Sunday, November 9, 2014

Strategy (2): Machiavelli, The Pragmatist

Most contemporary politicians hold the view that ends can only be achieved by negotiation and by a Pragmatic take on 'what works'. Consensus leads to the best results for the majority. If that doesn't specifically specifies what is the Good, that is not an accident of nature. 

Five Part docu and audio book about Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), an Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. (Wiki)

Officially Pragmatism is rooted in 19th Century America. Unofficially its principles are much older. Machiavelli was a typical Pragmatist. The philosophy of Pragmatism is a rejection of the idea that the function of thought is knowledge of objective reality. Instead, pragmatists consider thought to be a product of the interaction between organism and environment. The function of thought is a tool for prediction, action, and problem solving, not for knowledge of reality as such. According to Pragmatism, philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—must be seen in terms of their practical uses and successes rather than in terms of accuracy. It leads to a very curious, irrational and amoral world view. This makes it very dangerous. 

Pragmatism rejects the claim that reality and truth are knowable: most Pragmatists view that there is more than one sound way to conceptualize the world and its content. Therefore truth statements are personal interpretations and a subjective, personal preference.

Many pragmatists are epistemological relativists and see this to be an important facet of their philosopy (e.g. the Postmodernist Richard Rorty), but this is controversial and other Pragmatists argue such relativism to be seriously misguided.

The uptake of Pragmatists on language is very peculiar and is called Nominalism: words are mere convention and do not refer to percepts, concepts, objects or abstracts in the real world. Rather they refer to more words and subjective meanings, leading to postmodern text analysis known as close readings.

Like the Left, Pragmatism holds that man is a social animal whose acts are determined by a combination of his innate character and social environment (nature and nurture). Founding fathers of postmodern Pragmatism are Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey.

Machiavelli in his time still held medieval views of God, the Universe, and the place of man in it. He may have been a Deist or an Agnostic. But his moral standard of expediency sounds particularly apt today: the Good is whatever 'works'.