Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial. Freedoms are socially engineered spaces where parties engaged in specified pursuits enjoy protection from parties who would otherwise naturally seek to interfere with those pursuits. One person’s freedom is therefore always another person’s restriction: we would not have even the concept of freedom if the reality of coercion were not already present. We think of freedom as a right, and therefore the opposite of a rule, but a right is a rule. It is a prohibition against sanctions on certain types of behavior. We also think of rights as privileges retained by individuals against the rest of society, but rights are created not for the good of individuals, but for the good of society. Individual freedoms are manufactured to achieve group ends.
Democracy is an experiment, one that’s meant to keep going. Beware those who try to take it away like this, this, and this.
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.
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.