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May 27th 2009

    Morrison Swift describes the fate of John Corcoran, who unable to find work ended his life by drinking carbolic acid.  Swift's point was to demonstrate how absurd men were to suggest that suffering contributed to absolute goodness.  

    In those days the argument amongst many, was that we lived in a river headed up toward the city on a hill.  The idea was Hegelian in it's magnificence and contributes still as an adjunct to that idealism of nationhood.  The ship of state with adequate process, rather than something like good, at the helm.

    William James, in one of his essays, uses Morrison Swift's description of Corcoran's suicide to argue for pragmatism.  Practical solutions to real problems, rather than a belonging to an order of things.

    Certainly these particular thinkers had their debates in the 1890's, nonetheless the debate is a perennial. The ideal and the practical are with us like giant oaks which were saplings three, four thousand years ago.  James suggested that practical minds were just as inclined toward an idealism.  Wrapped up in the detail, the big picture is lost.  

    A reputable argument would require a reputable mind, and an attention span not limited to less than one page.  However my version of it can be summed up too simply with the phrase 'truth is important'.  Here I do not mean the tax return or tomorrow's weather, I mean the vacuum that exists without truth.

    Those thinkers who have done away with the objective by replacing it with the analytical might well have done proper work, and might well be quite accurate.  But the vacuum they leave is usually filled by those predictable ideas that provide for a sense of belonging, rather than something that might actually be real or true.

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