• rickyk95
    53
    I've been reading William James' lectures on Pragmatism and I like the idea of a belief's truth value being reduced to its practical consequences. James gives several examples of how endless debates about a word's metaphysical meaning get us nowhere, and that we instead ought to look at the practical differences between opposing sides of any given debate.

    Some examples:

    Free Will vs Determinism
    He mentions that when it comes to Free Will, many people claim to be concerned about merits and demerits in the criminal realm and how it will affect justice, but that this view is mistaken; people who do bad things will continue to be punished regardless of whether we believe they have agency or not. What really is at stake in the Free Will debate is whether we believe we have capacity to create novelty. If we are mere products of physical processes we don't have the capacity to change, whereas if we have volition, we do, and this is the only thing that matters in practical terms.

    Spiritualism vs Materialism
    He makes a similar case for the Spiritualism vs Materialism debate. He says that both theories are exactly the same in terms of what has already occurred. Whether or not there is matter and everything in the world is composed of it, is of secondary importance at best. What really is at stake, in terms of practical cash value, in this debate, is whether or not we believe our future holds a promise for moral order. If Spiritualism is true, then there will always be a moral order that is guarded by God, whereas if Materialism is true, our life is just a physical contingency devoid of ethics.

    Setting aside the possibility that I could've misunderstood him in what he meant (if so please correct me), what would a Pragmatist say about Pro Life vs Pro Choice?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    I guess the first thing to note is that the abortion debate is not the same kind of debate as the metaphysical debates that you and James discuss: James' whole point is that we ought to pay attention to practical consequences regardless of the apparent underlying theories - but the abortion debate already is about practical consequences. This is not the kind of case available to the kind of strategy employed by James with respect to Free Will and Materialism. If the approach to the latter has the form: 'regardless of X or Y, these are the results', the abortion debate has no 'regardless of...': it is already situated at the level of results. There may be more refined pragmatist approaches here, but in general terms, the abortion debate is not 'just' a metaphysical debate, it is always-already a 'practical' one. There's no (obvious) metaphysics to do away with: it's raw practicality from the get-go.

    The debate, where it exists, largely turns upon how to understand the significance of actions (taken or not taken).
  • Shamshir
    747
    To a pragmatist abortion is stagnation.

    Something that is indicated by William:
    What really is at stake in the Free Will debate is whether we believe we have capacity to create novelty.rickyk95

    You're not saving yourself the trouble, you're sparing yourself the responsibility when you choose to abort.
  • rickyk95
    53
    Makes a lot of sense
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