( Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ), the core of the different pragmatist schools is the pragmastic maxim : " Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of those effects is the whole of our conception of the object. "
    It may not seems like that but this is a very powerful maxim that allow to clarify concepts to something pratical.
    From this maxim, we could technicaly dissolve / solve some philosophical problem or expect a possible answer. But it seems like pragmatism is often characterized from William James theory of 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. Expedient in almost any fashion; and expedient in the long run and on the whole, of course. " Even if James probably derive this theory of truth from the maxim, i don't think it make justice to pragmatism potiential to characterize it as mere instrumentalism. Still, Dewey theory of truth is interesting from a instrumental or naturalistic perspective.
  • Amity
    1.5k

    Hi and welcome.
    I haven't delved in to the various 'pragmatist schools' and only have a superficial understanding.
    I think I took a peek once because I thought 'Pragmatism' would fit my fairly practical attitude to life.
    But came away, thinking, ''Nah...not for me''.

    So, your OP brings a bit of re-view, to think again, thanks.
    Even if James probably derive this theory of truth from the maxim, i don't think it make justice to pragmatism potiential to characterize it as mere instrumentalism. Still, Dewey theory of truth is interesting from a instrumental or naturalistic perspective.Nzomigni

    Haven't looked at the SEP article yet.
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

    However, I listened to Hilary Putnam on James, Dewey and Pragmatism (5:39)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEev1OnbaYA

    This is followed by an 'Introduction to American Pragmatism' (41:26)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmbyCybs_QI

    In this BBC episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss American Pragmatism. According to William James, the pragmatist "turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power". William James, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey, were the founders of the American philosophical movement which flowered during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century and the first twenty years of the 20th century. It took knowledge to be meaningful only when coupled with action. The function of thought was taken not to represent or "mirror" the world, but instead was considered an instrument or tool for prediction, problem-solving, and action. In this way, it was a philosophy deeply embedded in the reality of life, concerned firstly with the individual's direct experience of the world they inhabit. How did pragmatism harness the huge scientific leap forward that had come with Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution? And how did this dynamic new philosophy challenge the doubts expressed by the skeptics about the nature and extent of knowledge? Did pragmatism influence the economic and political ascendancy of America in the early 20th century? And how does it relate to relativism and post-modernism? Melvyn Bragg discusses some of these questions regarding pragmatism with A. C. Grayling, Julian Baggini, and Miranda Fricker.

    This is from the BBC radio program In Our Time. For a more in-depth discussion of pragmatism, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNyp...​

    I look forward to hearing more about this...what difference does it make to hold a position of Pragmatism...what or who did it influence; how is it applied ?
  • Amity
    1.5k

    I meant to ask re the heading:
    'Is Dewey's pragmatism misunderstood ?'

    Why is this important to you ?
    What is your own understanding of what it means ?

    Dewey theory of truth is interesting from a instrumental or naturalistic perspective.Nzomigni

    Explain more, please - unpack this a little, my underlines ?
    I can read this * at my leisure - but just wondering what it means to/for you, ta.

    * https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-pragmatic/
  • Nzomigni
    27
    I may have misunderstood pragmaticism myself. The core idea pragmatism is that the object of an idea equates the sensible effects that the object might have. This idea come fron C.S Pierce paper " How to make our idea clear ". He thinks having clear idea is important build sound reasoning. Clear idea are idea that we easiliy recognize and manipulate. He argues that some ideas may seems clear to a person but may not be really clear. To avoid such situation, he definite stage of clearness to reach. The first stage of the apprehension of a concept is to be able have a unreflective grasp of it in everyday experience. The second stage is to be able to define it. The final and third stage is to apply the maxim.

    For example, what does a car mean ? I have a unreflective grasp of what is a car. I could define it as a ground vehicule suited to roads that can carry from 2 to 5 passengers. Now to apply the maxim, i gonna think what effect the object of my concept of a "car" might have. I could state as such, " if a is car, then i can drive a to go to work." The process of applying the maxim is to build testable hypothese on the concept. The meaning of the concept would be theses testables hypotheses and nothing more.

