Friday, June 15, 2012
World War I Reconsidered: Given Europe's entangling alliances, which developed prior to World War I (Triple Entente vs. Triple Alliance), the isolationist position from a U.S. foreign policy viewpoint was probably more peace-worthy (in the long run) than the interventionist one. If the United States had remained neutral, the prospects of a stalemate would have significantly increased. Under those circumstances, Germany could have potentially negotiated a peace treaty with the Triple Entente to take control of the fledgling Austro-Hungarian Empire, and thus, stabilize Central Europe in the process. In fact, prior to the war, Germany was seeking new colonial/foreign markets for its modernizing economy. And if Germany had the opportunity to secure viable economic markets, albeit through a negotiated stalemate (and a collapsing Austro-Hungary), World War II might never have occurred two decades later. Also, a deep examination of U.S. justifications for entering the war, especially the argument that German U-boats were severely disrupting international commerce, will ultimately push one to become skeptical of President Wilson's war aims, i.e., to make the world safe for democracy by fighting a war?
Friday, June 1, 2012
Pragmatism: An American Social Philosophy: When pragmatist philosopher William James (pictured above) wrote the essay "What Pragmatism Means" in 1904, he had already been thinking about the topic for about 30 years. In 1872, James and a few of his Harvard-related colleagues (Charles Sanders Peirce and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) formed The Metaphysical Club, which sought to resolve a variety of metaphysical disputes altogether. Such metaphysical disputes included the purpose of religion, the meaning of reasoned judgment, and the nature of justice. For the most part, early pragmatism developed as a social philosophy with the primary intention of undermining traditional metaphysics. And as such, it can be viewed as the American response to European existentialism. Ultimately, however, pragmatism centered on linking theory with practice. The pragmatic method shunned absolutist thinking (especially ideologies and dogmas) and embraced uncertainty (anti-foundationalism). For James, pragmatism was not a new philosophy. Its roots extended as far back as Socrates. But what was new about pragmatism involved its universalistic impulse toward inclusion (inclusion of ideas, viewpoints, peoples, etc.), which had an array of practical consequences for any modern democratic society.