Ideology Vs. Pragmatism
I am a pragmatic man. Always has been. A bit left of center, but I am not ideologically driven. There are two types of people in this world, ideologues, and pragmatic people.
Ideologues are certain that they are right, and you are wrong. They are also convinced that only their ideological certainty will ensure the right policies, and there can be no decisions without underlying ideological underpinnings. To them, you are on their side or on the other side, either on the side of the angels or the side of the evil corporation’s modern-day Satan to the religiously inclined left. Either you are on the side of freedom or you are on the side of the socialist communists. No compromise is possible, compromise is a dirty word. One must remain pure to one’s principles. They would rather have no loaf than accept half a loaf. They would rather torpedo the deal than accept less than a perfect deal.
To us, pragmatics we see the world as a world of gray, with no fixed moral principles and no eternal external driven law was given by God or a political party. We do not care about being ideologically pure, we just want to get shit done to benefit the greatest number of people at the least cost. We do not are as Ding once said, “whether a cat is black or white, we just care if the cat catches mice.” So, if a liberal idea works, we will take it, if a conservative idea works better, we will take it too. We will put together policies with a little of this and a little of that and compromise to get a package done. Then go back and do it again constantly testing whether we need to change direction, and not carrying if we are a bit consistent in our statements and our beliefs. The art of politics lies for us in getting the deal done. And we believe that we should never let the perfect become the enemy of the good.Joe Go Bold or Go Home, revised
This article is about the philosophical movement. For other uses, see Pragmatism (disambiguation).
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Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes.
Pragmatism began in the United States in the 1870s. Its origins are often attributed to the philosophers Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. In 1878, Peirce described it in his pragmatic maxim: “Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object.”
2 Core tenets
2.1 Anti-reification of concepts and theories
2.2 Naturalism and anti-Cartesianism
2.3 Reconciliation of anti-skepticism and fallibilism
2.4 Pragmatist theory of truth and epistemology
3 In other fields of philosophy
3.1 Philosophy of science
3.4 Philosophy of mind
3.7 Philosophy of religion
5 Legacy and contemporary relevance
5.1 Effects on social sciences
5.2 Effects on public administration
5.3 Effects on feminism
7 List of pragmatists
7.1 Classical pragmatists (1850–1950)
7.2 Analytic, neo- and other pragmatists (1950–present)
7.2.1 Pragmatists in the extended sense
8 See also
11 Further reading
11.1 Additional bibliography
12 External links
Charles Peirce: the American polymath who first identified pragmatism
Pragmatism as a philosophical movement began in the United States around 1870. Charles Sanders Peirce (and his pragmatic maxim) is given credit for its development, along with later 20th century contributors, William James and John Dewey. Its direction was determined by The Metaphysical Club members Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and Chauncey Wright as well as John Dewey and George Herbert Mead.
The first use in print of the name pragmatism was in 1898 by James, who credited Peirce with coining the term during the early 1870s. James regarded Peirce’s “Illustrations of the Logic of Science” series (including “The Fixation of Belief” (1877), and especially “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” (1878)) as the foundation of pragmatism. Peirce in turn wrote in 1906 that Nicholas St. John Green had been instrumental by emphasizing the importance of applying Alexander Bain’s definition of belief, which was “that upon which a man is prepared to act”. Peirce wrote that “from this definition, pragmatism is scarce more than a corollary; so that I am disposed to think of him as the grandfather of pragmatism”. John Shook has said, “Chauncey Wright also deserves considerable credit, for as both Peirce and James recall, it was Wright who demanded a phenomenalist and fallibilist empiricism as an alternative to rationalistic speculation.”
Peirce developed the idea that inquiry depends on real doubt, not mere verbal or hyperbolic doubt, and said that, in order to understand a conception in a fruitful way, “Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object”, which he later called the pragmatic maxim. It equates any conception of an object to the general extent of the conceivable implications for informed practice of that object’s effects. This is the heart of his pragmatism as a method of experimentational mental reflection arriving at conceptions in terms of conceivable confirmatory and disconfirmatory circumstances—a method hospitable to the generation of explanatory hypotheses, and conducive to the employment and improvement of verification. Typical of Peirce is his concern with inference to explanatory hypotheses as outside the usual foundational alternative between deductivist rationalism and inductivist empiricism, although he was a mathematical logician and a founder of statistics.
Peirce lectured and further wrote on pragmatism to make clear his own interpretation. While framing a conception’s meaning in terms of conceivable tests, Peirce emphasized that, since a conception is general, its meaning, its intellectual purport, equates to its acceptance’s implications for general practice, rather than to any definite set of real effects (or test results); a conception’s clarified meaning points toward its conceivable verifications, but the outcomes are not meanings, but individual upshots. Peirce in 1905 coined the new name pragmaticism “for the precise purpose of expressing the original definition”, saying that “all went happily” with James’s and F. C. S. Schiller’s variant uses of the old name “pragmatism” and that he nonetheless coined the new name because of the old name’s growing use in “literary journals, where it gets abused”. Yet in a 1906 manuscript, he cited as causes his differences with James and Schiller. and, in a 1908 publication, his differences with James as well as literary author Giovanni Papini. Peirce in any case regarded his views that truth is immutable and infinity is real, as being opposed by the other pragmatists, but he remained allied with them on other issues.
Pragmatism enjoyed renewed attention after Willard Van Orman Quine and Wilfrid Sellars used a revised pragmatism to criticize logical positivism in the 1960s. Inspired by the work of Quine and Sellars, a brand of pragmatism known sometimes as neopragmatism gained influence through Richard Rorty, the most influential of the late 20th century pragmatists along with Hilary Putnam and Robert Brandom. Contemporary pragmatism may be broadly divided into a strict analytic tradition and a “neo-classical” pragmatism (such as Susan Haack) that adheres to the work of Peirce, James, and Dewey.
A few of the various but often interrelated positions characteristic of philosophers working from a pragmatist approach include:
Epistemology (justification): a coherentist theory of justification that rejects the claim that all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief. Coherentists hold that justification is solely a function of some relationship between beliefs, none of which are privileged beliefs in the way maintained by foundationalist theories of justification.
Epistemology (truth): a deflationary or pragmatic theory of truth; the former is the epistemological claim that assertions that predicate truth of a statement do not attribute a property called truth to such a statement while the latter is the epistemological claim that assertions that predicate truth of a statement attribute the property of useful-to-believe to such a statement.
Metaphysics: a pluralist view that there is more than one sound way to conceptualize the world and its content.
Philosophy of science: an instrumentalist and scientific anti-realist view that a scientific concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality.
