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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/73

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69
NEW PHILOSOPHY CALLED PRAGMATISM

his so-called ideals are simply masks to conceal the irregularity and irrationality of his practise.

But the full humor of the situation does not appear until we turn to the supposed teachers of pragmatism—the pragmatists in theory. They are not really pragmatists, most of them, but idealists. They have developed pragmatism simply as a means of realizing a new idea in philosophy which seems more valuable to them than any of the old ideals. The fact that the new ideal is not consciously present or clearly worked out, does not alter the case. The function of the philosophical pragmatist of the day is not to supplant the various forms of idealism which have held sway, but to make their ideals operative as forces in the world of actual conditions and causes. It brings ideals down to earth; it does not destroy them. The positive mission of the pragmatic theorist is to show men how to use ideals as genuine dynamic functional realities instead of sentimentally worshipping them in their inviolable isolation. Pragmatism means, not the opportunism or expediency philosophy which too often is the only working theory of the man of affairs; it finds the ideal in the conditions, cultivates and guides its growth within the given case, and formulates it by reading off the "law of the process" by which those very conditions have given rise to the given case.

Men can not get along, and remain civilized, without ideals. It is not only the lover, idolizing the object of his affection, who is actuated by ideals: the successful statesman, scientist or man of business is always an idealist. He has an insight and an outlook—a point of view—which transforms the world of facts in the midst of which he lives, from a brute mass of obstruction and baffling perplexity into a systematic scheme or plan for bringing things to pass. His scheme may be false in certain particulars, but he can no more get along without some centralizing intellectual machinery than a complex organism can get along without a central nervous system or a complex civilization without its methods of communication.

Ideals are simply codes, customs, institutions, habits undergoing reconstruction in the medium of the direct emotional appreciation and rational insight of individuals. A philosophy must at bottom be an idealism because it is a theory of human progress—it seeks to deal in idea methodically with all the conditions by which man evolves an increasingly enriched experience. But experience is not thus mediated when certain standards, relevant in some past situation, are carried over bodily and unrevised into new conditions. This is the fallacy of most of the rationalistic and absolutistic forms of idealism which have held sway. Accepted types of thought and action are imposed on a new situation, and where the new conditions do not fit the rigid framework of the old standard, effort is made to force them into conformity with it. This is the obstructive aspect of absolutism against which pragma-