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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/75

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71
NEW PHILOSOPHY CALLED PRAGMATISM

dualisms of actual and ideal, finite and infinite, one and the many, subject and object, mind and matter, ego and alter, reason and faith, good and evil, right and wrong, experience and reality, and the host of other antitheses which the dialectical ingenuity of sapient man has teased out of the intricate meshwork and living tissue of concrete experience.

In conclusion it should be said that, just because pragmatism is idealistic, it is not egoistic, as it has been falsely charged with being, in either the social or the ethical sense.

One of the main contentions of the pragmatists who have been quoted in the foregoing paragraphs, especially of Professor Dewey, who is its most consistent exponent on this side, is the social conditioning of consciousness and of the knowledge process by which reality is constituted in experience. This is not the place to expand upon it, but it is important to note that for the pragmatic idealist, consciousness is essentially social in its content, individuals are functions of each other, selfhood is achieved only through interaction of selves; and cognition, which is ordinarily conceived as a mental process going on in the head of some so-called individual, is a process which includes the object as well as the subject in its activity. As Professor Eoyce has so ably set forth, the external world is the communicable world, is socially constructed, and it may with truth be said, as a recent writer expresses it, that it is as proper to call ultimate reality a society-ofselves as to call it the absolute.

The pragmatic ethics is currently described as the art of making one's self comfortable in the long run, or, in its more cynical form, if you can't have what you want, don't want it. The reply to the implied criticism in the first formulation is that egoism is not incompatible with altruism. It is true, not only that what is good for society is good for the individual, but that what is good for the individual must in the long run be good for society. Egoism or individualism in a functional sense, which recognizes the relationship of the self to the social whole, is the very essence of progress. Egoism and altruism, like other abstractions, when taken in isolation, confute each other. An altruism which is only an excuse for trying to manage other people's affairs is not different from a self-centered egoism; while an egoism which conceives of the self so widely and so generously that it can not find happiness save through the happiness of others, is a very genuine kind of altruism. And the alternative suggested in the second formulation of the pragmatic morality is not the only one: another would be: If you can't have what you want, want it more vitally, more organically, until you get it. A pragmatic ethics refuses to believe that any craving or impulse of human nature is bad as such. There is no absolute evil. Error and evil, like truth and good, are matters of relationship; and, just as the truth is not attained until all the so-called