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Pragmatism Professional Ethics
Principal Philosophers • Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) • William James (1842-1910) • John Dewey (1859-1952)
Charles Sanders Peirce • Logician and Mathematician • Emphasis on scientific reasoning • Emphasis on social nature of knowledge building • “Critical community of inquirers” • Words as tools for coping with environment • Pragmatism is a way to “make our ideas clear” • Truth is that which is destined to be agreed upon by a critical community of inquirers once they’ve examined all of the evidence
William James • Processual world • Reality comes into being as qualitatively distinct processes interact with one another • Truth doesn’t inhere in an idea, it happens to our ideas. • Verification • Validation • Falsification
John Dewey • Born 1859 • Darwin publishes “On the Origin of the Species” • Civil War, 1860-64 • Lived through late industrial revolution • Close of the Western Frontier • WWI/WWII • Beginning of the Cold War • From Classical Music to the dawn of Rock & Roll
John Dewey • Human social and cultural systems are slow to adapt to the lightning fast pace of scientific, political, and economic changes • Our guiding philosophies are those of an era long gone • “Lords of Yesterday” –Wilkinson • Emerson: “Why shouldn’t we have a unique relationship with nature?” • These philosophies are out-of-touch with the realities of everyday existence • Philosophy shouldn’t be intellectual busy-work; it should help us deal with “the problems of man”
John Dewey • Humans are live creatures • We exist in transactional relationships with their environments • Social • Ecological • We have “the capacity of human genius” • We are capable of learning and growth • Our ideas are the tools we use to understand and cope with our circumstances
Natural Environment Social Environment We are live creatures actively renewing ourselves through the process of living through our transactive relationships with our environments…
Natural Environment Social Environment In the modern (and post-modern) era, our environments change faster than our social and cultural systems adapt. Philosophy and ethics must acknowledge this and foreground the real problems of humans.
John Dewey • Growth is the ultimate moral end • Humans are capable of learning and growth through education, broadly defined. • We ought to critically consider the wisdom of those traditions we’ve inherited. • We ought to cull what is useful to us today in our present circumstances. • We ought to leave what is useless in the history books. • Then, we use our ideas as tools for coping with the human condition. • With hope, we ought to systematically cope, learn, and cope again.