Philosophy of language: an anti-representationalist view that rejects analyzing the semantic meaning of propositions, mental states, and statements in terms of a correspondence or representational relationship and instead analyzes semantic meaning in terms of notions like dispositions to action, inferential relationships, and/or functional roles (e.g. behaviorism and inferentialism). Not to be confused with pragmatics, a sub-field of linguistics with no relation to philosophical pragmatism.
Additionally, forms of empiricism, fallibilism, verificationism, and a Quinean naturalist metaphilosophy are all commonly elements of pragmatist philosophies. Many pragmatists are epistemological relativists and see this to be an important facet of their pragmatism (e.g. Joseph Margolis), but this is controversial and other pragmatists argue such relativism to be seriously misguided (e.g. Hilary Putnam, Susan Haack).
Anti-reification of concepts and theories
Dewey in The Quest for Certainty criticized what he called “the philosophical fallacy”: Philosophers often take categories (such as the mental and the physical) for granted because they don’t realize that these are nominal concepts that were invented to help solve specific problems. This causes metaphysical and conceptual confusion. Various examples are the “ultimate Being” of Hegelian philosophers, the belief in a “realm of value”, the idea that logic, because it is an abstraction from concrete thought, has nothing to do with the action of concrete thinking.
David L. Hildebrand summarized the problem: “Perceptual inattention to the specific functions comprising inquiry led realists and idealists alike to formulate accounts of knowledge that project the products of extensive abstraction back onto experience.”:40
Naturalism and anti-Cartesianism
From the outset, pragmatists wanted to reform philosophy and bring it more in line with the scientific method as they understood it. They argued that idealist and realist philosophy had a tendency to present human knowledge as something beyond what science could grasp. They held that these philosophies then resorted either to a phenomenology inspired by Kant or to correspondence theories of knowledge and truth. Pragmatists criticized the former for its a priorism, and the latter because it takes correspondence as an unanalyzable fact. Pragmatism instead tries to explain the relation between knower and known.
In 1868, C.S. Peirce argued that there is no power of intuition in the sense of a cognition unconditioned by inference, and no power of introspection, intuitive or otherwise, and that awareness of an internal world is by hypothetical inference from external facts. Introspection and intuition were staple philosophical tools at least since Descartes. He argued that there is no absolutely first cognition in a cognitive process; such a process has its beginning but can always be analyzed into finer cognitive stages. That which we call introspection does not give privileged access to knowledge about the mind—the self is a concept that is derived from our interaction with the external world and not the other way around (De Waal 2005, pp. 7–10). At the same time he held persistently that pragmatism and epistemology in general could not be derived from principles of psychology understood as a special science: what we do think is too different from what we should think; in his “Illustrations of the Logic of Science” series, Peirce formulated both pragmatism and principles of statistics as aspects of scientific method in general. This is an important point of disagreement with most other pragmatists, who advocate a more thorough naturalism and psychologism.
Richard Rorty expanded on these and other arguments in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in which he criticized attempts by many philosophers of science to carve out a space for epistemology that is entirely unrelated to—and sometimes thought of as superior to—the empirical sciences. W.V. Quine, instrumental in bringing naturalized epistemology back into favor with his essay “Epistemology Naturalized” (Quine 1969), also criticized “traditional” epistemology and its “Cartesian dream” of absolute certainty. The dream, he argued, was impossible in practice as well as misguided in theory, because it separates epistemology from scientific inquiry.
Hilary Putnam asserts that the combination of antiskepticism and fallibilism is a central feature of pragmatism.
Reconciliation of anti-skepticism and fallibilism
Hilary Putnam has suggested that the reconciliation of anti-skepticism and fallibilism is the central goal of American pragmatism. Although all human knowledge is partial, with no ability to take a “God’s-eye-view”, this does not necessitate a globalized skeptical attitude, a radical philosophical skepticism (as distinguished from that which is called scientific skepticism). Peirce insisted that (1) in reasoning, there is the presupposition, and at least the hope, that truth and the real are discoverable and would be discovered, sooner or later but still inevitably, by investigation taken far enough, and (2) contrary to Descartes’ famous and influential methodology in the Meditations on First Philosophy, doubt cannot be feigned or created by verbal fiat to motivate fruitful inquiry, and much less can philosophy begin in universal doubt. Doubt, like belief, requires justification. Genuine doubt irritates and inhibits, in the sense that belief is that upon which one is prepared to act. It arises from confrontation with some specific recalcitrant matter of fact (which Dewey called a “situation”), which unsettles our belief in some specific proposition. Inquiry is then the rationally self-controlled process of attempting to return to a settled state of belief about the matter. Note that anti-skepticism is a reaction to modern academic skepticism in the wake of Descartes. The pragmatist insistence that all knowledge is tentative is quite congenial to the older skeptical tradition.
Pragmatist theory of truth and epistemology
Main article: Pragmatic theory of truth
Pragmatism was not the first to apply evolution to theories of knowledge: Schopenhauer advocated a biological idealism as what’s useful to an organism to believe might differ wildly from what is true. Here knowledge and action are portrayed as two separate spheres with an absolute or transcendental truth above and beyond any sort of inquiry organisms used to cope with life. Pragmatism challenges this idealism by providing an “ecological” account of knowledge: inquiry is how organisms can get a grip on their environment. Real and true are functional labels in inquiry and cannot be understood outside of this context. It is not realist in a traditionally robust sense of realism (what Hilary Putnam later called metaphysical realism), but it is realist in how it acknowledges an external world which must be dealt with.
Many of James’ best-turned phrases—”truth’s cash value” (James 1907, p. 200) and “the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking” (James 1907, p. 222)—were taken out of context and caricatured in contemporary literature as representing the view where any idea with practical utility is true. William James wrote:
It is high time to urge the use of a little imagination in philosophy. The unwillingness of some of our critics to read any but the silliest of possible meanings into our statements is as discreditable to their imaginations as anything I know in recent philosophic history. Schiller says the truth is that which “works.” Thereupon he is treated as one who limits verification to the lowest material utilities. Dewey says truth is what gives “satisfaction”! He is treated as one who believes in calling everything true which, if it were true, would be pleasant. (James 1907, p. 90)
In reality, James asserts, the theory is a great deal more subtle. (See Dewey 1910 for a “FAQ.”)
The role of belief in representing reality is widely debated in pragmatism. Is a belief valid when it represents reality? “Copying is one (and only one) genuine mode of knowing” (James 1907, p. 91). Are beliefs dispositions which qualify as true or false depending on how helpful they prove in inquiry and in action? Is it only in the struggle of intelligent organisms with the surrounding environment that beliefs acquire meaning? Does a belief only become true when it succeeds in this struggle? In James’s pragmatism nothing practical or useful is held to be necessarily true nor is anything which helps to survive merely in the short term. For example, to believe my cheating spouse is faithful may help me feel better now, but it is certainly not useful from a more long-term perspective because it doesn’t accord with the facts (and is therefore not true).