    The argument of Pierce is that this is absurd to think the object of your concept have effects that don't have pratical bearing as the whole purpose of thought is to create new habits of action. The object of a concept if only something that have pratical bearing. If it didnt have effects on the pratical, it might as well mean nothing. When you understand what Pierce mean, we could say that he see inquiry as a whole in purely scientific term.
    He use the maxim to demarcate to what he considers to be useless metaphysics from what he considers useful.
    I thought this maxim to be interesting as a useful heuristic. Thought is for action, if the object of one your idea don't have any effects that have pratical bearings, it might aswell be meaningless. Using this maxim ground your thoughts on the pratical, on the problem-solving and prediction etc.

    If you want to have a better explanation, i advise you to read this secondary source (https://iep.utm.edu/peircepr/#H2) and the primary source, the paper " How to make our idea clear " (https://courses.media.mit.edu/2004spring/mas966/Peirce%201878%20Make%20Ideas%20Clear.pdf)

    I would like to state that the maxim isn't the mere equivalent of verificationism. You could clarify quite abstract concept with it.
    And when i stated that Dewey theory was interesting from a naturalistic perspective, i misunderstood it. One of the similarities in the "pragmatist" schools are that they don't consider the metaphysics, they are more similar to a very strong empiricism than a metaphysical naturalism.

    Synthesis :

    The pragmatic maxim is used in the process to make concept clearer in relating to the pratical. If the object of an concept don't relate to the pratical anyhow, it's meaningless as the goal of thought is to create habit of action.
  • T Clark
    5.1k


    Although I generally don't characterize my philosophical leanings, it would be silly for me not to acknowledge that the term "pragmatism" fits me like a glove. As they say, if the glove fits, you must admit it. I liked the BBC text that @Amity quoted, in particular:

    It took knowledge to be meaningful only when coupled with action. The function of thought was taken not to represent or "mirror" the world, but instead was considered an instrument or tool for prediction, problem-solving, and action. In this way, it was a philosophy deeply embedded in the reality of life, concerned firstly with the individual's direct experience of the world they inhabit.

    I often look at this from a slightly different direction when I think about "truth." "What is true" is not the real question of philosophy and all other human concern. The real question is "what do I do now?" Truth is just a tool we use to figure that out. I guess you can't get any more pragmatic than that.

    By the way, Libravox (Libravox.com) has a reading of James' "Pragmatism" that I really like. It's free. Libravox uses volunteer readers. The one for "Pragmatism" has a really good voice if you can get past the fact that he is not a native speaker and has some odd pronunciations.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    1.7k


    Pierce came up with more than one version of the pragmatic maxim, and he wasn't all that pleased by James' version of pragmatism. He famously began to call his philosophy "pragmaticism" to distinguish it from what James had made of it. But Pierce was a rather crotchety soul, and it took him some time to warm up even to Dewey, who understood him better than James.

    Pierce was a logician, mathematician and chemist, and while all he wrote was interesting his focus was on logic, language and signs. James was, I think, first and foremost a psychologist. He was a great teacher, lecturer and writer, made a number of interesting observations and popularized pragmatism, but he wasn't the most precise and exacting thinker and so came up with statements like the one you quoted. Dewey had to defend him against attacks from such as Bertrand Russell, who attacked Dewey as well through a succession of straw man arguments based primarily on the assumption that what is true is whatever "works." I think Russell no more understood Dewey than he understood Wittgenstein.

    For me, the maxim is usefully employed whenever we encounter a concept that is so vague and suggestive that it is subject to misuse. It's been a long time since I read that essay you mentioned, so I can't recall if he had particular concepts in mind.

    Dewey thought that "true" carried so much baggage with it that it was best avoided. So, he took to using (in his writings, anyhow) "warranted assertibility." Dewey rejected the "spectator" or correspondance view of knowledge, and instead claimed that what we know results from our interaction with the rest of the world. Ideally, that would be the result of inquiry, through the employment of the scientific method in some cases, but could be the result of trial and error, solving problems, and seeing what "works" in particular circumstances. With enough evidence obtained through inquiry, we may be warranted in asserting that something is the case, and may act upon it in the future. "Truth" is better applied to judgments than propositions as a result. As a result what we consider "true" or what we think we "know" may change, as new evidence is received. Truth isn't static, therefore.

