Life & Philosophy

“Truth is what works”

“Truth is what works,” said the pragmatist William James.

Simple enough. But as Robert Talissee explains, you can’t take James’s advice at face value.

Beliefs are tools. A belief is like a hammer or a pair of scissors. It’s supposed to do things, behaviourally, it’s supposed to guide our actions. James thinks that the truth of a belief is to be understood in terms of the success it brings to our action when it serves as our guide.

Truth happens to an idea. First, we believe, and then we experiment. You can’t possibly confirm what’s true about your own beliefs and perceived faculties without taking some type of action to test them. What you think is true only becomes true through validation.

Positive results are at the heart of Pragmatist philosophy. But so are negative ones.

In Louis Menand’s book The Metaphysical Club, he explains how America’s Civil War — a failure in American democracy — was fought to show that democracy was indeed worth preserving.

Pragmatism is, therefore, a test of failure just as much it is a test to revalidate success and strengthen resolve. Pragmatists theorize that if your belief is strong enough, you’ll do everything you can do to uphold it to ensure repeated success. At the same time, if the experiments fail, then pragmatism fights to find something else that works.

Pragmatists endeavor to reach the best solution and keep improving until they get there, even if that means a completely different pivot. Pragmatism is also a community effort, as John Dewey later added. Your ideas are only so good that they get accepted by the wider community.

At the simplest, pragmatism can be described as “Truth is what works.” But as you can see from the complexity above, pragmatism allows for the truth to be continually tested and expanded until the solution of the moments rings true for all.



On Pragmatism

Pragmatism says that whatever works for you, do it. This can pertain to anything from religion to the way you shoot free throws, as Louis Menand alludes to in his book The Metaphysical Club.

What people often overlook is that pragmatists also believe in evolution. They believe in betterment, receptive to changing their ways to improve the way of life.

Pragmatism, however, is not an excuse to cheat in order to progress although it seems practical if you can get away with it.

Pragmatism still requires the practice of fairness and adheres to the fundamentals laws of society, mostly because these laws simply work. Rules maintain the peace.

Pursuing what works is a simple philosophy that prevents stagnancy. Open-mindedness is ultimate case for self-worth. Learning, loving, having faith, and finding better ways keeps life exciting. In short, pragmatism requires positive, perpetual movement.


Uncertainly Certain….

If you chase certainty, you’ll certainly never be right.  Nothing is certain.  There’s only high probability. 

Still, some people seem to get it right.  They’re lucky, fortunate to have found a pathway that satisfies them.  Luck is a combination of preparadeness and carpe diem. 

You get lucky only when you make decisions and try a lot.  Unfortunately, rightness and wrongness in decision-making comes after the fact.  You either selected the right path and can breathe a sigh of relief or are enduring hell because you went the wrong way. 

The irony of the bad decision-making is that at least you cured indecision by going in a direction.  Now you know with more certainty about the things you want in your future.  At least you tried and gained some knowledge out of the experience.  Life is clearer. 

If you’re uncertain, you’ll almost certainly be right.  Uncertain people are risk-averse, and also the unhappiest people.  The happiest people make decisions and are willing to be right or wrong.  Either way, they get luck or learn a valuable lesson. 

Life is an experiment, most of which fail.  But the best part about is that you can keep going, get back up again and try something else.