Proudly pragmatic

What did David Masten mean by this?

I do not believe it is any secret that I am philosophically against government...

When we make a decision pragmatically, we consider the potential costs and benefits of different options and choose the best course of action based on that consideration.

A decision based on philosophical grounds can only differs from pragmatic decisions when we expect the decision to leave us worse off.

The fact that philosophical bents in any direction are empty is easily shown by asking people to justify them.

**** has all sorts of problems with it. So, we must appeal to it only as a last resort--if ever.

Something else you may hear is this.

**** is the best thing ever. We should harness its power wherever we can.

Almost everyone's philosophical leanings boil down to combinations of these forms. In other words, people argue for their philosophies on pragmatic grounds. (If you don't believe me, please provide a nontrivial, non-pragmatic justification for libertarianism over socialism or vice versa in the comments.)

Pragmatism is the ultimate adjudicator among philosophies. If libertarianism is a good philosophy, it is only good inasmuch as it serves as a closer approximation of pragmatism than other non-pragmatic philosophies.

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Pragmatism incomplete

You mention costs and benefts. But costs to whom? Benefits to whom? How are costs to one person to be weighed against benefits to another?Pragmatism does not answer, but without an answer pragmatism, as you describe it, cannot be applied. Pragmatism cannot adjudicate between different answers because it implicitly assumes that an answer has been settled. Political philosophies do answer this. So pragmatism cannot adjudicate between political philosophies.

When we make a decision

When we make a decision pragmatically, we consider the potential costs and benefits of different options and choose the best course of action based on that consideration.

Wars have been fought because of the differences found in this process.

Political philosophies do

Political philosophies do answer this.

In what way do political philosophies tell us which costs and benefits are relevant? Sure, libertarianism is based on freedom=good. However, does it tell us why concerns for free, individual choice should dominate?

Both of you point to an important failing of pragmatism, but other philosophies have this same failing. It's just that they assume whoever they are talking to agree with them or what costs and benefits to which people are most important.

Pragmatic Pedophile Popes for President

It's exactly because what is relevant (+ other factors) is not seen eye to eye for so many that differing political views exist. Even when all parties involved feel they are acting pragmatically.

However, does it tell us why

However, does it tell us why concerns for free, individual choice should dominate?

Your should places us in normative world. Ethics have to be consistent with human nature which implies individual freedom.

Libertarianism is not a value-based political philosophy, it's a principled philosophy.

Pragmatism = Hypocrisy (And That's Just Fine With Me)

In the context of transforming political philosophy into legal policy, isn't "pragmatism" a way to gloss over hypocrisy?

For instance, if my ideology were libertarianism, I might say that restrictions on the right of an individual to buy and maintain whatever firearms they thought was appropriate was a principled, ideologically-justified policy position. But I might still want to restrict the ability of a convicted (but paroled) bank robber to buy and own an AK-47. I cannot do that without deviating from that ideology and be "pragmatic" insofar as there are some people who just can't be trusted with a weapon like that and bank robbers are probably within that category. But I cannot do that without betraying my avowedly libertarian ideology that people should be able to have the guns they want.

I'm familiar with the idea that by committing a past crime, the bank robber has "given up" his right to own guns. But that's a fiction - he's actually made no such conscious decision and would probably resist that suggestion if it were made explicitly. Society is taking that right away from him against his will. While I doubt anyone would shed many tears because of it, that's still a betrayal of the libertarian ideology in the name of "pragmatism."

Incorporate it into the ideology

I might still want to restrict the ability of a convicted (but paroled) bank robber to buy and own an AK-47. I cannot do that without deviating from that ideology and be "pragmatic" insofar as there are some people who just can't be trusted with a weapon like that

Maybe people want to continue to pay lip service to an ideology which they meanwhile intend to betray. But I discern here an alternative ideology: one which incorporates elements of preemption of proven troublemakers (stopping a probable troublemaker before he actually commits a crime rather than waiting him for him to commit a crime). This seems on the face of it to be a perfectly tenable ideology. And if you believe that it is morally sound to preempt proven troublemakers in this way, I don't see why you would have to continue to pay lip service to an ideology which holds that it is not morally sound.

In fact, I am sure that most libertarians would agree that a certain degree of anticipatory, preventive action against probable near-future threats is allowable and principled. The issue is not whether preemption of future crime is allowable, but how clear and present, or imminent, the danger must be before we are allowed to move aggressively to protect ourselves from it.

The point of self-defense (which libertarians allow, nay advocate) is to prevent future harm from happening to yourself. Even if it is wisest to move to defend yourself only after your enemy has landed the first blow - thus proving his ill intent - nevertheless the point of defending yourself isn't to prevent the blow which he already delivered (it is too late to prevent that) but rather to prevent future blows. You don't actually know for a fact that he is going to land any more blows - you only believe it strongly. And it is this reasonable belief that he is going to land more blows on you in the future that makes it right for you to incapacitate him in order to prevent these future assaults on yourself.

