Pragmatism

   This word is used to mean different things. A sports commentary said, “The Valencia team imposes its pragmatism in El Sadar,” meaning that it applied every effective means to achieve a positive result. In this sense, pragmatism could be understood as the tendency to adjust to actual circumstances.

   We could distinguish two sides to this term—a philosophical pragmatism and a relativistic, or vulgar, pragmatism.

   The philosophical type has been developed by Charles S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey, among others. It acknowledges the validity of traditional issues concerning the truth of cognitive practices, and it seeks to reconstruct philosophy on that basis, starting from the notions of objectivity and truth.

   Relativistic or vulgar pragmatism is connected with a lack of principles, shrewdness, cynicism, and mere material efficiency. It seems to be quite frequent among certain businessmen and politicians.

   Manipulative advertising, deprived of any moral considerations, can obtain business benefits, even if this means deceiving consumers or creating artificial needs.

   For some politicians all opinions are worth the same, that is, nothing and truths do not exist as such. Their worth is merely based on the votes they help get. This is why, whenever a politician is asked about a particular fact, he typically does not reply to what is being asked, but rather answers with one or several well-built phrases aimed at creating a good image for himself or his party without stopping to think whether what is said is true or not. It is not the reality of facts that is sought, but rather to make a good impression on the audience and to secure their votes. Talking about this with a friend of mine who is a politician, he told me that at their summer schools they were taught the techniques for replying to mass media with arguments favoring their party and public performance, without taking into account whether their speech was true to the facts or not. This relativistic pragmatism bases social relationships on lies and creates a radical distrust in politicians, which is among the worst-rated collectives in many surveys.

   There is a clear need to base politics and human relationships on reality, and to always tell the truth about what we think and feel.

Arturo Ramo

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