Pragmatic Philosophy

“Pragmatic” is often seen as a complimentary term. But, says New York Times’ commentator Stanley Fish, it is also related to the philosophy of “pragmatism,” which is an unhopeful ideal.

"’Pragmatic’ is a compliment sometimes paid to politicians (Barack Obama’s supporters describe him that way), and it is often used as an honorific indicating a person of common sense who knows how to get things done. ‘Pragmatic’ is also related (at least etymologically) to pragmatism, the name of a distinctively American philosophy that emerged in the early decades of the 20th century in the work of William James, John Dewey and C.S. Peirce. Pragmatism may or may not be an ethical program depending on whose version you are reading, but it always emphasize the resources of historically given institutions and practices and de-emphasizes the role played in our lives by supra-historical essentialisms (God, faith, truth, reason, brute fact, overarching theory) even to the extent sometimes of denying their existence. Like any philosophy pragmatism offers answers to the questions the tradition of philosophical inquiry has been asking since its beginning. What is truth? What is real? How are we to act? What is the source of moral and/or epistemological authority? Pragmatism’s basic move is to declare that the answers to these questions will not be found by identifying some transcendental universal and then conforming ourselves to its normative demands (like ‘Be ye perfect’)."

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less