Principles vs Pragmatism

For all things philosophical.

Moderators: AMod, iMod

Post Reply
Nick_A
Posts: 4155
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:23 am

Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Nick_A » Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:27 am

Simone Weil — 'When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.'

I remember during my first year of high school I experienced a contradiction I couldn’t resolve. In those days students were taught about the obligation to vote. I being the type who would seek to find holes in any argument reasoned that since a person just has one vote and elections are decided by millions, why bother? There are more important uses for their time. At the same time if everyone thought this way we would be living by dictatorship. I was faced with two contradictory but equal truths. Voting is necessary but one vote is virtually meaningless.

When I got older I saw the problem in a new light which is the relationship between the truths of principles and pragmatic truths. Both are true but how does a person balance them?

When I learned of Socrates’ willingness to die it seemed absurd at first? What is gained by it? Why not take the pragmatic alternative and escape with the help of friends? Evidently Socrates acted in accordance with the truths of principles. What could be possibly gained by it and willingly die? Jesus also willingly died. It was known at his birth. So what gives? Why bother with principles and just live according to pragmatic desires? Yet if everyone did that we would soon perish. Both are true. A classic contradiction Simone suggests opens a door. Does logic pass through the door? If not, what does?

Now I read that being confronted with a contradiction and contemplating it as it is without judgment is a door. But a door leading to what and how does a person contemplate in this way? Socrates was teaching something and Simone Weil known as Plato’s spiritual child understood it. Why don’t more? What does this door separate?

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:45 am

And that is why Socrates was an idiot. As asserted from my own religion: rational pragmatism.

He couldn't tell the difference between normative and descriptive ethics - the fundamental distinction between consequentialism and deontology.
He worshiped rituals (principles) like non-contradiction over outcomes (consequences) and he paid with his life for it.

If he knew about para-consistent logic and Newcomb's problems in decision theory he would've lived, for he could've simply made a different choice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraconsistent_logic
https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6ddcsdA ... ationality
Be careful of this sort of argument, any time you find yourself defining the "winner" as someone other than the agent who is currently smiling from on top of a giant heap of utility.
As far as I am concerned all Socrates "won" was a Darwin award. And for that I am grateful to him - for many have chosen to follow his footsteps.

To answer the OP directly: "What does this door separate?". It separates idealism from pragmatism. The religious belief that we can express the principles of morality in language completely and consistently. Logic doesn't work that way; or at least - we aren't smart enough to make it work like that.

I see many on this forum who value consistency and non-contradiction above all. It's a religion....

Nick_A
Posts: 4155
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:23 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Nick_A » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:13 pm

Logik wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:45 am
And that is why Socrates was an idiot. As asserted from my own religion: rational pragmatism.

He couldn't tell the difference between normative and descriptive ethics - the fundamental distinction between consequentialism and deontology.
He worshiped rituals (principles) like non-contradiction over outcomes (consequences) and he paid with his life for it.

If he knew about para-consistent logic and Newcomb's problems in decision theory he would've lived, for he could've simply made a different choice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraconsistent_logic
https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6ddcsdA ... ationality
Be careful of this sort of argument, any time you find yourself defining the "winner" as someone other than the agent who is currently smiling from on top of a giant heap of utility.
As far as I am concerned all Socrates "won" was a Darwin award. And for that I am grateful to him - for many have chosen to follow his footsteps.

To answer the OP directly: "What does this door separate?". It separates idealism from pragmatism. The religious belief that we can express the principles of morality in language completely and consistently. Logic doesn't work that way; or at least - we aren't smart enough to make it work like that.

I see many on this forum who value consistency and non-contradiction above all. It's a religion....
Let me ask you a question. Assuming Socrates was an idiot for not escaping it raises the question from a pragmatic viewpoint what is wrong with killing these people who disturb the peace? What if as the expression goes a person needs killing? What is wrong with killing them when you believe they are nothing but trouble makers and solving the problem by killing them is the perfect pragmatic solution? What is wrong with killing them?

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:20 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:13 pm
Let me ask you a question. Assuming Socrates was an idiot for not escaping it raises the question from a pragmatic viewpoint what is wrong with killing these people who disturb the peace?
It's excessive? Reciprocity is the yardstick.

