Friday, 22 January 2010

Common Sense and Pragmatism

Samizdata have and interesting post up about the different approaches that Pragmatism and Common Sense, (as they label them), provide.

Pragmatism can be summed up as the "win at all costs" approach so often adopted by those who advocate grand solutions to problems. They see no problem with lying or forcing people to act against their own interests because the goal is, like, sooooo important. In other words, in pursuit of an end that is sufficiently important, the means can come from any circle of hell you choose to name and that's just dandy.

The Common Sense approach on the other hand is that not only must the ends justify the means because its wrong to act otherwise but that this approach is more effective. Not only are most people drawn to "decent" behaviour but as the Climategate debacle showed, when the foundations of your argument are dodgy people become very dubious of anything you have to say.

I'm sure you can see which style of argument the libertarian and statist tend to use. Though to be fair there is probably as much structural bias built in as anything else. Try using arguments from authority on Libertarians and you will swiftly have your arse handed to you, for the statist arguments from authority are the natural way of things even if they tend to see themselves as the one in authority.

There are those, Perry in the comments for instance, who are tempted to adopt some the tactics from the "pragmatic" approach, (though I don't know exactly what he is proposing), but I would caution against this. The pragmatic approach, particularly in these days of mass interactive communication, is eventually counter productive. Regardless of the truth of the matter, (I have no idea but doubt anyone else does either), the IPCC is now known as a a bunch of lying fucks and few of the public will pay them much attention in future. Tempting as it may be, the problem with using the devils tactics is that you become just like him and that is not only wrong in principle but will ensure we lose the argument.

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