In other fields of philosophy
While pragmatism started simply as a criterion of meaning, it quickly expanded to become a full-fledged epistemology with wide-ranging implications for the entire philosophical field. Pragmatists who work in these fields share a common inspiration, but their work is diverse and there are no received views.
Philosophy of science
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments and progress in science cannot be couched in terms of concepts and theories somehow mirroring reality. Instrumentalist philosophers often define scientific progress as nothing more than an improvement in explaining and predicting phenomena. Instrumentalism does not state that truth does not matter, but rather provides a specific answer to the question of what truth and falsity mean and how they function in science.
One of C. I. Lewis’ main arguments in Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge (1929) was that science does not merely provide a copy of reality but must work with conceptual systems and that those are chosen for pragmatic reasons, that is, because they aid inquiry. Lewis’ own development of multiple modal logics is a case in point. Lewis is sometimes called a proponent of conceptual pragmatism because of this.
Another development is the cooperation of logical positivism and pragmatism in the works of Charles W. Morris and Rudolf Carnap. The influence of pragmatism on these writers is mostly limited to the incorporation of the pragmatic maxim into their epistemology. Pragmatists with a broader conception of the movement do not often refer to them.
W. V. Quine’s paper “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, published in 1951, is one of the more celebrated papers of 20th-century philosophy in the analytic tradition. The paper is an attack on two central tenets of the logical positivists’ philosophy. One is the distinction between analytic statements (tautologies and contradictions) whose truth (or falsehood) is a function of the meanings of the words in the statement (‘all bachelors are unmarried’), and synthetic statements, whose truth (or falsehood) is a function of (contingent) states of affairs. The other is reductionism, the theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some logical construction of terms which refers exclusively to immediate experience. Quine’s argument brings to mind Peirce’s insistence that axioms are not a priori truths but synthetic statements.
Later in his life Schiller became famous for his attacks on logic in his textbook, Formal Logic. By then, Schiller’s pragmatism had become the nearest of any of the classical pragmatists to an ordinary language philosophy. Schiller sought to undermine the very possibility of formal logic, by showing that words only had meaning when used in context. The least famous of Schiller’s main works was the constructive sequel to his destructive book Formal Logic. In this sequel, Logic for Use, Schiller attempted to construct a new logic to replace the formal logic that he had criticized in Formal Logic. What he offers is something philosophers would recognize today as a logic covering the context of discovery and the hypothetico-deductive method.
Whereas Schiller dismissed the possibility of formal logic, most pragmatists are critical rather of its pretension to ultimate validity and see logic as one logical tool among others—or perhaps, considering the multitude of formal logics, one set of tools among others. This is the view of C. I. Lewis. C. S. Peirce developed multiple methods for doing formal logic.
Stephen Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument inspired scholars in informal logic and rhetoric studies (although it is an epistemological work).
James and Dewey were empirical thinkers in the most straightforward fashion: experience is the ultimate test and experience is what needs to be explained. They were dissatisfied with ordinary empiricism because, in the tradition dating from Hume, empiricists had a tendency to think of experience as nothing more than individual sensations. To the pragmatists, this went against the spirit of empiricism: we should try to explain all that is given in experience including connections and meaning, instead of explaining them away and positing sense data as the ultimate reality. Radical empiricism, or Immediate Empiricism in Dewey’s words, wants to give a place to meaning and value instead of explaining them away as subjective additions to a world of whizzing atoms.
The “Chicago Club” including Mead, Dewey, Angell, and Moore. Pragmatism is sometimes called American pragmatism because so many of its proponents were and are Americans.
William James gives an interesting example of this philosophical shortcoming:
[A young graduate] began by saying that he had always taken for granted that when you entered a philosophic classroom you had to open relations with a universe entirely distinct from the one you left behind you in the street. The two were supposed, he said, to have so little to do with each other, that you could not possibly occupy your mind with them at the same time. The world of concrete personal experiences to which the street belongs is multitudinous beyond imagination, tangled, muddy, painful and perplexed. The world to which your philosophy-professor introduces you is simple, clean and noble. The contradictions of real life are absent from it. … In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual world than a clear addition built upon it … It is no explanation of our concrete universe (James 1907, pp. 8–9)
F. C. S. Schiller’s first book Riddles of the Sphinx was published before he became aware of the growing pragmatist movement taking place in America. In it, Schiller argues for a middle ground between materialism and absolute metaphysics. These opposites are comparable to what William James called tough-minded empiricism and tender-minded rationalism. Schiller contends on the one hand that mechanistic naturalism cannot make sense of the “higher” aspects of our world. These include free will, consciousness, purpose, universals and some would add God. On the other hand, abstract metaphysics cannot make sense of the “lower” aspects of our world (e.g. the imperfect, change, physicality). While Schiller is vague about the exact sort of middle ground he is trying to establish, he suggests that metaphysics is a tool that can aid inquiry, but that it is valuable only insofar as it does help in explanation.
In the second half of the 20th century, Stephen Toulmin argued that the need to distinguish between reality and appearance only arises within an explanatory scheme and therefore that there is no point in asking what “ultimate reality” consists of. More recently, a similar idea has been suggested by the postanalytic philosopher Daniel Dennett, who argues that anyone who wants to understand the world has to acknowledge both the “syntactical” aspects of reality (i.e., whizzing atoms) and its emergent or “semantic” properties (i.e., meaning and value).
Radical empiricism gives answers to questions about the limits of science, the nature of meaning and value and the workability of reductionism. These questions feature prominently in current debates about the relationship between religion and science, where it is often assumed—most pragmatists would disagree—that science degrades everything that is meaningful into “merely” physical phenomena.
Philosophy of mind
Both John Dewey in Experience and Nature (1929) and half a century later Richard Rorty in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979) argued that much of the debate about the relation of the mind to the body results from conceptual confusions. They argue instead that there is no need to posit the mind or mindstuff as an ontological category.
Pragmatists disagree over whether philosophers ought to adopt a quietist or a naturalist stance toward the mind-body problem. The former (Rorty among them) want to do away with the problem because they believe it’s a pseudo-problem, whereas the latter believe that it is a meaningful empirical question.
Main article: Pragmatic ethics
Pragmatism sees no fundamental difference between practical and theoretical reason, nor any ontological difference between facts and values. Pragmatist ethics is broadly humanist because it sees no ultimate test of morality beyond what matters for us as humans. Good values are those for which we have good reasons, viz. the good reasons approach. The pragmatist formulation pre-dates those of other philosophers who have stressed important similarities between values and facts such as Jerome Schneewind and John Searle.
