Return to Pragmatism
Epistemologically, their dogmatic agnosticism holds, as an absolute, that a principle is false because it is a principle—that conceptual integration (i.e., thinking) is impractical or “simplistic”—that an idea which is clear and simple is necessarily “extreme and unworkable.” Along with Kant, their philosophic forefather, the pragmatists claim, in effect: “If you perceive it, it cannot be real,” and: “If you conceive of it, it cannot be true.”
What, then, is left to man? The sensation, the wish, the whim, the range and the concrete of the moment. Since no solution to any problem is possible, anyone’s suggestion, guess or edict is as valid as anyone else’s—provided it is narrow enough.
To give you an example: if a building were threatened with collapse and you declared that the crumbling foundation has to be rebuilt, a pragmatist would answer that your solution is too abstract, extreme, unprovable, and that immediate priority must be given to the need of putting ornaments on the balcony railings, because it would make the tenants feel better.
There was a time when a man would not utter arguments of this sort, for fear of being rightly considered a fool. Today, Pragmatism has not merely given him permission to do it and liberated him from the necessity of thought, but has elevated his mental default into an intellectual virtue, has given him the right to dismiss thinkers (or construction engineers) as naive, and has endowed him with that typically modern quality: the arrogance of the concrete-bound, who takes pride in not seeing the forest fire, or the forest, or the trees, while he is studying one inch of bark on a rotted tree stump.