Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/385

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REALITY AND TRUTH

unnecessary and impossible for every one to form judgments about everything. A pragmatist need not in any way diminish his regard for authority, provided that this authority represents active inquiry and reasoned judgment. The usages of science suffice to indicate this, for in science there is no arbitrarily constituted authority, and yet the leaders receive their full share of respect. Were we all pragmatists, we should not individually undertake to decide the questions most important for us, but working together we should keenly strive to have them decided on a proper basis. In other words, pragmatism is not only not necessarily individualistic, but must have a socialistic trend if it is to be successful.

For any individual there can be no doubt that a certain ballast due to usage, custom, inertia, or what you will, is necessary. It must be so, also, with society as a whole, and neither for the individual nor for society is it possible to have a complete working philosophy, with all the machinery in view. Mallock once remarked that philosophy is like a coat which can not be buttoned up in front without splitting in the back, and this felicitous image certainly sets forth that inconsistency in the heart of things which has so far baffled all attempts to construct a universal logical system. The reason is, no doubt, that we work only in some, not all, of the dimensions of reality.

There is, therefore, danger in being too pragmatic. An excess of pragmatic zeal, under the best possible conditions, might possibly lead to the adoption of a too rigid system of values, logically deduced from the physics and metaphysics of the day, but in spite of everything, fatally incomplete. It is the sense of this that gives us pause from time to time, when our intellectual judgment bids us proceed. It has been shown so often that science may stand in her own light, that we have come to regard all things as possibly to be revised. This hesitation, this doubt on the part of those who have done their best for progress, is made the most of by those who cling without thought to the old, and all in all forms too great, not too small, a check on the advancement of the race.

The general outcome of our inquiry seems to be, that if we regard philosophy as an attitude of mind, the pragmatic philosophy may be welcomed as representing a changed emphasis, according well with the spirit and needs of our evolving democracy. At the same time, like every other good thing, it has its dangers, and in some hands it may even be disastrous. As a practical example of pragmatism, we may cite a recent case familiar to all—I mean Mr. Roosevelt s criticism of the Supreme Court. Lawyers had asked, what is written in the law? Mr. Roosevelt asked in truly Jamesian fashion, what difference does it make if this or that decision is rendered? To ask such a question is to find the answer ready at hand, intelligible to the least learned inquirer.