William James tried to show the meaningfulness of (some kinds of) spirituality but, like other pragmatists, did not see religion as the basis of meaning or morality.
William James’ contribution to ethics, as laid out in his essay The Will to Believe has often been misunderstood as a plea for relativism or irrationality. On its own terms it argues that ethics always involves a certain degree of trust or faith and that we cannot always wait for adequate proof when making moral decisions.
Moral questions immediately present themselves as questions whose solution cannot wait for sensible proof. A moral question is a question not of what sensibly exists, but of what is good, or would be good if it did exist. … A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. (The Will to Believe James 1896)
Of the classical pragmatists, John Dewey wrote most extensively about morality and democracy. (Edel 1993) In his classic article “Three Independent Factors in Morals” (Dewey 1930), he tried to integrate three basic philosophical perspectives on morality: the right, the virtuous and the good. He held that while all three provide meaningful ways to think about moral questions, the possibility of conflict among the three elements cannot always be easily solved. (Anderson, SEP)
Dewey also criticized the dichotomy between means and ends which he saw as responsible for the degradation of our everyday working lives and education, both conceived as merely a means to an end. He stressed the need for meaningful labor and a conception of education that viewed it not as a preparation for life but as life itself. (Dewey 2004  ch. 7; Dewey 1997 , p. 47)
Dewey was opposed to other ethical philosophies of his time, notably the emotivism of Alfred Ayer. Dewey envisioned the possibility of ethics as an experimental discipline, and thought values could best be characterized not as feelings or imperatives, but as hypotheses about what actions will lead to satisfactory results or what he termed consummatory experience. An additional implication of this view is that ethics is a fallible undertaking because human beings are frequently unable to know what would satisfy them.
During the late 1900s and first decade of 2000, pragmatism was embraced by many in the field of bioethics led by the philosophers John Lachs and his student Glenn McGee, whose 1997 book The Perfect Baby: A Pragmatic Approach to Genetic Engineering (see designer baby) garnered praise from within classical American philosophy and criticism from bioethics for its development of a theory of pragmatic bioethics and its rejection of the principalism theory then in vogue in medical ethics. An anthology published by the MIT Press titled Pragmatic Bioethics included the responses of philosophers to that debate, including Micah Hester, Griffin Trotter and others many of whom developed their own theories based on the work of Dewey, Peirce, Royce and others. Lachs developed several applications of pragmatism to bioethics independent of but extending from the work of Dewey and James.
A recent pragmatist contribution to meta-ethics is Todd Lekan’s Making Morality (Lekan 2003). Lekan argues that morality is a fallible but rational practice and that it has traditionally been misconceived as based on theory or principles. Instead, he argues, theory and rules arise as tools to make practice more intelligent.
John Dewey’s Art as Experience, based on the William James lectures he delivered at Harvard University, was an attempt to show the integrity of art, culture and everyday experience (IEP). Art, for Dewey, is or should be a part of everyone’s creative lives and not just the privilege of a select group of artists. He also emphasizes that the audience is more than a passive recipient. Dewey’s treatment of art was a move away from the transcendental approach to aesthetics in the wake of Immanuel Kant who emphasized the unique character of art and the disinterested nature of aesthetic appreciation. A notable contemporary pragmatist aesthetician is Joseph Margolis. He defines a work of art as “a physically embodied, culturally emergent entity”, a human “utterance” that isn’t an ontological quirk but in line with other human activity and culture in general. He emphasizes that works of art are complex and difficult to fathom, and that no determinate interpretation can be given.
Philosophy of religion
Both Dewey and James investigated the role that religion can still play in contemporary society, the former in A Common Faith and the latter in The Varieties of Religious Experience.
From a general point of view, for William James, something is true only insofar as it works. Thus, the statement, for example, that prayer is heard may work on a psychological level but (a) may not help to bring about the things you pray for (b) may be better explained by referring to its soothing effect than by claiming prayers are heard. As such, pragmatism is not antithetical to religion but it is not an apologetic for faith either. James’ metaphysical position however, leaves open the possibility that the ontological claims of religions may be true. As he observed in the end of the Varieties, his position does not amount to a denial of the existence of transcendent realities. Quite the contrary, he argued for the legitimate epistemic right to believe in such realities, since such beliefs do make a difference in an individual’s life and refer to claims that cannot be verified or falsified either on intellectual or common sensorial grounds.
Joseph Margolis in Historied Thought, Constructed World (California, 1995) makes a distinction between “existence” and “reality”. He suggests using the term “exists” only for those things which adequately exhibit Peirce’s Secondness: things which offer brute physical resistance to our movements. In this way, such things which affect us, like numbers, may be said to be “real”, although they do not “exist”. Margolis suggests that God, in such a linguistic usage, might very well be “real”, causing believers to act in such and such a way, but might not “exist”.
Main article: Neopragmatism
Neopragmatism is a broad contemporary category used for various thinkers that incorporate important insights of, and yet significantly diverge from, the classical pragmatists. This divergence may occur either in their philosophical methodology (many of them are loyal to the analytic tradition) or in conceptual formation: for example, conceptual pragmatist C. I. Lewis was very critical of Dewey; neopragmatist Richard Rorty disliked Peirce.
Important analytic pragmatists include early Richard Rorty (who was the first to develop neopragmatist philosophy in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Donald Davidson. Brazilian social thinker Roberto Unger advocates for a radical pragmatism, one that “de-naturalizes” society and culture, and thus insists that we can “transform the character of our relation to social and cultural worlds we inhabit rather than just to change, little by little, the content of the arrangements and beliefs that comprise them”. Late Rorty and Jürgen Habermas are closer to Continental thought.
Neopragmatist thinkers who are more loyal to classical pragmatism include Sidney Hook and Susan Haack (known for the theory of foundherentism). Many pragmatist ideas (especially those of Peirce) find a natural expression in the decision-theoretic reconstruction of epistemology pursued in the work of Isaac Levi. Nicholas Rescher advocates his version of methodological pragmatism, based on construing pragmatic efficacy not as a replacement for truths but as a means to its evidentiation. Rescher is also a proponent of pragmatic idealism.
