THE ORIGIN OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Quote from Ayn Rand at The American Adventure, in Walt Disney World's Epcot.
Quote from Ayn Rand at The American Adventure, in Walt Disney World’s Epcot. (from here)

Armed with nothing but their own vision? Sounds heroic, does it not, but consider this Bible verse.

Judges 21:25 New King James Version (NKJV)

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Is that verse saying Israel needed a king? Yes and no.  1 Samuel 8 makes it clear that we should not raise up a human king over us. Instead, we should accept God’s rule. Instead of doing what seems right in our eyes, we should seek to please God.

Why is it wrong to do what is right in our own eyes instead of God’s eyes? We are self-centered. We easily perceive the advantages for us. We too readily disregard whatever harm we might cause others.

To be fair, Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, does consider the rights of others, but even that consideration is self-centered.

The essence of Objectivist ethics is summarized by the oath her Atlas Shrugged character John Galt adhered to: “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine. (from here)

How seriously should we take such an oath? Knowing the nature of mankind?

Rand’s is one of the more thoughtful among Atheistic philosophies. Most of us, whether Atheists or Theists, make our choices more lazily. We don’t bother constructing ideological reasons, and we excuse that as pragmatic. Yet whatever Rand’s philosophy may have been, she did not subscribe to pragmatism (see Pragmatism). Nevertheless, to walk down a road armed with nothing but our own vision is to walk unarmed.

Now there is pragmatism and then there is pragmatism as a philosophical tradition. Here we will not get into pragmatism as a philosophical tradition. By the time the ivory tower academics have gotten done with a word, even they do not knows what it means anymore.

So let’s begin by considering the origin of the word.

pragmatism (n.) “matter-of-fact treatment,” 1825, from Greek pragmat-, stem of pragma “that which has been done” (see pragmatic) + -ism. As a philosophical doctrine, 1898, said to be from 1870s; probably from German Pragmatismus. As a name for a political theory, from 1951. Related: Pragmatist (1630s as “busybody;” 1892 as “adherent of a pragmatic philosophy”).

Apparently, the term has a peculiar background.  Nevertheless, if we look up “pragmatic,” we can see the emphasis is on results, that is, “practical” results.

pragmatic (adj.) 1610s, “meddlesome, impertinently busy,” short for earlier pragmatical, or else from Middle French pragmatique (15c.), from Latin pragmaticus “skilled in business or law,” from Greek pragmatikos “fit for business, active, business-like; systematic,” from pragma (genitive pragmatos) “a deed, act; that which has been done; a thing, matter, affair,” especially an important one; also a euphemism for something bad or disgraceful; in plural, “circumstances, affairs” (public or private), often in a bad sense, “trouble,” literally “a thing done,” from stem of prassein/prattein “to do, act, perform” (see practical). Meaning “matter-of-fact” is from 1853. In some later senses from German pragmatisch.

Why would people see pragmatists as busybodies, that is, meddlesome? What was that all about? The problem is that pragmatists emphasize practical results. The pragmatist uses the end to justify the means. Consider. If a pragmatist has a productive paper mill, does it matter if his paper mill pollutes the stream that runs by his paper mill? The pragmatist can point to an immediate, practical benefit, but what is practical to one person may be a nasty, practical joke to the farmers downstream.

The self-centered nature of human beings is why some insist upon an alternative approach to decision-making.

wisdom (n.) Old English wisdom “knowledge, learning, experience,” from wis (see wise (adj.)) + -dom. A common Germanic compound (Old Saxon, Old Frisian wisdom, Old Norse visdomr, Old High German wistuom “wisdom,” German Weistum “judicial sentence serving as a precedent”). Wisdom teeth so called from 1848 (earlier teeth of wisdom, 1660s), a loan-translation of Latin dentes sapientiae, itself a loan-translation of Greek sophronisteres (used by Hippocrates, from sophron “prudent, self-controlled”), so called because they usually appear ages 17-25, when a person reaches adulthood.

Before making a decision, the wise person considers the matter and strives to make a decision based upon a complete understanding of the situation. What is desired? Why? Who benefits? Who loses? What are the ethical considerations? What are the precedents? What will be the long-term results? What principles and precedents can we apply to guide our decision?

Since there is no way to please every human being, the wise try to please the Creator. Knowing that each of us matters only because we matter to our Creator, the wise study to know God’s will. Therefore, some study the Bible as a book of wisdom, His wisdom for us.

Pragmatism, however, is a secular pursuit. It is easy to know our own will, but God’s? Ironically, the pragmatist considers even claiming to know God’s will presumptuous.  For the pragmatist, each day is new, each project a new opportunity to display his genius and just do what works. What matters is his own experience, his own vision. What will work today is what today is all about.

Can we know if what we are doing is in God’s will? Check out Do You Really Know for Sure?