The systemic risk is that punishing those who speak up produces a system which receives no negative feedback.
Systems without negative feedback cannot course-correct and eventually collapses when a disconnect occurs between the system and its constituents' objectives. This is why free speech is fundamental.
Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:13 pm
What if as the expression goes a person needs killing? What is wrong with killing them when you believe they are nothing but trouble makers and solving the problem by killing them is the perfect pragmatic solution? What is wrong with killing them?
Absolutely nothing. If you can get away with it. Might makes right.

Is that the kind of person you are, and is that the kind of society you want to live in?

I am a pragmatist who chooses to be moral and just. Which means that unjust rules often need to be broken. If and when you do it - it's better to not get caught, for the system only sees intent as a mitigating factor, not a valid defense for undermining the rules.

Either way it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

What Socrates didn’t know was how to play stupid and keep his mouth shut. Pride killed him.

Nick_A
Posts: 4155
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:23 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Nick_A » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:37 pm

Logik
I am a pragmatist who chooses to be moral and just.
You've lost me here. As a pragmatist you know that objective morality doesn't exist. Might makes right. You also know there is no objective justice so justice is defined by survival of the fittest. So as a pragmatist what can you choose other than survival of the fittest as the logical expression of justice?

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:42 pm

Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:37 pm
Logik
I am a pragmatist who chooses to be moral and just.
You've lost me here. As a pragmatist you know that objective morality doesn't exist. Might makes right. You also know there is no objective justice so justice is defined by survival of the fittest. So as a pragmatist what can you choose other than survival of the fittest as the logical expression of justice?
As a pragmatist I know that objective anything doesn’t exist. It is all inter-subjective consensus.

The rest is game theory and prisoners’ dilemma. If we can inter-subjectively agree that X,Y and Z are good; while P, Q and R are bad then we can design society to have more of X,Y and Z and less of P, Q and R. Is it an exact science? No. But it's as "objective" a morality as we are going to get.

You misunderstand “survival of the fittest”. It is all about reducing individual and collective risk. It's about curing one disease for 8 billion people, than curing 8 billion diseases for 1 person.

My chances of survival are greater trough cooperation, economies of scale, division of labour and specialization than they are by “every man for himself” and “jungle rules”.

If you get lynched by the mob, if you die because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut, or because there are no doctors in your tribal society, or because lack of sanitation killed everyone through spread of disease.

If any choice of yours ends your life prematurely - you aren’t “the fittest” are you?

Nick_A
Posts: 4155
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:23 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Nick_A » Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:41 pm

Logik wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:42 pm
Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:37 pm
Logik
I am a pragmatist who chooses to be moral and just.
You've lost me here. As a pragmatist you know that objective morality doesn't exist. Might makes right. You also know there is no objective justice so justice is defined by survival of the fittest. So as a pragmatist what can you choose other than survival of the fittest as the logical expression of justice?
As a pragmatist I know that objective anything doesn’t exist. It is all inter-subjective consensus.

The rest is game theory and prisoners’ dilemma. If we can inter-subjectively agree that X,Y and Z are good; while P, Q and R are bad then we can design society to have more of X,Y and Z and less of P, Q and R. Is it an exact science? No. But it's as "objective" a morality as we are going to get.

You misunderstand “survival of the fittest”. It is all about reducing individual and collective risk. It's about curing one disease for 8 billion people, than curing 8 billion diseases for 1 person.

My chances of survival are greater trough cooperation, economies of scale, division of labour and specialization than they are by “every man for himself” and “jungle rules”.

If you get lynched by the mob, if you die because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut, or because there are no doctors in your tribal society, or because lack of sanitation killed everyone through spread of disease.

If any choice of yours ends your life prematurely - you aren’t “the fittest” are you?
You’ve raised some interesting questions. You claim to be a pragmatist but you seem to prefer defending principles
You misunderstand “survival of the fittest”. It is all about reducing individual and collective risk. It's about curing one disease for 8 billion people, than curing 8 billion diseases for 1 person.

My chances of survival are greater trough cooperation, economies of scale, division of labour and specialization than they are by “every man for himself” and “jungle rules”.
Cooperation is an argument from principle. Consider my problem as described in the OP. I agree that if people get together and decide the fair and most effective means for deciding the direction of society is everyone agreeing to vote. The duty to cast an educated vote is a matter of obeying a principle. However if I have election day off, why bother voting if it doesn’t make a difference when my time could be used for more pragmatic interests. Both alternatives are true.
If any choice of yours ends your life prematurely - you aren’t “the fittest” are you?
That depends. Which is more important: a person’s quality of life defined by cultural standards or the quality of their death defined by human standards? It could be said that the conscious quality of Jesus’ death served a cosmic purpose and Socrates’ death served an awakening worldly purpose. Some would argue they were both premature as defined by the normal human life span so cannot be considered the fittest.