Not all pragmatists are easily characterized. With the advent of postanalytic philosophy and the diversification of Anglo-American philosophy, many philosophers were influenced by pragmatist thought without necessarily publicly committing themselves to that philosophical school. Daniel Dennett, a student of Quine’s, falls into this category, as does Stephen Toulmin, who arrived at his philosophical position via Wittgenstein, whom he calls “a pragmatist of a sophisticated kind” (foreword for Dewey 1929 in the 1988 edition, p. xiii). Another example is Mark Johnson whose embodied philosophy (Lakoff and Johnson 1999) shares its psychologism, direct realism and anti-cartesianism with pragmatism. Conceptual pragmatism is a theory of knowledge originating with the work of the philosopher and logician Clarence Irving Lewis. The epistemology of conceptual pragmatism was first formulated in the 1929 book Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge.
French pragmatism is attended with theorists such as Bruno Latour, Michel Crozier, Luc Boltanski, and Laurent Thévenot. It often is seen as opposed to structural problems connected to the French critical theory of Pierre Bourdieu. French pragmatism has more recently made inroads into American sociology as well.
Philosophers John R. Shook and Tibor Solymosi said that “each new generation rediscovers and reinvents its own versions of pragmatism by applying the best available practical and scientific methods to philosophical problems of contemporary concern”.
Legacy and contemporary relevance
In the 20th century, the movements of logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy have similarities with pragmatism. Like pragmatism, logical positivism provides a verification criterion of meaning that is supposed to rid us of nonsense metaphysics; however, logical positivism doesn’t stress action as pragmatism does. The pragmatists rarely used their maxim of meaning to rule out all metaphysics as nonsense. Usually, pragmatism was put forth to correct metaphysical doctrines or to construct empirically verifiable ones rather than to provide a wholesale rejection.
Ordinary language philosophy is closer to pragmatism than other philosophy of language because of its nominalist character (although Peirce’s pragmatism is not nominalist) and because it takes the broader functioning of language in an environment as its focus instead of investigating abstract relations between language and world.
Pragmatism has ties to process philosophy. Much of the classical pragmatists’ work developed in dialogue with process philosophers such as Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead, who aren’t usually considered pragmatists because they differ so much on other points (Douglas Browning et al. 1998; Rescher, SEP).
Behaviorism and functionalism in psychology and sociology also have ties to pragmatism, which is not surprising considering that James and Dewey were both scholars of psychology and that Mead became a sociologist.
Pragmatism emphasizes the connection between thought and action. Applied fields like public administration, political science, leadership studies, international relations, conflict resolution, and research methodology have incorporated the tenets of pragmatism in their field. Often this connection is made using Dewey and Addams’s expansive notion of democracy.
Effects on social sciences
In the early 20th century, Symbolic interactionism, a major perspective within sociological social psychology, was derived from pragmatism, especially the work of George Herbert Mead and Charles Cooley, as well as that of Peirce and William James.
Increasing attention is being given to pragmatist epistemology in other branches of the social sciences, which have struggled with divisive debates over the status of social scientific knowledge.
Enthusiasts suggest that pragmatism offers an approach that is both pluralist and practical.
Effects on public administration
The classical pragmatism of John Dewey, William James, and Charles Sanders Peirce has influenced research in the field of public administration. Scholars claim classical pragmatism had a profound influence on the origin of the field of public administration. At the most basic level, public administrators are responsible for making programs “work” in a pluralistic, problems-oriented environment. Public administrators are also responsible for the day-to-day work with citizens. Dewey’s participatory democracy can be applied in this environment. Dewey and James’ notion of theory as a tool, helps administrators craft theories to resolve policy and administrative problems. Further, the birth of American public administration coincides closely with the period of greatest influence of the classical pragmatists.
Which pragmatism (classical pragmatism or neo-pragmatism) makes the most sense in public administration has been the source of debate. The debate began when Patricia M. Shields introduced Dewey’s notion of the Community of Inquiry. Hugh Miller objected to one element of the community of inquiry (problematic situation, scientific attitude, participatory democracy): scientific attitude. A debate that included responses from a practitioner, an economist, a planner, other public administration scholars, and noted philosophers followed. Miller and Shields also responded.
In addition, applied scholarship of public administration that assesses charter schools, contracting out or outsourcing, financial management, performance measurement, urban quality of life initiatives, and urban planning in part draws on the ideas of classical pragmatism in the development of the conceptual framework and focus of analysis.
The health sector’s administrators’ use of pragmatism has been criticized as incomplete in its pragmatism, however, according to the classical pragmatists, knowledge is always shaped by human interests. The administrator’s focus on “outcomes” simply advances their own interest, and this focus on outcomes often undermines their citizen’s interests, which often are more concerned with process. On the other hand, David Brendel argues that pragmatism’s ability to bridge dualisms, focus on practical problems, include multiple perspectives, incorporate participation from interested parties (patient, family, health team), and provisional nature makes it well suited to address problems in this area.
Effects on feminism
Since the mid 1990s, feminist philosophers have re-discovered classical pragmatism as a source of feminist theories. Works by Seigfried, Duran, Keith, and Whipps explore the historic and philosophic links between feminism and pragmatism. The connection between pragmatism and feminism took so long to be rediscovered because pragmatism itself was eclipsed by logical positivism during the middle decades of the twentieth century. As a result, it was lost from femininist discourse. Feminists now consider pragmatism’s greatest strength to be the very features that led to its decline. These are “persistent and early criticisms of positivist interpretations of scientific methodology; disclosure of value dimension of factual claims”; viewing aesthetics as informing everyday experience; subordinating logical analysis to political, cultural, and social issues; linking the dominant discourses with domination; “realigning theory with praxis; and resisting the turn to epistemology and instead emphasizing concrete experience”.
Feminist philosophers point to Jane Addams as a founder of classical pragmatism. Mary Parker Follett was also an important feminist pragmatist concerned with organizational operation during the early decades of the 20th century. In addition, the ideas of Dewey, Mead, and James are consistent with many feminist tenets. Jane Addams, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead developed their philosophies as all three became friends, influenced each other, and were engaged in the Hull House experience and women’s rights causes.
In the 1908 essay “The Thirteen Pragmatisms”, Arthur Oncken Lovejoy argued that there’s significant ambiguity in the notion of the effects of the truth of a proposition and those of belief in a proposition in order to highlight that many pragmatists had failed to recognize that distinction. He identified 13 different philosophical positions that were each labeled pragmatism.
