The Octogenarians Comment: “False Science and Unqualified, Politicized Punditry”

On Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 12:41 AM Jeffrey.Thomas <jet> wrote:

Well, I’m on call right now and I don’t have time for an artful response, but I agree that it does call for one. My first thoughts that spring to mind are that our loftiest ideals, endeavors and aspirations are seldom pragmatic. The works of art and music that we hold up as the finest examples of our advanced civilization are not at all practical (organized religion, on the other hand, tends to be eminently practical in the ways that you might expect). The virtues of loyalty, selflessness, self-sacrifice are seldom born of pragmatism. Courage, in almost every manifestation, is usually quite the opposite of pragmatic, whereas cowardice, greed, self-interest and self-preservation are often logical and practical.

If you want to know the nature of humans, listen to the stories we tell. They are stories of passion, devotion, courage and perseverance, and they are found not only in our greatest works of literature and music, but on the walls and in the hallways of our finest art museums, and the corridors of our concert halls and theaters. Our ideals as a species find their highest expression in these works.

Worst of all, enslavement to pragmatism leaves but a short step in multiple terrible directions. The Third Reich and genetic engineering come to mind.

The best things in life come indeed from art and emotion, that reflect upon and celebrate the nature of human life and our shared experience of mortality. Our greatest cultural achievements are those of artistic expression, through which we communicate our experience and our connectedness to other humans. These are the enduring monuments of our civilization, because that is what really matters to us.
There is no doubt that pragmatism has an important role to play, but it is never an end in itself.

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3 Comments

  1. Pragmatism is most succinctly a focus on “what works”. Without defining “relative to what” the concept alone always lacks meaning. For that reason, I connect my definition of “pragmatic” to the goal of: “That which will actually maximize the human ability to thrive and survive”.
    By linking the concept of “pragmatic” to that purpose, I have focused on a method that evades the pitfall attitudes of, “moral superiority”, and/or “I am good, you are bad”. Our minds become more like engineers sharing a design problem, and less like moralists arguing who is most Godlike. Interestingly though, the aspiration I have connected to “pragmatic” is a synopsis of what almost all would claim to be moral. I say “almost”, because many religions and dogmas would define their primary goal to be something other than “that which will actually maximize the human ability to thrive and survive”. For some, it is attracting the greatest number to accept Jesus as our Savior. For some, it is shifting infidels to embrace Muhammed. For many, the primary goal is an equal distribution, a “social justice”, regarding the nation’s product. For a few, it is to advance Arian superiority. For some, it is advancing the belief that “Black Lives Matter” most. I could go on, but you can see the point. In fact, Jeff clearly understood this problem when he correctly observed that “pragmatic” has served multiple ugly and destructive causes.

    As for the arts and deep feelings? Everyone has feelings. So, what makes some more special than others? “Art” occurs when we revere those feelings that are cultivated from a soil of truthful understandings and are reified with an appropriate mix of style and content. Interestingly, style can be so enchanting that it can hide problems related to content. “Propaganda” is an example describing when this kind of manipulation is intentional. But often, great artists will be inspired to depict content believed to be true but is false. So great “art” itself, is not a proof regarding the truth of things. Particularly as regards content, the same stimulus can evoke vastly different emotions. Show Daedal2207 a fine sculpture depicting President Trump.

    Jeff, thank you for your well-written, mind-challenging, contribution to this subject. About this relationship, Claude has good reason to be proud. Please continue to participate.

  2. JET: “ Our ideals as a species find their highest expression in these works. Worst of all, enslavement to pragmatism leaves but a short step in multiple terrible directions. The Third Reich and genetic engineering come to mind.”

    The response could not have been more artful. You’re defining elements of being human. In the case of the participant who “promotes” pragmatism, it warrants his definition of pragmatism. Monism or pluralism philosophy? Classical? What are the measures/standards to state a position? It is a cowardly practice to be so opaque as to provide one’s self an exit door … “that’s not what I meant … being misunderstood.” We’ve been the readers of adoring platitudes upon platitudes of the successes of the present administration … while attacking supported criticism of it with rhetoric meant to slap back at the writer! … without the pragmatist providing specifics, references/footnotes. Let’s hear them. Condescending praise does not negate his insults nor vitriolic utterances.

    Thank you, JET!

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