Pragmatic is defined as practical; Testing the validity of all concepts by their practical results. At least, this is how one of Webster's dictionaries defines it. It doesn't really do the word justice. Most people - at least those who `know' what the word means - believe that pragmatism is the philosophy that claims that the end justifies the means. Most people (dontcha' just love those nonspecific generalizations?) also claim that the end never justifies the means. To a pragmatist, both of these philosophies are equally wrong: the pragmatist believes that the end can justify the means.
Strategically speaking, having the maximum number of options available maximizes your chances of accomplishing your goals. If it is necessary to use undesirable means to accomplish a desirable end, and the gains to be had by accomplishing this end exceed the losses represented by the means, then the pragmatist would not hesitate. The person who claims that the end never justifies the means would never use such means, and so would not have achieved his goals, and if those goals are philanthropic, than people would have suffered, relatively, for nothing.
The pragmatist is also a realist, by definition. If he is not, than he could not truly be a pragmatist, even if he thinks he is, because he would not really be optimizing his chances; and a pragmatist would always optimize his chances. For this same reason, a pragmatist would not accept anything on faith, or without examination and definite verification, except as a possible working theory. For this reason, he has no use for the morals that have been handed down from on high, though the reaction that he might engender from others if he is believed to be, or not to be following them would, of course be considered. He would have no use for any unreasoning belief, save where the impression that his beliefs make upon others might affect his goals.
Strategy is the tool of the pragmatist: optimizing his chances for success when working at cross purposes with others requires it. A pragmatist should study strategy in all it's applications, as it will surely be required eventually, and it will always increase his chances, if even just because he has no way of saying for certain that at some point in the pursuit of his goals, he might not find himself in a position where it could help. In many ways, strategy is pragmatism.
Knowledge is the tool of the pragmatist: without it, he cannot accurately determine where his best chances of success lie. A pragmatist should always seek such knowledge as he can, giving preference to that knowledge which seems most likely to aid him, but certainly not limited to that. Similarly, knowledge should generally be denied to ones potential adversaries, and provided to ones potential allies. Pragmatism is impossible without knowledge.
A pragmatist must decide what his goals are, and rate the desirability of each. He cannot devote too much thought to this, as everything else depends on it. Similarly, he must decide what limits he will place upon his actions, and how important each one is. A pragmatist can rationally derive a code of morals: in fact, if he gives it enough thought he is almost certain to do so.
A pragmatist, as stated earlier, should always seek to maximize his chances: that is what pragmatism IS. He should consider every factor that he can, and base his decisions on every fact and possibility that he could derive. He should realize that common sense does not have a terribly good level of accuracy: so he should seek to make all of his decisions logically, even mathematically, where possible.
Above all, a pragmatist should use every possible advantage at all times. He can never be certain that just one insignificant seeming thing, or perhaps an accumulation of them, might be the difference between success and failure. Even the tiniest of gains now will be magnified down the line. Consider: if I were in a position of power, I would seek to make sure that all those who might one day challenge me lacked the wherewithal to do so. For this reason I would, if I could, see to it that people in general did not understand how I achieved my position. I would try to make sure that the philosophy of pragmatism was not generally understood, or was generally frowned upon. Perhaps this is why pragmatism is so misunderstood: the people in power are pragmatists.
It is easier to control people who do not consider things realistically and logically, and who do not question what you say and do, or who let themselves be led by you because of their blind faith. Perhaps this is why unreasoning patriotism is so encouraged, and why so many religions place so much emphasis on having faith in them.
This author could certainly benefit if others learned of pragmatism, as he would have allies, whether they knew it or not, but only if he is not now in a position of power. Other pragmatists, even if, or perhaps especially if, they are just normal, `little' people, without great personal resources, would all help to nibble away at the power bases of the people currently in power. If everyone knew about pragmatism, and practiced it, eventually, a mutually beneficial state would almost certainly come about. In this authors case at least, it would be acceptable to see such a state come into being, rather than to achieve great personal power over others. It's simply a practical compromise.
Interested parties might read books such as `The Prince' by (pardon my spelling) Nicolo Machiavelli, and Sun Tsu's, `The Art of War'. You never know, they just might help...
Back to Cybertek Index