Notes From Babel

"The Pragmatic Conceit" on National Review Online

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Anthony Dick points out:

To the extent that it performs any conceptual function at all, pragmatism seems to boil down to the more mundane concepts of flexibility, open-mindedness, and deliberation. A “pragmatist” might be said to be someone who, though inevitably laden with policy prejudices, is willing to put them aside and adapt to new situations as needed. But if this is all that pragmatism means, everybody would self-describe as a pragmatist.

Quite right. I have always thought that pragmatists never quite escape the arguments they lodge against natural rights. In fact, pragmatism is simply a myopic and less articulated version of natural rights theory. Where natural rights theory begins at the beginning, with epistemology and teleology, pragmatism jumps right into social studies and polls to build an argument for some end or another. This skips the hard work of prioritizing the ends and purposes that law means to achieve. And that is precisely why we have our outgoing president making statements like this.

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Written by Tim Kowal

December 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm

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