No. 71
Author Admin / 2017-11-17
Pragmatism, Class of 17th Nov.

12. Pragmatism (실용주의, 실학)

From Pragmatism, William James (1842-1910) who was the first professor in area of psychology 


There has been existed concept of 'time', and when people thought they needed some other concepts or ideas to be able to actualize the time concept into the physical world (with either existence or substance or reality), through measurement of a certain duration, one new concept was invented, which is clock or watch. Even if the former and latter concepts are not exactly the same, we agree we have very similar meanings and interpretations between the two concepts. It is pragmatism that combines the new ideas which can be made with imminent necessity or reason, and some old concepts (or old truths, axioms) which has been dominant, based on existing experiences of people who are sharing the present times; thus, pragmatism can be defined as a function of combining old and new concepts (ideas), also be defined as a trace of the human activity. That's why pragmatism (James and John Dewey (1859-1952)) shares something in essence with humanism (Friedrich von Shiller (1759-1805)).

   Thus, pragmatism is practical and very specific, thus, it seems not pure and similar to utilitarian, but, it is interested in not only consequence, as actuality, but process and way of the actuality to make connectivity between old (in which contemporary persons (conservative in general) have strong belief, as a truth) and new conceptions. Pragmatism is something like corridors of hotel which connects all the rooms (i.e., ism for ism). Range scope of pragmatism includes firstly the methodology, and secondly origin of meaning of combining concepts underlying truths.


Does pragmatism share intricacies? If so, in which aspects is this true? Firstly, both are interested in newly formulated concepts based on human activity occurred in imminent occasions of necessity, and secondly, both believe that truth in conceptions is not fixed, but always flexible depending on the situations that occur and have different scientific and ethical values in the occasions. However, if it is supposed that some truths or permanent logics exist for conceptions, including new one, which underlie occasions, it is rationalism opposing to pragmatism.


Some examples of pragmatism actualization (concept/actuality (as existence with potential reality)): time/clock (watch), heredity/DNA, global warming/level of carbon dioxide, health/disease, wealth/money, economy/money, education/degree, communication/cell phone, etc. Pragmatism is a Guidance from Thought to Actual Concept, and from Concept to Actuality (Existence).


Concept of Truth, with the Pragmatism: When we get lost in a forest, to find a narrow pathway which cows use may have a meaning (i.e., proposition) as there might be town at the end of the pathway, depending on our past experiences. There are full of rules and principles in experiences; there are predominantly existing and majority accepted truths in some experiences, within values sharing communities. For example, people trust truth of clock even though they do not fully understand operating principles of a watch, such as elasticity of spring. However, due to the commonly accepted beliefs, rationalists say pragmatism profanes truth concept. Here, we feel a necessity to define what the truth concept itself is. There is a certain view of truth with pragmatism. They always ask themselves which specific difference in real life does concept and/or idea make, how those can be actualized, as existence with both substance and reality, and what kinds of values can be made. Thus, as already mentioned, their truth is not stagnant but freely varying (it reminds fine roots of a tree, extending to every other concepts). Thus, a criterion for pragmatism to be true is agreement of conception with reality and/or existence, i.e., possibility of actualization. If agreed, it is true, and if not, it is false. If the concept can be described and represented using the existence (or reality) formed through the actualization, it may be true. There are some examples of misleading actualities even with sensible characteristics in pragmatism; certain materials can be described using atoms or electrons, it is sometimes not enough for an actuality as concepts before and after the actuality process should have consistent meanings and shared identity, and so on. It should be also known that even if there is agreement between the concept and the existence for the truth, it is not matter of truth of the concept alone, but, a truth of combination of the concept and the represented existence (actuality)!

   With newly made theories, there have been always conventional steps to be taken with the theories. First, it is criticized it is irrational, secondly, it may be true, but, it is too common and does not have any meaning, and lastly, people who opposed suddenly insist they discovered the theory and they are therefore expertise. The pragmatism which was a new theory (or ism) in early twenties, is not old theory and has been flourished and overemphasized, thus, it seems be misunderstood in some aspects as it is too powerful to control many beliefs in human culture and scientific activities.


Multiple Truths: As we discussed Kant's categorical concepts and his opinion on judgment, we have viewed the concept of truth. He prefer to use completeness rather than truth or false. There has been long debate on truth between rationalism and pragmatism. With rationalist, truth can be made but has been always there to exist, with strong identity, logic, and principles. On the contrary, with pragmatism, truth is being continuously made, with regard to existing and old concepts, without strong direct verification, but with indirect and analogous verification. We are also doubt of existence of absolute truth which does not any conditions (i.e., unconditioned), especially for natural and human related science. Truth implements its functions between facts and actualities, thus, it varies depending representations (not consistent). Or, truth of rationalism may be different from empirically derived one (i.e., pragmatic).

   Care should be taken for the pragmatic actuality process, to keep consistency in meanings before and after the process. And, we can not remove the former concept even after the actualization, instead, keep that with the latter actualized existence; without underlying concept (thought), there is no complete existence to be practically used.

   When there are two different actualities which are from one concept (during pragmatic process), which are both valuable and well-proven, people in general accept more complicated one. It is scientific but sophisticated and invaluable bent (fondness).


Humanism: Humanism plays roles like enzyme, never transform concepts too fast, but, very slowly, as pragmatism is trace of human activities of actualization discussed before. Therefore, it deserve to consider pragmatism cannot be completed without human consciousness, with connection to all the represented experiences (individuals and as a whole).