To Be Continued

  • Unintended Consequences In The Political Realm
  • Unintended Consequences In Our Personal Lives

 

30 thoughts on “THE ORIGIN OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

  1. Well said, Tom. I am all about cause and effect, long term consequences, the nature of systems. This election is a real doozy of confusion. It is somewhat pragmatic to run Trump, I get that, but what is going to be the unintended consequence of that decision? Is the attempted solution going to be worse than the problem we started with? Not to let the other side off the hook, they practically invented the words “unintended consequences,” but the short sighted pragmatism of people these days, on all sides of the aisle, is somewhat startling to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is somewhat pragmatic to run Trump, I get that, but what is going to be the unintended consequence of that decision? Is the attempted solution going to be worse than the problem we started with?

      I expect that the answer will be “yes” — because we will have all of the original problems with us still.

      Trump will attempt to encourage Congress on immigration and tariffs, and will be rebuffed. He will then talk about executive actions. But unlike with St. Obama the Mixed-Race Messiah, the threat of impeachment for unconstitutional actions will be quite real. So he’ll relent, and in the meantime encourage spending (which will be readily acceptable) and things will get worse.

      The economy is stalled because businesses are concerned about Obama’s unpredictability. This won’t likely be resolved under wild-ass warrior Trump.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 3 people

      1. All in good humor here Keith, but that’s really the more optimistic expectation. I’m not even sure he’ll make it past the general election, which is going to deliver us the unintended consequence of Hillary.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Time will tell if your gloomy prediction is right or wrong. In my opinion, trump will use public opinion to pressure Congress when he needs to wake up the comatose in Washington.

        Trump’ is both a Populist. with savvy to know how to negotiate.when to push or pull back.

        The economy is more stalled because of lack of livable wage job opportunities in my opinion.

        Regards and goodwill blogging

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Well, part of the point of this post is to throw the phrase “unintended consequences” right back at them. That includes all sides of the aisle as you put it.

      As Keith explained, I am afraid that at this point we have no choice except to support Trump. I don’t think he will be a good president, but the alternative is worse.

      Because of unintended consequences, I don’t think the Establishment is any more happy than we are. Trump is not the Republican Establishment’s guy, but their stupid manipulations made his selection possible. H. Clinton is floundering. B. Sanders strikes me as a true believer. Probably scares the crap out them. Hence, the Democratic Convention could be wilder than anything the Republican Convention is likely to produce.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Well you know I share your thoughts on this Tom, as well as the other commenters here. I am just not convinced yet that Trump is the lesser of two evils. With either him or Hillary (Sanders too, but he doesn’t stand a chance) the economy will implode and I’d rather see that happen under a Democratic president than Republican.

    Not because I am loyal to the R party, but because it’s the only home for now for Constitution based Conservatives/Libertarians and Trump will tarnish the Republican brand name, which will leave us with Hillary type presidents for generations to come.

    Trump needs to start building up his cabinet with sensible, experienced and sober people from the Right. This MAY cause me to change my mind about him. If he could just go one day without saying something completely asinine that would be a big first step….

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’ s good post Keith, here is the comment I left, “It’s Tricia but for some reason my comment shows up as anonymous. Anyway, I mostly agree with you but am undecided as to how much future damage Trump can for the Conservative cause. I think it will be significant in ways we can’t even comprehend right now but which will affect us for decades.”

        Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tricia

      Is Trump is the lesser of evils? That I think is the key question.

      To win in the general election, Trump has to have Conservatives in his camp. To insulate himself from the wrath of the news media and the scoundrels in Congress, Trump has to have the support of the People, including Conservatives. The question is whether the folks Trump wants to align himself with actually include Conservatives. If he serious about getting elected, I think his coalition has to include us.

      What is at stake for us? Supreme Court picks. With George W. Bush, we got one good one and one turncoat. Who knows? If we stay on his case, maybe Trump will do better.

      Consider Romney. He doesn’t like Trump. Romney is clearly establishment. The Democrat establishment cannot stand Trump either. Fox News has given Trump lots of publicity, but it would be a joke to call all that publicity favorable. Trump may not be an outsider, but he is not making the insiders happy. The question is the extent to which he will curry their favor instead of doing what he has said he would do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well that is true Tom but the problem with hoping Trump will do “what he has said he will do…” is that any reasoned analysis of him would have to conclude no. Judging by positions he has taken in the past on very key issues he most decidedly won’t be someone who champions the conservative cause and will in fact do much to do destroy it. And going by his present day philosophy is impossible because it frequently changes, sometimes during the same interview. He is an unstable narcissist in my opinion, who cannot control his emotions. Not good traits for the person holding the most powerful position in the world.

        This National Review article from today gets in to some interesting ways Trumpism is already having a negative effect in local elections, check it out if you have time. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435401/donald-trump-texas-republicans-hispanic-outreach

        Like

        1. @Tricia

          We will have four choices.
          1. Trump
          2. The Democrat
          3. Not voting
          4. Third party.

          Choices 2 – 4 are basically the same choice.

          When I compare Trump with likely Democratic Party nominees, I see Trump as the lesser of evils. I sort of understand why some people supported Trump, but I never saw him as a principled individual of the sort i would want to be president. Nevertheless, H. Clinton will clearly destroy anyone to get what she wants, and what B. Sanders wants, Socialism, is just plain destructive.

