It can be an easy trap to fall into a belief fo certainty with a self-righteous impetus to force those dogmas on others based on that certainty. Pragmatists will borrow ideas from other ideas, looking for insights. They will draw on a set of rich and varied thinkers and traditions for working out their ideas (Bernstein, 2013). It seems like a key aspect is in the working out of ideas, not that they are a complete product ready to be tied in a bow, but they are being wrestled with and toyed with as concepts. When one idea stops working, it is time to start looking into other ideas that might be able to work in its place.
Fallibilism seems to fit well combined with hypothesis testing unfinished work in the progress of pragmatism. It looks at the world as an alternative to the Cartesian Either/Or. That knowledge does not require certainty, and really that most of our beliefs cannot be conclusively justified. Where Bernstein (2013) describes as ‘the Cartesian Anxiety,’ is looking to find certainty in the world it examines, fallibilism lets the viewer see what it sees.
The great fight of good versus evil, and finding ways to see the world in black in white, us versus them, true versus false are all dichotomies that can be extremely dangerous. President Trump’s focus on the immigrant population in the United States and claims regarding the extent of criminals’ other degrading comments gives an example of his this can be such a negative thing in our broader political lives. But being able to really consider this topic, we can even look at a much smaller scale topic such as the best intervention for the problematic behavior of youth.
In my role for this year, working at a counseling center that contracts for school districts to provide some behavioral, mental health, and academic supports for students. They are students who often are unable to continue to receive their academic needs based on their behavioral and mental health concerns. I’ve come into the program with a set of very new and less experienced workers. They are lacking in some of their systems and always knowing what are their needs. One could come in with a mentality that there is only one correct way to address the severe set of needs these students have. I find it important to take a pragmatic approach, trying to see what would be the best areas to try to increase the program’s effectiveness. This is especially true as I will likely be returning to my position in the school district next year. In some ways, the way we are implementing a more fallible tactic in this is through the team approach we are taking. We are melding some of my experience from working in the school district and various experiences together with the systems that have already been in place at my agency through frequent staffing, coordinating, and having purposeful meetings to move the program forward.
Bernstein, R. J. (2013). The Abuse of Evil The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 9/11. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.