Is 2 Is

Author:Horiuchi, Catherine
SUMMARY

In the absence of a common Ought, individuals move from current Is to the next Is. This drift can be purposeful or mindless, and may involve a circle of connected others. Where then originates any mandate for government to manage this flow, an exhortation toward unity of purpose, to avoid despair, to seek exhilaration or victory? Ought governing strategies contribute toward actuating a most... (see full summary)

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Tis an unweeded garden that grows . .. things rank and gross.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The "new" pragmatism should, I think, be viewed merely as an effort to clear away some alder and sumac, which sprang up during a 30-year spell of wet philosophical weather-the period that we now look back on as "positivistic analytic philosophy." This will restore the appearance of the terrain that Dewey landscaped.

Richard Rorty (1999, p. 96)

In the absence of a common Ought, individuals move from current Is to the next Is. This drift can be purposeful or mindless, and may involve a circle of connected others. Where then originates any mandate for government to manage this flow, an exhortation toward unity of purpose, to avoid despair, to seek exhilaration or victory? Ought governing strategies contribute toward actuating a most preferred state of shared existence, an aggregate realm facilitating individually optimal states of being?

Dewey (1927/1991) noted that political philosophy ought not determine what the state in general should or must be, but rather help create "methods such that experimentation may go on less blindly, less at the mercy of accident, more intelligently, so that men may learn from their errors and profit from their successes" (p. 34). In individual transition from Is to Is, government can reduce radical and destructive errors, if its instantiated methods facilitate the development of a changed state that advantages its people. Given the limits of understanding and the malleability of consciousness, these methods best avoid dependence on erroneous assumptions and optimistic assertions. Similarly, pragmatic approaches ought to replace the faith that imminent scientific and technical advances will adequately resolve conflict over allocating scarce resources, especially if intergenerational equity is desired.

Human limitations result in attraction to governing institutions that mitigate the problem of limits, for instance, by enduring longer than a person can live. Governments can aggregate knowledge-or food-and store it for future use.1 Yet, its actors are ultimately human, so collective strategies require accommodations to and protection from the behavior of individuals. Government serves the public, as it ought, by correctly identifying and displacing weeds. This is a fundamental task of a government, beyond establishing sustainable bounds. A scan of government failures indicates to the contrary that many fail to identify and resolve genuine threats, while simultaneously exercising power to minimize legitimate internal dissent or even deviation from social norms. To reduce government impediments to individual transformation, the collective must create three conditions essential to constructing useful methods. First, it must balance awareness of an "unweeded garden" with risks inherent in governmental acts to restore the garden. second, it must acknowledge the fiction of fixed scientific knowledge as a rationale for government action. Third, it must embrace its potential to engage the public through tests or similar objects that create response and introspection, rather than mandates, to assist the public in its self-desired transformations. Individual strategies to protect one's Is counterbalance governmental Oughts. These include recognition of what one considers valid, acknowledging that opinions vary. This results in a need to negotiate interests, bearing risk of violent confrontation. Thus, the individual and the state are bound in uneasy collaboration in the moment, to determine what seems real and how to fairly allocate what is desired among all parties, based on limited and shifting knowledge.

AN UNWEEDED GARDEN

Despite consisting of socially-organized animals, the public rarely moves in a highly correlated manner, that is, the environment is inherently weedy. A tiny sardine moves in closer harmony with others. Simple rules express this natural collective behavior (humanly constructed explanatory rules differ from what is writ in the genetic material of human or animal (see Kaplan's [1964] logic-in-use):2 "Do what your neighbor does," "stay close to other fish like you," and "move away from pressure" explain schooling...

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