Franciscan monk Celestine Bittle presented multiple criticisms of pragmatism in his 1936 book Reality and the Mind: Epistemology. He argued that, in William James’s pragmatism, truth is entirely subjective and is not the widely accepted definition of truth, which is correspondence to reality. For Bittle, defining truth as what is useful is a “perversion of language”. With truth reduced essentially to what is good, it is no longer an object of the intellect. Therefore, the problem of knowledge posed by the intellect is not solved, but rather renamed. Renaming truth as a product of the will cannot help it solve the problems of the intellect, according to Bittle. Bittle cited what he saw as contradictions in pragmatism, such as using objective facts to prove that truth does not emerge from objective fact; this reveals that pragmatists do recognize truth as objective fact, and not, as they claim, what is useful. Bittle argued there are also some statements that cannot be judged on human welfare at all. Such statements (for example the assertion that “a car is passing”) are matters of “truth and error” and do not affect human welfare.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell devoted a chapter each to James and Dewey in his 1945 book A History of Western Philosophy; Russell pointed out areas in which he agreed with them but also ridiculed James’s views on truth and Dewey’s views on inquiry.:17:120–124 Hilary Putnam later argued that Russell “presented a mere caricature” of James’s views:17 and a “misreading of James”,:20 while Tom Burke argued at length that Russell presented “a skewed characterization of Dewey’s point of view”.:121 Elsewhere, in Russell’s book The Analysis of Mind, Russell praised James’s radical empiricism, to which Russell’s own account of neutral monism was indebted.:17 Dewey, in The Bertrand Russell Case, defended Russell against an attempt to remove Russell from his chair at the College of the City of New York in 1940.
Neopragmatism as represented by Richard Rorty has been criticized as relativistic both by other neopragmatists such as Susan Haack (Haack 1997) and by many analytic philosophers (Dennett 1998). Rorty’s early analytic work, however, differs notably from his later work which some, including Rorty, consider to be closer to literary criticism than to philosophy, and which attracts the brunt of criticism from his detractors.
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An ideology (/ˌʌɪdɪˈɒlədʒi/) is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed to a person or group of persons, especially as held for reasons that are not purely epistemic, in which “practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones.” Formerly applied primarily to economic, political, or religious theories and policies, in a tradition going back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, more recent use treats the term as mainly condemnatory.
The term was coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy, a French Enlightenment aristocrat and philosopher, who conceived it in 1796 as the “science of ideas” to develop a rational system of ideas to oppose the irrational impulses of the mob. In political science, the term is used in a descriptive sense to refer to political belief systems.
1 Etymology and history
2 Definitions and analysis
2.1 Marxist interpretation
2.2 Ideological state apparatuses (Althusser)
2.3 Ideology and the Commodity (Debord)
2.4 Ideology and rationality (Vietta)
2.5 Unifying agents (Hoffer)
2.6 Ronald Inglehart
3 Political ideologies
4 Epistemological ideologies
5 Ideology and the social sciences
5.1 Psychological research
5.2 Semiotic theory
7 See also
9 External links
Etymology and history
Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836)
The term ideology originates from French idéologie, itself deriving from combining Greek: idéā (ἰδέα, ‘notion, pattern’; close to the Lockean sense of idea) and -logíā (-λογῐ́ᾱ, ‘the study of’).
The term ideology, and the system of ideas associated with it, was coined in 1796 by Antoine Destutt de Tracy while in prison pending trial during the Reign of Terror, where he read the works of Locke and Condillac. Hoping to form a secure foundation for the moral and political sciences, Tracy devised the term for a “science of ideas,” basing such upon two things:
the sensations that people experience as they interact with the material world; and
the ideas that form in their minds due to those sensations.
He conceived ideology as a liberal philosophy that would defend individual liberty, property, free markets, and constitutional limits on state power. He argues that, among these aspects, ideology is the most generic term because the ‘science of ideas’ also contains the study of their expression and deduction. The coup that overthrew Maximilien Robespierre allowed Tracy to pursue his work. Tracy reacted to the terroristic phase of the revolution (during the Napoleonic regime) by trying to work out a rational system of ideas to oppose the irrational mob impulses that had nearly destroyed him.
Perhaps the most accessible[peacock term] source for the near-original meaning of ideology is Hippolyte Taine’s work on the Ancien Régime, Origins of Contemporary France I. He describes ideology as rather like teaching philosophy via the Socratic method, though without extending the vocabulary beyond what the general reader already possessed, and without the examples from observation that practical science would require. Taine identifies it not just with Destutt De Tracy, but also with his milieu, and includes Condillac as one of its precursors.
Napoleon Bonaparte came to view ideology as a term of abuse, which he often hurled against his liberal foes in Tracy’s Institutional. According to Karl Mannheim’s historical reconstruction of the shifts in the meaning of ideology, the modern meaning of the word was born when Napoleon used it to describe his opponents as “the ideologues.” Tracy’s major book, The Elements of Ideology, was soon translated into the major languages of Europe.
In the century following Tracy, the term ideology moved back and forth between positive and negative connotations. During this next generation, when post-Napoleonic governments adopted a reactionary stance, influenced the Italian, Spanish and Russian thinkers who had begun to describe themselves as “liberals” and who attempted to reignite revolutionary activity in the early 1820s, including the Carlist rebels in Spain; the Carbonari societies in France and Italy; and the Decembrists in Russia. Karl Marx adopted Napoleon’s negative sense of the term, using it in his writings, in which he once described Tracy as a fischblütige Bourgeoisdoktrinär (a ‘fish-blooded bourgeois doctrine’).
The term has since dropped some of its pejorative sting, and has become a neutral term in the analysis of differing political opinions and views of social groups. While Marx situated the term within class struggle and domination, others believed it was a necessary part of institutional functioning and social integration.
Definitions and analysis
There are many different kinds of ideologies, including political, social, epistemological, and ethical.
Recent analysis tends to posit that ideology is a ‘coherent system of ideas’ that rely on a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. Through this system, ideas become coherent, repeated patterns through the subjective ongoing choices that people make. These ideas serve as the seed around which further thought grows. Believers in ideology range from passive acceptance through fervent advocacy to true belief. According to most recent analysis, ideologies are neither necessarily right nor wrong.
Definitions, such as by Manfred Steger and Paul James emphasize both the issue of patterning and contingent claims to truth:
Ideologies are patterned clusters of normatively imbued ideas and concepts, including particular representations of power relations. These conceptual maps help people navigate the complexity of their political universe and carry claims to social truth.
Studies of the concept of ideology itself (rather than specific ideologies) have been carried out under the name of systematic ideology in the works of George Walford and Harold Walsby, who attempt to explore the relationships between ideology and social systems.[example needed]
David W. Minar describes six different ways the word ideology has been used:
As a collection of certain ideas with certain kinds of content, usually normative;
As the form or internal logical structure that ideas have within a set;
By the role ideas play in human-social interaction;
By the role ideas play in the structure of an organization;
As meaning, whose purpose is persuasion; and
As the locus of social interaction.
