Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Metaphysical Club, Louis Menard


A clear case where reading the linked review is much more enlightening than reading the book. As a "group biography"of the initiators of Pragmatism,  the book is "decent" with insights into the life experiences, addictions, loves, families, etc of the subjects, but in knowledge "cash value", it has a very low signal to noise.

It is basically a "Supermarket Tabloid" for Pragmatism. 

... Peirce endowed ideas with the power to convert doubt into belief, annoyance into comfort, while James remarked that wrong ideas can kill us, right ones can save us. Menand recognizes that power—and tames it. He returns all questions to the realm of circumstance, where complexities may be narrated as personal conflicts. The result is an entertaining but superficial exercise in intellectual history, one in which ideas are wheeled on not because of their substance or truth value but because of their anecdotal force.

I'm all for simplification, however it seems likely that converting "War And Peace" to a Meme will leave out a bit! 

... For most people, truth and justice are lofty things best pursued disinterestedly. But for Menand, “making those kinds of decisions—about what is right or what is truthful—is like deciding what to order in a restaurant.” To distinguish between judging what is right and selecting an entrĂ©e, apparently, would be to venture outside the world of real human action.

This is a quote from Menard that appears in the review: 

The lesson that Holmes learned from the war can be put in a sentence. It is that certitude leads to violence. The key to Holmes’s civil liberties opinions is the key to all his jurisprudence: it is that he thought only in terms of aggregate social forces; he had no concern for the individual. This [the idea of community] was the conviction at the bottom of all Peirce’s thought. Everything James and Dewey wrote as pragmatists boils down to a single claim: people are the agents of their own destinies.

One might also observe current rioting and conclude that loss if fixed belief and chaotic thinking also leads to violence. Perhaps regression to an unredeemed human state leads to violence? 

I ran into this work because it was mentioned in a NR column. My view would be that mention was "grasping at straws". Yes, Pragmatism was an attempted response to the "failure" of the Civil War. How could BOTH sides be supposedly Christian, Civikized, etc and still have a war that killed over 600K? 

The thinking of that article, and many today is "how can this be happening"? 

To Christians and Constitutional Republic supporters, the answer is painfully obvious. When God and Law are abandoned, POWER is "god", and the establishment of who is most powerful requires violence in many forms.

Clearly, Pragmatism did not prevent war -- see WWI and WWII! 

Next to Hell, war is a walk in the park. As long as human pride is widely substituted for the fear of God, we can be certain that war will be with us! 

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