Friday, December 3, 2010

Being Practical versus Acting out of Pragmatism

There is a difference between being practical and pragmatism. Being practical is figuring out an effective way to carry out principle in a given situation. You do not change a goal of what ought to be done.

Pragmatism disregards pursuit of what ought to be done in favor of settling for what seemingly can be done.

It is not possible to calculate truly and fully what is possible -- what can be done. Those who do so and act on their calculations in the name of pragmatism often fail to account for all the possibilities and so miss the best one.

For example: Pragmatism would have said that the 13 American colonies could not successfully rebel against the British Empire.

Pragmatism would have said that democracy is unwieldy and ineffective and that we need elites to rule us.

These arguments are still used today.

Pragmatism would say that Taiwan should give in to China.

Pragmatism would have said that William Wilberforce should not have tried to eradicate slavery in the British Empire.

The lesson of history over and over again exposes the error of operating on the basis of pragmatism.

However, sometimes acting on principle does end in a failure to succeed. Even in this case, would have it been better not to act?

Regardless of the outcome, it is better to act on what ought to be done even if the action will not succeed. For your failure may still lead to a laying of the foundation for future generations to succeed.

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