For Willard A. Mullins, an ideology should be contrasted with the related (but different) issues of utopia and historical myth. An ideology is composed of four basic characteristics:
it must have power over cognition;
it must be capable of guiding one’s evaluations;
it must provide guidance towards action; and
it must be logically coherent.
Terry Eagleton outlines (more or less in no particular order) some definitions of ideology:
The process of production of meanings, signs and values in social life
A body of ideas characteristic of a particular social group or class
Ideas that help legitimate a dominant political power
False ideas that help legitimate a dominant political power
Systematically distorted communication
Ideas that offer a position for a subject
Forms of thought motivated by social interests
Socially necessary illusion
The conjuncture of discourse and power
The medium in which conscious social actors make sense of their world
Action-oriented sets of beliefs
The confusion of linguistic and phenomenal reality
The indispensable medium in which individuals live out their relations to a social structure
The process that converts social life to a natural reality
German philosopher Christian Duncker called for a “critical reflection of the ideology concept.” In his work, he strove to bring the concept of ideology into the foreground, as well as the closely connected concerns of epistemology and history, defining ideology in terms of a system of presentations that explicitly or implicitly claim to absolute truth.
Karl Marx posits that a society’s dominant ideology is integral to its superstructure.
In the Marxist base and superstructure model of society, base denotes the relations of production and modes of production, and superstructure denotes the dominant ideology (i.e. religious, legal, political systems). The economic base of production determines the political superstructure of a society. Ruling class-interests determine the superstructure and the nature of the justifying ideology—actions feasible because the ruling class control the means of production. For example, in a feudal mode of production, religious ideology is the most prominent aspect of the superstructure, while in capitalist formations, ideologies such as liberalism and social democracy dominate. Hence the great importance of the ideology justifying a society; it politically confuses the alienated groups of society via false consciousness.
Some explanations have been presented. György Lukács proposes ideology as a projection of the class consciousness of the ruling class. Antonio Gramsci uses cultural hegemony to explain why the working-class have a false ideological conception of what their best interests are. Marx argued that “The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production.”
The Marxist formulation of “ideology as an instrument of social reproduction” is conceptually important to the sociology of knowledge, viz. Karl Mannheim, Daniel Bell, and Jürgen Habermas et al. Moreover, Mannheim has developed, and progressed, from the “total” but “special” Marxist conception of ideology to a “general” and “total” ideological conception acknowledging that all ideology (including Marxism) resulted from social life, an idea developed by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Slavoj Žižek and the earlier Frankfurt School added to the “general theory” of ideology a psychoanalytic insight that ideologies do not include only conscious, but also unconscious ideas.
Ideological state apparatuses (Althusser)
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French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser proposed that ideology is “the imagined existence (or idea) of things as it relates to the real conditions of existence” and makes use of a lacunar discourse. A number of propositions, which are never untrue, suggest a number of other propositions, which are. In this way, the essence of the lacunar discourse is what is not told (but is suggested).
For example, the statement “All are equal before the law,” which is a theoretical groundwork of current legal systems, suggests that all people may be of equal worth or have equal opportunities. This is not true, for the concept of private property and power over the means of production results in some people being able to own more (much more) than others. This power disparity contradicts the claim that all share both practical worth and future opportunity equally; for example, the rich can afford better legal representation, which practically privileges them before the law.
Althusser also proffered the concept of the ideological state apparatus to explain his theory of ideology. His first thesis was “ideology has no history”: while individual ideologies have histories, interleaved with the general class struggle of society, the general form of ideology is external to history.
For Althusser, beliefs and ideas are the products of social practices, not the reverse. His thesis that “ideas are material” is illustrated by the “scandalous advice” of Pascal toward unbelievers: “Kneel and pray, and then you will believe.” What is ultimately ideological for Althusser are not the subjective beliefs held in the conscious “minds” of human individuals, but rather discourses that produce these beliefs, the material institutions and rituals that individuals take part in without submitting it to conscious examination and so much more critical thinking.
Ideology and the Commodity (Debord)
The French Marxist theorist Guy Debord, founding member of the Situationist International, argued that when the commodity becomes the “essential category” of society, i.e. when the process of commodification has been consummated to its fullest extent, the image of society propagated by the commodity (as it describes all of life as constituted by notions and objects deriving their value only as commodities tradeable in terms of exchange value), colonizes all of life and reduces society to a mere representation, The Society of the Spectacle.
Ideology and rationality (Vietta)
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German cultural historian Silvio Vietta described the development and expansion of Western rationality from ancient times onward as often accompanied by and shaped by ideologies like that of the “just war,” the “true religion,” racism, nationalism, or the vision of future history as a kind of ‘heaven on earth’ in communism. He said that ideas like these became ideologies by giving hegemonic political actions an idealistic veneer and equipping their leaders with a higher and, in the “political religions” (Eric Voegelin), nearly God-like power, so that they became masters over the lives (and the deaths) of millions of people. He considered that ideologies therefore contributed to power politics irrational shields of ideas beneath which they could operate as manifestations of idealism.
Unifying agents (Hoffer)
The American philosopher Eric Hoffer identified several elements that unify followers of a particular ideology:
Hatred: “Mass movements can rise and spread without a God, but never without belief in a devil.” The “ideal devil” is a foreigner.:93
Imitation: “The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others…the more we mistrust our judgment and luck, the more are we ready to follow the example of others.”:101–2
Persuasion: The proselytizing zeal of propagandists derives from “a passionate search for something not yet found more than a desire to bestow something we already have.”:110
Coercion: Hoffer asserts that violence and fanaticism are interdependent. People forcibly converted to Islamic or communist beliefs become as fanatical as those who did the forcing. “It takes fanatical faith to rationalize our cowardice.”:107–8
Leadership: Without the leader, there is no movement. Often the leader must wait long in the wings until the time is ripe. He calls for sacrifices in the present, to justify his vision of a breathtaking future. The skills required include: audacity, brazenness, iron will, fanatical conviction; passionate hatred, cunning, a delight in symbols; ability to inspire blind faith in the masses; and a group of able lieutenants.:112–4 Charlatanism is indispensable, and the leader often imitates both friend and foe, “a single-minded fashioning after a model.” He will not lead followers towards the “promised land,” but only “away from their unwanted selves.”:116–9
Action: Original thoughts are suppressed, and unity encouraged, if the masses are kept occupied through great projects, marches, exploration and industry.:120–1
Suspicion: “There is prying and spying, tense watching and a tense awareness of being watched.” This pathological mistrust goes unchallenged and encourages conformity, not dissent.:124
Ronald Inglehart of the University of Michigan is author of the World Values Survey, which, since 1980, has mapped social attitudes in 100 countries representing 90% of global population. Results indicate that where people live is likely to closely correlate with their ideological beliefs. In much of Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, people prefer traditional beliefs and are less tolerant of liberal values. Protestant Europe, at the other extreme, adheres more to secular beliefs and liberal values. Alone among high-income countries, the United States is exceptional in its adherence to traditional beliefs, in this case Christianity.
