The Essence of Ethical Pragmatism by E. Dennis Brod

The Essence of Ethical Pragmatism

The Common Sense Philosophy
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An updated version of philosophical pragmatism, offered as a cure for all that ails the world.

It’s typical for politicians from both sides of the aisle to offer what they label “common-sense” solutions, but without specifically articulating what that term means. Debut author Brod attempts to provide a thorough definition, situated within a philosophy that he calls “ethical pragmatism.” Common sense, he says, has two main requirements: analysis based on “impartial, objective, and accurate facts,” and proper selection of a means that will, in fact, lead to the desired end. His study first defines ethical pragmatism, then offers a series of practical, illustrative applications. The author furnishes a concise history of philosophical pragmatism, which also functions as a critique, saying that it has generally been overly academic, needlessly esoteric, and insufficiently preoccupied with ethical matters. Brod acknowledges that some fundamentally subjective value must govern the pragmatism’s ethical dimension, and he stipulates the value of each human life as axiomatic. In the book’s second half, he tries to demonstrate the superior rationality of his perspective by applying it to a wide spectrum of topics, including monetary policy, Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves, the selection of U.S. Supreme Court justices, and the harmful effects of excessive noise. He ambitiously offers his philosophical worldview as the maximally rational instrument for analyzing every conceivable problem: “Ethical pragmatism offers hope to all those who grapple with daily challenges, ranging from the most mundane to those of life-altering significance for ourselves alone or for the entire world population.” Brod’s exposition is undoubtedly clearer than those of his philosophical predecessors, and he helpfully avoids both technical jargon and metaphysical abstractions. However, his distillation of rationality down to common sense and “total objectivity” requires considerable oversimplification, as one doesn’t achieve impartiality by simply summoning it. Also, some readers may find his complete dismissal of religion disappointing, as well as his neglect of the long philosophical tradition that defends the rationality of faith. This is an admirably bipartisan book, and it radiates open-mindedness. But it will frustrate those hungry for something deeper.

Impressively free of political bias, but philosophically slight.

Pub Date: July 28th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4834-5435-1
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: Lulu
Program: Kirkus Indie
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