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’)."

Russia sends its first android to space

The Russian-built FEDOR was launched on a mission to help ISS astronauts.

Photos by TASS\TASS via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Russia launched a spacecraft carrying FEDOR, a humanoid robot.
  • Its mission is to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Such androids can eventually help with dangerous missions likes spacewalks.
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Human extinction! Don't panic; think about it like a philosopher.

Most people think human extinction would be bad. These people aren't philosophers.

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Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new opinion piece in The New York Times argues that humanity is so horrible to other forms of life that our extinction wouldn't be all that bad, morally speaking.
  • The author, Dr. Todd May, is a philosopher who is known for advising the writers of The Good Place.
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this incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
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