Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that claims, among other things, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it. First proposed by C.S. Peirce and then amplified by William James, John Dewey and others, it offers a powerful way to resolve philosophical conundrums and explain difficult concepts. The pragmatists share a set of philosophical attitudes:
* A distaste for verbalism, and an approach to meaning in terms of practical or “pragmatic” consequences.
* The idea that meaning shifts and changes, growing as our knowledge grows.
* A disinclination to philosophize in an a priori way, and an understanding of philosophy as about the world, not exclusively about our concepts or our language.
* A distaste for dogmatism and, correspondingly, a robust and thorough-going fallibilism.
The question of what goodness is has been at the forefront of philosophical inquiry since the ancient Greeks. For Plato, the Good is a perfect, eternal, and changeless Form, existing outside space and time, in which particular good things share. For Aristotle, the highest good is a happy life well within space and time. For him, happiness (eudaimonia) is the end at which all our activities ultimately aim, and as such it is the supreme good. Clearly, the pragmatists are closer to Aristotle than to Plato.
In this session we will look at goodness from a pragmatic standpoint. What does goodness look like “on the ground,” in practical, concrete terms? And what implications does this account of goodness have for ethics and morality?
This two-hour session will consist of a lecture for 30-40 minutes followed by discussion. No reading in advance is required, but if you want to learn a bit about pragmatism beforehand, try the usual sources:
* Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism
* Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/
* Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://www.iep.utm.edu/pragmati/
The host, Bill Meacham, Ph.D., is an independent scholar in philosophy and the author of the books How To Be An Excellent Human and How to Exert Free Will as well as numerous essays on philosophical topics as applied to everyday life.
After earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy he spent many years in computers and data processing. He brings the precision required for good software development to the deep questions posed by philosophy: What’s real? How do we know what’s real? And what shall we do about what’s real?
His work is available on his website, https://bmeacham.com.
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This event is offered in partnership with the People’s Colloquium of Portland, Oregon (https://peoplescolloquium.org/), and the Virtual Philosophy Network (https://sites.google.com/view/virtualphilosophynetwork), a large network of Meetup groups around the world planning long-term virtual collaborations. As such, the event is posted on several Meetup groups.