So libertarians should, I think, agree that, to some degree, it is all right, even commendable, to attack someone because of a reasonable belief that you have that he will attack you in the future.

The question remains, just how much are you allowed to anticipate a future attack? It seems to me perfectly tenable for someone to believe that one is allowed to anticipate a future attack from a convicted criminal, and allowed to preempt that attack by not allowing the criminal to possess a gun. That is not my view - I am not arguing for this view - I am only arguing that it is a possible ideological position to take.

In conclusion I see an opportunity here for a person simply to claim a different ideology from the one that prohibits the allegedly pragmatic action which he advocates. Not only that, it seems the only honest thing to do. Evidently, he believes that it is right to prevent convicted criminals from owning guns. Why not simply admit this? Why continue to pay lip service to an ideology which one does not hold? That is simply dishonest.

I think this option is open, and is the only honest option. But if someone does that - if someone does the honest thing - then the distinction between the ideological and the pragmatic disappears. The allegedly pragmatic action is consistent with a person's ideology, properly understood. If a person pays lip service to an ideology which he does not in fact hold then, to be sure, the allegedly pragmatic action that he advocates is not consistent with the ideology that he pays lip service to. But what's going on here is not that he's being pragmatic. What's going on is that he's being dishonest about what his ideology really is.

"Pragmatism is the ultimate

"Pragmatism is the ultimate adjudicator among philosophies."

Well, so say pragmatists!

Ideology, BTW

Libertarianism and socialism are really more properly 'ideologies' than 'philosophies'.

What do you mean by ideology?

As for me, if I were forced into splitting hairs about what, exactly, libertarianism is, I would characterize libertarianism and socialism as sets of positions on certain issues rather than as philosophies or as philosophical systems. Different people can have different reasons, different arguments, for arriving at the same (e.g. libertarian) position on certain issues (such as a position in favor of respect for private property). A person's set of reasons and arguments can reasonably be labeled "philiosophy", so in those terms there can be different libertarians who base their libertarianism on different philosophies, but who are nevertheless all libertarians because they agree on the issues that define a libertarian.

Marxism might reasonably be classified as a school of philosophy. Socialism as a set of positions. Objectivism as a school of philosophy. Libertarianism as a set of positions.

The set of libertarian

The set of libertarian positions is seriously constrained by a philosophy of ethics. There are some coincidental libertarians (value libertarians and consequentialists for example) but stripping libertarianism of ethics is a bit cheating. It's like displaying the graph of a function without giving the formula.

Depends what you mean

We might be speaking past each other. What do you mean by "philosophy of ethics", and what philosophy of ethics do you think libertarians subscribe to? For my part, I think that libertarians have common positions on a set of ethical questions, but that different libertarians might have different reasons and arguments for holding those same positions. For example, two libertarians might agree on the non-aggression principle, but one of those two libertarians may be entirely unable to provide any argument for the non-aggression principle - he may simply adhere to it, it may simply seem to him to be self-evident. The other libertarian might, in contrast, be able to give justifications of the non-aggression principle. Specifically, the latter but not the former libertarian might be able to defend the principle against various philosophical assaults. So these two libertarians would have different philosophies (one would be empty and the other non-empty - or, if you think that the non-aggression principle is itself an element of a philosophy, then one philosophy would be more developed than the other).

I was thinking of the

I was thinking of the non-aggression principle, self ownership and property rights. These are the libertarian principles. There are many libertarian positions that come from this, for example taxation is theft. People might hold libertarian view - the income tax should be repelled - but for non libertarian reasons (it's anticonstitutional, it's inefficient, etc).

I was under the impression that you were defining libertarianism as the loose and large set of these different positions rather than it's core principles.

Arguing for the core principles

I was thinking of the non-aggression principle, self ownership and property rights. These are the libertarian principles.

These could be called ideology, a term which is often used pejoratively to mean something like "pigheadedness", but I mean it in the non-pejorative sense explained in Wikipedia:

... a Political Ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines ... that explains how society should work ...

This is what I thought Mr. Callahan might have been getting at when he mentioned ideology. It's possible to distinguish between a set of ideals, and a philosophical defense of that set of ideals. This would allow us to distinguish between ideology and philosophy.

People might hold libertarian view - the income tax should be repelled - but for non libertarian reasons (it's anticonstitutional, it's inefficient, etc).

I think one can start from a position outside of libertarianism proper, outside of those ideals, i.e. without assuming those ideals, and argue, not merely for specific policies such as a tax repeal, but for the core principles of libertarianism themselves.

I do not distinguish the

I do not distinguish the core libertarian principles from libertarianism itself, they're one and the same thing, and yes they're an ideology. (Agreed with you on the fact that it's generally negative but it doesn't have to be).

I called that a philosophy a few message earlier, you're right it's not. Libertarianism is not a philosophy but an ideology. Some philosophies lead to hold a libertarian ideology.

(Ah there we are wasting time debating semantics)