I have been toying lately with an idea for an deology that like to call ‘Pragmatism’. In practice, this 'Pragmatism' would mean that one will always try to find and support the specific solutions that will work in any particular case. Pragmatism means that, in an ideal case, you can take the best parts of all ‘isms’ and you can use them freely when necessary. Most importantly of all Pragmatism means that one does not tie oneself into any ism to such a degree that one cannot see the good parts that exist in other isms anymore.
The result would be an syncretic ideology. It would be like the syncretic religions that loan the best features of existing religions and create their own mixture based on them. Of course, all of us will inevitably have some basic beliefs and preferences. Also a Pragmatist would have a basic higher vision of how the world should be. In fact, I see that one cannot be a Pragmatist if one does not have fixed higher goals of one's own.
These personal higher ideals are needed for one to be able to measure new ideas and to find the best bits in other ideologies. You simply cannot choose the best parts of ideologies, if you do not have anything against which you can measure these ideas.
One needs to have a vision of the general direction where the society needs to go to be a Pragmatist. However, one needs also to have a flexible relationship with these basic personal ideas. A Pragmatist should be able to see how any idea that is pushed too far can cause trouble. Trouble lurks especially when an idea or ideology is successful, and it is pushed without compromises.
Being aware and secure of on one’s basic ideas makes one free to choose the best bits from the big marketplace of ideas. This is impossible if you are insecure of the quality of your basic ideas, or you are so attached to them that you cannot even consider other ideas.
Pragmatism can not be not an option for everyone. A very strong attachment to any ideology will weaken one ability to evaluate other ideas. Most of all it can weaken one’s ability to compromise and a person who cannot compromise cannot be a Pragmatist. For me personally, the very basic ideas and building blocks for my own vision of the world are humanism and the great western tradition of democratic socialism. Both of these ideas have always been forwarded through an endless series of compromises.
However, a Pragmatist could well could have a very different set of basic personal ideas. This is the case as long as the mental flexibility and openness are present that Pragmatism does require from a person. In my vision of Pragmatism, the single most important idea deeply embedded in it is the grand idea of ‘Compromise’. In Pragmatism, a society is made a better place through an endless series of compromises with those who have other ideas of how the society should be developed.
Pragmatism is in reality a viable option only in open and democratic societies. Normally one just cannot compromise with totalitarians. A Pragmatist does not hate or despise people just because of their opinions or ideologies, but a Pragmatist can hate bad and harmful ideas and ideologies.
Keeping the difference between people and ideas in mind can be difficult, and people with strong ideologies normally are quite unable to separate their person from their ideology. However, a Pragmatist should be able to do it.
I know very well that there is also a school of philosophy that is called Pragmatism. It was popular especially in the United States in the 19th century and early in the 20th century. Big names in Pragmatism were Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey and George Santayana.
In the 1970’s, a new version of pragmatism called sometimes neopragmatism gained influence through Richard Rorty. He is the most influential of the late 20th-century pragmatists. Most of their ideas can be applied to my idea of Pragmatism, but I am speaking about an ideology here and not about another school of philosophy.
The version of Pragmatism that I am presenting here is not a philosophy in the sense in which Peirce, Dewey, Santayana or Rorty have presented their ideas. However, their ideas can fit well in my vision. They can be used as building blocks if one wants to dig a bit deeper. My personal vision of Pragmatism is not in any way in conflict with established philosophical pragmatism.
My greatest single influence has, however, been Bertrand Russell. Most of the individual ideas that I present here originate from his writings.
Bertrand Russell was a champion of mental flexibility and openness. He stressed the importance of being able to face and accept the fact that people will always have different ideas of how societies should develop. He saw clearly how there can not exist a single all-encompassing receipt for building a good society. I even think that he would have been a wonderful example of a Pragmatist.
I know well that presenting ideas like this in an obscure Finnish blog is a classical lesson in futility. However, my dream is that the idea of Pragmatism would become a meme that would receive a life of its own. In my wildest dreams in a few years from now, I would be reading a Bulgarian blog where the writer would be presenting his new idea of ‘Pragmatismus’ with wild enthusiasm.
(This piece was refurbished in 26th of April 2013)