Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/384

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ality, or rather, personality is expressed, and its character for others determined, by the attitude taken.

I am not quite sure that the use of the word philosophy in this way, a way that allows us to speak of the pragmatic philosophy, is justified, but that is a minor matter, and may be overlooked in our quest for larger game. The important question is, supposing the world converted to this pragmatic philosophy, what would be the consequences, pragmatically speaking? Would pragmatism itself be pragmatically justified?

At the very outset, it must be obvious that a genuinely pragmatic attitude implies for most of us a noteworthy increase in intellectual activity. It is an attitude which obliges us to inquire, test and form judgments. The pragmatist asks cui bono? not in the indolent manner of the pessimist, but as the miner asks for the precious metal, and is determined to find it, no matter what the cost. The pragmatist is necessarily an optimist, for his quest implies from the start that the truth is good and serviceable, worthy to be sought. I think the psychologist and the sociologist might have something to say here about the possibility of a breakdown due to too much pragmatism. Are we not protected to a considerable extent by our very stupidity? Human judgment is a two-edged sword, which has often wounded those who used it. Do not our educational efforts indicate to us daily the limitations of the human mind?

It was the belief of William James that most people are capable of much more than they customarily put forth. He was supported in this by examples of heroic effort and achievement under conditions of stress, physical and mental. Our normal performance in these civilized days far exceeds that of our ancestors of a few hundred years back; ancestors who, biologically speaking, did not differ in any important particular from ourselves. The same peoples, living contemporaneously in different parts of the world, differ enormously in their intellectual performance, according to circumstances. It must be admitted, then, that the depths of the human mind have not been sounded, and that much still unsuspected may yet come forth. Whether we like it or not, education and democracy will place us in a position where we must either become more intelligent or go to smash. If we can stand the strain, all will be justified, and humanity will realize values unattainable by any living being at any previous stage in the history of the world. If we fail, the vision of such possibilities will at least remain as a permanent contribution to human welfare, and perhaps a spur to other and more successful efforts in a time far distant.

After all, the pragmatic position does not demand so much of the individual as might at first appear. We are social beings, and in particular our knowledge and judgments are social products. It is equally