Friday, January 4, 2008

The Short-Term Pragmatist Versus The Long-Term Idealist

Regarding my question, argh, it's a tough one.

I think of it as a struggle between being a short-term pragmatist and a long-term idealist.

I have voted for Candidate A before (pragmatist), and I have also voted for Candidate C before (idealist). Not surprisingly, I have never voted for Candidate B.

It bums me out that there are situations where I have intentionally chosen someone other than the person I felt was best suited for the job. And yet the times I voted for Candidate C, if Candidate B was elected and a vote for A would have swung the election, I would feel equally awful.

As Bubs said in a comment, the vote often "depends". Both he and Beth indicated some examples where they would vote idealistically in a primary, but pragmatically in the election. Their argument makes perfect sense to me.

BlueGal says we are required to vote our conscience. I can't really argue with that, either.

I'd like to think we all want to be idealists, but we are often pragmatists out of necessity (or at least a perceived necessity?).

Is there a way out of this short-term pragmatism? It feels like a collective shift from pragmatism to idealism has to happen to set things right.

I have sent a follow-up question to Dr. Monkey regarding this problem. Let's hope he can work it out. Go, Dr. Monkey, Go!


Randal Graves said...

Is there a way out of this short-term pragmatism? It feels like a collective shift from pragmatism to idealism has to happen to set things right.

Sure. Change American society. Good luck with that. ;-)

Cowboy the Cat said...

There are greek philosophers that spent the better part of their lives drunk on wine and mulling the pragmatist vs. the idealist.

Some came to the conclusion that if you are an idealist, nothing will ever get done because you are intent on a goal with a low chance of success, and you must focus on what you absolutely can do, and not what you wish could be done.

Others claim that that attitude is precisely the problem. If you only take the path of least resistence, and only try to do what you know you will accomplish, then you never challenge yourself to be better. This leads to stagnation.

The "you" here could be a person, or a society.

I have been a pragmatist and found that it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I want to be an idealist and shoot for the stars. I know I will not always take the "risky but sexy" chance, but I hope I do it a lot. It will make life more interesting.

Of course, you have children so you have a lot more to think about than me, and until they're out of the house, you are essentially making the big decisions for them. I think that tends to make anyone temper the passions of their youth with a little pragmatism. It may yet do it to me...

Splotchy said...

randal g, thank you for your encouragement!

CTC, aw crap, the Greeks couldn't figure it out? We are so screwed. I like to think of myself as more of an idealist than a pragmatist, but it's really one's actions that count, not one's self-perception.

Cowboy the Cat said...

Splotch... Or is it our perceptions of ourselves that eventually shape our actions?

Kevin said...

Julia Child used to say (before doing something generally impossible, like flipping a tarte tatin onto a platter), "Use the courage of your convictions."

I think Blue Gal is exactly right - you should never have to compromise your values. I voted Green last two elections, and I have no regrets (but being in California gave me that luxury -- the state both times went overwhelmingly to Democrats and away from Chimpy).

But I think even if I lived in OH, I would still vote with the courage of my convictions.