See also: List of political ideologies
In social studies, a political ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work, offering some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. Political ideologies are concerned with many different aspects of a society, including (for example): the economy, education, health care, labor law, criminal law, the justice system, the provision of social security and social welfare, trade, the environment, minors, immigration, race, use of the military, patriotism, and established religion.
Political ideologies have two dimensions:
Goals: how society should work; and
Methods : the most appropriate ways to achieve the ideal arrangement.
There are many proposed methods for the classification of political ideologies, each of these different methods generate a specific political spectrum. Ideologies also identify themselves by their position on the spectrum (e.g. the left, the center or the right), though precision in this respect can often become controversial. Finally, ideologies can be distinguished from political strategies (e.g., populism) and from single issues that a party may be built around (e.g. legalization of marijuana). Philosopher Michael Oakeshott defines such ideology as “the formalized abridgment of the supposed sub-stratum of the rational truth contained in the tradition.” Moreover, Charles Blattberg offers an account that distinguishes political ideologies from political philosophies.
A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends power should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them. Each political ideology contains certain ideas on what it considers the best form of government (e.g., democracy, demagogy, theocracy, caliphate etc.), and the best economic system (e.g. capitalism, socialism, etc.). Sometimes the same word is used to identify both an ideology and one of its main ideas. For instance, socialism may refer to an economic system, or it may refer to an ideology that supports that economic system.
Post 1991, many commentators claim that we are living in a post-ideological age, in which redemptive, all-encompassing ideologies have failed. This view is often associated[by whom?] with Francis Fukuyama’s writings on the end of history. Contrastly, Nienhueser (2011) sees research (in the field of human resource management) as ongoingly “generating ideology.”
Slavoj Zizek has pointed out how the very notion of post-ideology can enable the deepest, blindest form of ideology. A sort of false consciousness or false cynicism, engaged in for the purpose of lending one’s point of view the respect of being objective, pretending neutral cynicism, without truly being so. Rather than help avoiding ideology, this lapse only deepens the commitment to an existing one. Zizek calls this “a post-modernist trap.” Peter Sloterdijk advanced the same idea already in 1988.
Studies have shown that political ideology is somewhat genetically heritable.
When a political ideology becomes a dominantly pervasive component within a government, one can speak of an ideocracy. Different forms of government utilize ideology in various ways, not always restricted to politics and society. Certain ideas and schools of thought become favored, or rejected, over others, depending on their compatibility with or use for the reigning social order.
As John Maynard Keynes expresses, “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”
How do ideologies become part of government policy? In The Anatomy of Revolution, Crane Brinton said that new ideology spreads when there is discontent with an old regime. Extremists such as Lenin and Robespierre will overcome more moderate revolutionaries. This stage is soon followed by Thermidor, a reining back of revolutionary enthusiasm under pragmatists like Stalin and Napoleon Bonaparte, who bring “normalcy and equilibrium.” Briton’s sequence (“men of ideas>fanatics>practical men of action”) is reiterated by J. William Fulbright, while a similar form occurs in Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. The revolution thus becomes established as an ideocracy, though its rise is likely to be checked by a ‘political midlife crisis.’
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Even when the challenging of existing beliefs is encouraged, as in scientific theories, the dominant paradigm or mindset can prevent certain challenges, theories, or experiments from being advanced.
A special case of science that has inspired ideology is ecology, which studies the relationships among living things on Earth. Perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson believed that human perception of ecological relationships was the basis of self-awareness and cognition itself. Linguist George Lakoff has proposed a cognitive science of mathematics wherein even the most fundamental ideas of arithmetic would be seen as consequences or products of human perception—which is itself necessarily evolved within an ecology.
Deep ecology and the modern ecology movement (and, to a lesser degree, Green parties) appear to have adopted ecological sciences as a positive ideology.
Some accuse ecological economics of likewise turning scientific theory into political economy, although theses in that science can often be tested. The modern practice of green economics fuses both approaches and seems to be part science, part ideology.
This is far from the only theory of economics raised to ideology status. Some notable economically based ideologies include neoliberalism, monetarism, mercantilism, mixed economy, social Darwinism, communism, laissez-faire economics, and free trade. There are also current theories of safe trade and fair trade that can be seen as ideologies.
Ideology and the social sciences
A large amount of research in psychology is concerned with the causes, consequences and content of ideology. According to system justification theory, ideologies reflect (unconscious) motivational processes, as opposed to the view that political convictions always reflect independent and unbiased thinking. Jost, Ledgerwood and Hardin (2008) propose that ideologies may function as prepackaged units of interpretation that spread because of basic human motives to understand the world, avoid existential threat, and maintain valued interpersonal relationships. The authors conclude that such motives may lead disproportionately to the adoption of system-justifying worldviews. Psychologists generally agree that personality traits, individual difference variables, needs, and ideological beliefs seem to have something in common.
According to semiotician Bob Hodge:
[Ideology] identifies a unitary object that incorporates complex sets of meanings with the social agents and processes that produced them. No other term captures this object as well as ‘ideology’. Foucault’s ‘episteme’ is too narrow and abstract, not social enough. His ‘discourse’, popular because it covers some of ideology’s terrain with less baggage, is too confined to verbal systems. ‘Worldview’ is too metaphysical, ‘propaganda’ too loaded. Despite or because of its contradictions, ‘ideology’ still plays a key role in semiotics oriented to social, political life.
Authors such as Michael Freeden have also recently incorporated a semantic analysis to the study of ideologies.
Sociologists define ideology as “cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements, including patterns of inequality.” Dominant groups use these sets of cultural beliefs and practices to justify the systems of inequality that maintain their group’s social power over non-dominant groups. Ideologies use a society’s symbol system to organize social relations in a hierarchy, with some social identities being superior to other social identities, which are considered inferior. The dominant ideology in a society is passed along through the society’s major social institutions, such as the media, the family, education, and religion. As societies changed throughout history, so did the ideologies that justified systems of inequality.
Sociological examples of ideologies include: racism; sexism; heterosexism; ableism; and ethnocentrism.
“We do not need…to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. The need for a sense of universal responsibility affects every aspect of modern life.” — Dalai Lama.
“The function of ideology is to stabilize and perpetuate dominance through masking or illusion.” — Sally Haslanger
“[A]n ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the ‘riddles of the universe,’ or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws, which are supposed to rule nature and man.” — Hannah Arendt