PRAGMATISM: the art of choosing proven methods that will optimize preferred outcomes

Pragmatism is a label that is attached to those behaviours which utilize proven methods in an attempt to optimize a preferred outcome. Behaviours can be classified in many ways...sincere, duplicitous, social, antisocial, introverted, extroverted, etc. but for a scientifically oriented evaluation of outcomes, it is useful to partition them into 'pragmatic' or 'unverified'. The 'pragmatic' behaviours are those with a proven record, whereas 'unverified' behaviours are those for which there is no evidence that links them to the stated objective. It is not pragmatic behaviour to pray for protection from mosquitoes, to use holy water to flush out evil spirits, or to attempt to influence weather patterns by legislation, because such behaviours are so futile that nature extracts retribution by reducing their chance of success to below that of random probability. On the other hand, it is pragmatic behaviour to build jails to keep convicted criminals out of the community, to shut your mouth if you want to lose weight, to adopt a religion to secure a mate... if that's what it takes... and to take a parachute if you want to recall the experience of free-fall from an aeroplane. All the latter have worked in the past and may well work again. Stairs are a proven way of getting from one level to another.

Pragmatism is a way of thinking and acting that utilizes the most effective strategies of accumulated personal and social experience. It makes use of high probability proven means to maximize the possibilities of achieving a goal. Above all it makes use of rigorously tested models constructed on the basis of scientific experiment. Once an outcome is aspired to, pragmatism focuses on the potential realistic processes that could optimize its attainment. In devising or considering possible courses of action that might achieve a particular objective, the pragmatic individual gives strong consideration to the evidence of historical success and science rather than any reliance on religious dogma and ritual, untested hypothetical theories, god's will or legal constraints. Pragmatism therefore is a strategy that guides action in the reaching of all those goals which can be seen as intermediate and necessary to the attainment of any of the ultimate socio-biologically determined objectives.

Preference for the pragmatic is a consequence of a general consideration of the merits of the various options. To justify the selection of a 'pragmatic' course of action, rather than a 'moral', 'ethical', or 'honourable' one for example, suggests that there to be some sort of over-riding principle to which each of the alternatives can be subjected and judged. Pragmatic actions are the ones that 'work'... that assist in the attainment of an objective.... that gain their place in the records of history and are added to the resource pool of knowledge. In the final analysis it usually comes down to a comparison of probabilities. The probability of becoming rich is significantly greater if one adopts those proven actions of investment, saving, gold prospecting, embezzlement or robbery, rather than the unverifiable consequences of purchasing lottery tickets. It needs to be remembered of course, that it may in fact be pragmatic to acknowledge local moral, ethical or honourable considerations as one of the factors in engineering the attainment of a particular sociological objective. Just observe how many politicians behave.

If sufficient factors are taken into account, and time is allowed to run its course, a seemingly pragmatic course of action in the short term, might be evaluated as anything but in the long term. Subjecting individuals to slavery may be deemed a pragmatic action in the short term by the slavers, but in the larger scale of things, such behaviour has inevitably had adverse consequences. Adopting the immediate... supposedly pragmatic... action of police and military suppression of dissent may keep the lid on matters from moment to moment, but eventually, eventually, everything will blow apart. To act otherwise than in a humanistic and altruistic manner will accumulate a reservoir of ill-will and lack of cooperation that will ultimately negate any short term goals. In the long term, it is not pragmatic to impose slavery and subjugation on a society because the reserves of past and present inter-generational resentment will find a means of release and revolution will be the eventual outcome. Adopting behaviours that seem pragamtic in the short term is no guarantee that history will view them in the same light.