You’ve raised this interesting question of what defines the fittest for human being. Is it defined by how long one lives or the quality of their being which makes the quality of their death meaningful in the context of the potential for Man’s conscious evolution?

Are those who voluntarily live by principles as Socrates did more conscious or just more stupid?

Judaka
Posts: 162
Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:24 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Judaka » Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:46 am

Nick_A

I would argue that a "principles vs pragmatism" is imprecise, perhaps you mean idealism vs pragmatism or even how different interpretations/prioritises lead to contradictions in pragmatism. The reason being that principles (as values) are necessary to separate ends into hierarchies through interpretation and various other means.

It's amusing because if nothing else, I thought Logik understood this because of his ranting about the problematic subjective framework behind words in language but perhaps not because despite the implication being that he's more pragmatic than others, Socrates and whoever else I suppose, every argument so far he's made has been based on principles. That isn't to say the principles aren't based on pragmatism but rather that they don't invalidate the possibility that others who disagree with him are being just as pragmatic. It is possible to argue about the validity of arguments in pragmaticism, for instance, I could say "I have decided to go to become a lawyer in order to become wealthy because I know that's what I want in life" but the type of lawyer I'm trying to become doesn't earn that much or the reasons I want to become wealthy aren't actually satisfied by becoming wealthy.

In that case, we could say Socrates might've made a mistake in his assessment. However, until we know Socrates reasons for choosing not to escape death, we can't say that it wasn't pragmatic to choose death. That's an extreme example because it's highly likely he chose to die for his ideals but nonetheless, I don't know the details.

The rest of your debate clearly runs into this problem of thinking that pragmatism can somehow hide the fact that you're thinking based on interpretations. What is a principle? Here's a definition I googled which I agree with but you can speak for yourselves.

"a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning." .

Principles act as foundations for pragmatism and most of your argument so far has been about principles. It's the case that some principles aren't pragmatic but we can't pretend there's 1. principles and 2. pragmatism and compare them.

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:55 am

Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:41 pm
Logik wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:42 pm
Nick_A wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:37 pm
Logik



You've lost me here. As a pragmatist you know that objective morality doesn't exist. Might makes right. You also know there is no objective justice so justice is defined by survival of the fittest. So as a pragmatist what can you choose other than survival of the fittest as the logical expression of justice?
As a pragmatist I know that objective anything doesn’t exist. It is all inter-subjective consensus.

The rest is game theory and prisoners’ dilemma. If we can inter-subjectively agree that X,Y and Z are good; while P, Q and R are bad then we can design society to have more of X,Y and Z and less of P, Q and R. Is it an exact science? No. But it's as "objective" a morality as we are going to get.

You misunderstand “survival of the fittest”. It is all about reducing individual and collective risk. It's about curing one disease for 8 billion people, than curing 8 billion diseases for 1 person.

My chances of survival are greater trough cooperation, economies of scale, division of labour and specialization than they are by “every man for himself” and “jungle rules”.

If you get lynched by the mob, if you die because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut, or because there are no doctors in your tribal society, or because lack of sanitation killed everyone through spread of disease.

If any choice of yours ends your life prematurely - you aren’t “the fittest” are you?
You’ve raised some interesting questions. You claim to be a pragmatist but you seem to prefer defending principles
You misunderstand “survival of the fittest”. It is all about reducing individual and collective risk. It's about curing one disease for 8 billion people, than curing 8 billion diseases for 1 person.

My chances of survival are greater trough cooperation, economies of scale, division of labour and specialization than they are by “every man for himself” and “jungle rules”.
Cooperation is an argument from principle. Consider my problem as described in the OP. I agree that if people get together and decide the fair and most effective means for deciding the direction of society is everyone agreeing to vote. The duty to cast an educated vote is a matter of obeying a principle. However if I have election day off, why bother voting if it doesn’t make a difference when my time could be used for more pragmatic interests. Both alternatives are true.
If any choice of yours ends your life prematurely - you aren’t “the fittest” are you?
That depends. Which is more important: a person’s quality of life defined by cultural standards or the quality of their death defined by human standards? It could be said that the conscious quality of Jesus’ death served a cosmic purpose and Socrates’ death served an awakening worldly purpose. Some would argue they were both premature as defined by the normal human life span so cannot be considered the fittest.