    In response to the title of your thread, I would say yes--Dewey's pragmatism is misunderstood. That's in part because of his writing style but also I think because people don't like to accept his reliance on method in making judgments--the fact, in other words, that knowledge, truth, morality are contingent. This is confused with relativism.

    That's my two cents, anyway.
  • T Clark
    5.1k
    Thought is for action, if the object of one your idea don't have any effects that have pratical bearings, it might aswell be meaningless. Using this maxim ground your thoughts on the pratical, on the problem-solving and prediction etc.Nzomigni

    This is a good expression of what "pragmatism" means to me.

    One of the similarities in the "pragmatist" schools are that they don't consider the metaphysics,Nzomigni

    I don't think this is right. The pragmatic view of truth and meaning is metaphysics.

    I'm glad you started this discussion of pragmatism. I haven't read Dewey. I'll go find some.
  • Amity
    1.5k

    Appreciate all the input; the background information most interesting and the links I will follow up.
    At some point... :sparkle:
  • Amity
    1.5k
    Dewey thought that "true" carried so much baggage with it that it was best avoided. So, he took to using (in his writings, anyhow) "warranted assertibility." Dewey rejected the "spectator" or correspondance view of knowledge, and instead claimed that what we know results from our interaction with the rest of the world. Ideally, that would be the result of inquiry, through the employment of the scientific method in some cases, but could be the result of trial and error, solving problems, and seeing what "works" in particular circumstances. With enough evidence obtained through inquiry, we may be warranted in asserting that something is the case, and may act upon it in the future. "Truth" is better applied to judgments than propositions as a result. As a result what we consider "true" or what we think we "know" may change, as new evidence is received. Truth isn't static, therefore.Ciceronianus the White

    I am with Dewey in not being overfond of certain uses of the word 'true'. Acting on warranted assertion - or a confidently held fact - following inquiry as described - that makes sense to me.
    It is true that what we consider 'true' or what we think we 'know' may change.

    I liked the BBC text that Amity quoted, in particular:

    It took knowledge to be meaningful only when coupled with action. The function of thought was taken not to represent or "mirror" the world, but instead was considered an instrument or tool for prediction, problem-solving, and action. In this way, it was a philosophy deeply embedded in the reality of life, concerned firstly with the individual's direct experience of the world they inhabit.
    T Clark

    Yes. I also liked but query this one:
    According to William James, the pragmatist "turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power".

    I see thought or thinking as a tool but not just for practical decision-making but also leaning 'towards power' or creativity or energy. It includes imagination...which is not particularly 'concrete'. But I think know I am being too lazy and superficial at the moment - just plain wrong to look at snippets :yikes:
    More in-depth stuff required...like actually following up on and listening to my own links:
    This is followed by an 'Introduction to American Pragmatism' (41:26)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmbyCybs_QI
    Amity
  • Amity
    1.5k
    The pragmatic maxim is used in the process to make concept clearer in relating to the pratical. If the object of an concept don't relate to the pratical anyhow, it's meaningless as the goal of thought is to create habit of action.Nzomigni

    Well so far, I think much of this makes sense. Thinking geared towards practical implications and action.
    However, I take issue with the idea that 'the goal of thought is to create habit of action'.
    Where do you find this ?
  • T Clark
    5.1k
    I am with Dewey in not being overfond of certain uses of the word 'true'. Acting on warranted assertion - or a confidently held fact - following inquiry as described - that makes sense to me.

    It is true that what we consider 'true' or what we think we 'know' may change.
    Amity

    You've given me an opening to use, yet again, my favorite quote from one of my favorite authors, Stephen J. Gould. I think this is the perfect pragmatic view of truth.

    In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

    I see thought or thinking as a tool but not just for practical decision-making but also leaning 'towards power' or creativity or energy. It includes imagination...which is not particularly 'concrete'.Amity

    Quick response - power, creativity, energy, imagination - all in service of "what do I do now." More thoughtful response - Let me think about this. I'll see if I can back that up or come up with more.
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