          Trump is a gamble. He may not want to take us over the cliff. Clinton and Sanders will drag us kicking and scream over the cliff.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Great insight into true wisdom. If I may, add the following to your statement

    “Since there is no way to please every human being, the wise try to please the Creator. Knowing that each of us matters only because we matter to our Creator, the wise study to know God’s will. Therefore, some study the Bible as a book of wisdom, His wisdom for us.”

    Jesus Christ, whom the Bible describes as “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus entered into all the vexation of life in this fallen world in order to show us the wise way to live. His way is the way of faith, in which we trust God to be true to his word. It is the way of hope, in which we look forward to what God has for us in the future. It is the way of love, in which we find meaning in life by living for others rather than for ourselves.

    Ryken, Philip Graham. Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word) (p. 44). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

    Regards and goodwill blogging

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The conundrum of unintended consequences has been a staple of Western thought since the ancient Hebrews and Greeks.

    Adam and Eve unknowingly brought death and suffering into the world and Jesus’ Passion and crucifixion whose intention was death and suffering brought salvation and redemption.

    Greek literature and religion is also famous for its examination of unintended consequences.

    Nevertheless, self-interest is what makes free markets, prosperity and civil society work so well.

    I think it was Adam Smith in his “Wealth of Nations,” who said that a man can never prosper on the good will of others, but upon his own industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. More than in the case of any previous candidate in US history, we can predict little about what kind of president Trump will be. We literally can only guess what he will do even with a future we can foresee, let alone the real unknown future. Unintended consequences are ALL we have with him winning the office.

    Lesser of two evils my foot. I’m inviting you to dinner. For dinner you may choose arsenic or cyanide. The sane choice is to excuse oneself and go eat at home. Why should precious human beings with God-gifted free will, inspired wisdom and human common sense participate and become a pawn in a game that every fool knows is futile?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😆

      Unfortunately, this is our home. We have no place left to go.

      So I will repeat what I said to Tricia.
      https://citizentom.com/2016/05/14/the-origin-of-unintended-consequences/#comment-69355

      I will also add this. We all need to pray for ourselves, our relatives, our friends, our countrymen, our land, and those dirty rotten scoundrels we keep electing. Some of our elected officials are decent people, but the bulk of them — well, they just keep doing what we elected them to do.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was not advocating leaving the US. I was never one to advocate not voting, and third parties are nonsense. But I will not be a party to what will almost certainly come to pass. I refuse the outrageous options we’re being offered. We’re being treated like puppets. It is short-sighted to agree to play the game as it is now. All the options are evil; I will not be part of it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. For dinner you may choose arsenic or cyanide.

      Your earlier point in the same comment was that Trump is unpredictable. I would agree, but it would mean that a better construction would be “choose arsenic or some unknown substance.”

      This would also mean that unpredictable Trump is neither Hitler nor Stalin. It’s true, and is perhaps the nicest thing one could say about him. We must choose between someone with a lifetime record of bad or even evil behavior, or someone who seems to be little more than a boisterous buffoon with a knack for entertaining. He could be very damaging, or he could be hamstrung by his evident political incompetence and thus does comparatively little damage.

      You are unhappy about the choices we have, and I am certainly with you on that. But you are making a choice anyway, by not voting. As Citizen Tom laid out, this is one of the “voting for Hillary” choices, and it seems to me far the worse of the two.

      I cannot defend Trump; he seems bent on making sure that he remains indefensible. But I know Hillary Clinton and her entourage far too well to support her as you’re contemplating doing. I would encourage you to work through the issues and comparison carefully.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know how this works out in terms of our actions right now. But I believe we can be what the Founders envisioned again. That vision is long-term. The short-sighted vision means playing along with the unacceptable offerings from the two parties and the results of that will be just what those parties want.
    Just to make it clearer through hyperbole: Hitler or Stalin? You have to choose one. Wouldn’t it be wrong to choose either?
    Maybe this too shall pass, and sanity return. Will we regret empowering one of these?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think you maybe over reracting to Trump. There os a system of vhecmd and bslanced in our gov.

    Trump at least talks about issues thzt politicians wont even bring up for fear The result is the problems meep worsening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @scatterwisdom

      After about seven years under the current regime, our system of vhecmd and bslanced is working about as well as that spelling.

      I will say one thing. I am not bothered by Trump’s attitude towards political correctness. I just hope he allows others the same latitude.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hope Trump wins over the Clintons for a added reason . I still remember Clinton’s last day in office when he pardoned his biggest political donor who was convicted and in jail for fraud along with a bunch of other crooks. And a whole lot more like him.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @scatterwisdom

          Clinton is known to be horribly dishonest. Probably murderous, given what we know about Benghazi. Add the fact she is too arrogant to obey security regulation, and we would be crazy to make her our president.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Both are arrogant, but for different reasons. Clinton is arrogant about telling the truth and Trump is arrogant in his bearing and presentation.

          If I have to choose, I will never vote for a politician that I believe to be an arrogant liar.

          Regardss and goodwill blogging.

          Liked by 1 person

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