You’ve raised this interesting question of what defines the fittest for human being. Is it defined by how long one lives or the quality of their being which makes the quality of their death meaningful in the context of the potential for Man’s conscious evolution?

Are those who voluntarily live by principles as Socrates did more conscious or just more stupid?
I think we are getting bogged down in interpretation.

Yes, I live by principles. The principle of pragmatism.

There is a distinction to be drawn though.
I live by principles but I do not enslaved myself to them. You could say that “fuck principles” is my principle.

The difference is that one set of principles produce dogmatic rituals, and another set of principles (goals? Objectives?) produces “whatever it takes” adaptive mindset.

Consequentialism vs deontology.

My principle is “whatever works!”, and dying seems to go against my definition of “works”.

As far as role models go - I am much more fond of Kolmogorov. https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3376

Science needs no martyrs.

surreptitious57
Posts: 3449
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:09 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by surreptitious57 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:02 am

Pragmatism is superior to idealism / ideology because as its name suggests it actually works which is why I am one
The fundamental trouble with idealism / ideology is that it cannot contradict reality for reality is literally what is

Socrates knew he was going to die but it did not bother him so far from being an idiot he was in charge of his destiny
No one lives forever and so to be in control of the manner of your passing given it is inevitable is the best you can do

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:14 am

surreptitious57 wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:02 am
Pragmatism is superior to idealism / ideology because as its name suggests it actually works which is why I am one
The fundamental trouble with idealism / ideology is that it cannot contradict reality for reality is literally what is

Socrates knew he was going to die but it did not bother him so far from being an idiot he was in charge of his destiny
No one lives forever and so to be in control of the manner of your passing given it is inevitable is the best you can do
Vehemently disagree.

The manner of your passing is in your control right now! Pick your exit strategy. Rope, drug overdose, carbon monoxide, BASE jumping without a parachute. Blades & a bath tub. You want AIDS? Go get some!

Hell, he knew hemlock awaits him. If that is how he wanted to go, he could have done it any time before the trial.

How you die is always in your control!
You have less control over the “when”.

surreptitious57
Posts: 3449
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:09 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by surreptitious57 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:33 am


Not everyone who attempts suicide succeeds and they may eventually die a natural death

Logik
Posts: 4041
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:48 pm

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Logik » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:34 am

surreptitious57 wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:33 am

Not everyone who attempts suicide succeeds and they may eventually die a natural death
Learn from your failures and try again.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Unless you clash with physics.

surreptitious57
Posts: 3449
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:09 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by surreptitious57 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:47 am

The failure may have been in wanting to die and after failing you then decide
that you actually want to live instead and so therefore choose life over death

Nick_A
Posts: 4155
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:23 am

Re: Principles vs Pragmatism

Post by Nick_A » Wed Jan 30, 2019 4:39 am

Judaka
I would argue that a "principles vs pragmatism" is imprecise, perhaps you mean idealism vs pragmatism or even how different interpretations/prioritises lead to contradictions in pragmatism. The reason being that principles (as values) are necessary to separate ends into hierarchies through interpretation and various other means.
I described in my OP how I came to the question. The ideal in those days was a free American society and one of the principles necessary to sustain it is the duty to cast an educated vote. The ideal comes first and requires a collective belief in principles in order to sustain it. This is what I meant. It was obvious to me that the principle was true yet it was also true if I ignored it there would be no difference. But you are right that I was not precise enough in describing this essential contradiction. If I fall victim to pragmatic interests and don’t bother to vote it won’t make a difference. However if everyone took that approach society would fall victim to a dictator. I didn’t make the ideal clear that requires the defense of principles
What is a principle? Here's a definition I googled which I agree with but you can speak for yourselves.

"a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning."
This is what I mean. The duty to cast an educated vote is an essential principle necessary for a free society to sustain itself. Yet a person can ignore it for personal gain. A person can believe in both the principle and the personal gain from ignoring it. How do we reconcile these two opposing truths?

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests