Thursday, April 29, 2010

On David Frum and Pragmatism

This will probably be the last post I'll ever make about David Frum. Neither he nor his views are important enough to spend much time on. But recently, and more than once, it's been suggested that Frum is really just a huckster, looking for a buck he couldn't earn honestly. Perhaps, I don't know him well.

But, it's at least worth considering that he - like David Brooks and similar creatures - is really nothing more nor less than what he appears: a Progressive with a conservative pastiche. People do, after all, come to believe a philosophy that drives their values and choices. The Pragmatism of the sort oozing out of Frum, Brooks, and others is a great facilitator of that. It makes it easy to embrace the opposite of what you once believed and never feel you've contradicted yourself at all.

But that change of viewpoint is almost always very superficial. That's one of the signs of a Pragmatist, since it enjoins us not to have any fundamental beliefs. To have them is, according to the Pragmatist, a sure sign of 'rigid', anti-empirical, dogmatic thinking.

So, they are led ultimately - despite the Pragmatist's disavowal of a 'rigid' law of cause and effect and denial of all 'ultimates' - to embrace the beliefs of those whom they entirely disagreed with earlier. That's the nature - despite the Pragmatist's claim there is no such thing as 'a' nature - of the beast.

By all means, a healthy skepticism (i.e. a policy of avoiding hasty judgments and a willingness to embrace new evidence) is wise. In my view, though, an open mind is like an open trash can - people tend to put garbage in it. Better to have, as Rand described the alternative, an active mind.

To have no firm beliefs is, sooner or later, to be open to all comers, regardless of the strength (or lack) of their arguments. Too often, that leads to the lazy-minded refusal to make judgements about truth and falsehood, good and bad.

Keep that up long enough and you wind up becoming David Frum.

1 comment:

Ted Amadeus said...

Beautiful, and absolutely right on!
Pragmatism also lends itself handly to Utilitarianism; the FOOL-osophy that "the end justifies the means"...
A frame of mind Hitler & Stalin embraced as a lever to power.