Truth, says instrumentalism, is what works out, that which does what you expect it to do. The judgment is true when you can bank on it and not be disappointed. If, when you predict, or when you follow the lead of your idea or plan, it brings you to the ends sought for in the beginning, your judgment is true. It does not consist in agreement of ideas, or the agreement of ideas with an outside reality; neither is it an eternal something which always is, but it is a name given to ways of thinking which get the thinker where he started. As a railroad ticket is a true one when it lands the passenger at the station he sought, so is an idea true, not when it agrees with something outside, but when it gets the thinker successfully to the end of his intellectual journey. Truth, reality, ideas and judgments are not things that stand out eternally there, whether in the skies above or in the earth beneath; but they are names used to characterize certain vital stages in a process which is ever going on, the process of creation, of evolution. In that process we may speak of reality, this being valuable for our purposes; again, we may speak of truth; later, of ideas; and still again, of judgments; but because we talk about them we should not delude ourselves into thinking we can handle them as something eternally existing as we handle a specimen under the glass. Such a conception of truth and reality, the instrumentalist believes, is in harmony with the general nature of progress. He fails to see how progress, genuine creation, can occur on any other theory on theories of finality, fixity and authority; but he believes that the idea of creation which we have sketched here gives man a vote in the affairs of the universe, renders him a citizen of the world to aid in the creation of valuable objects in the nature of institutions and principles, encourages him to attempt things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme, inspires him to the creation of more stately mansions and to the forsaking of his low vaulted past. He believes that the days of authority are over, whether in religion, in rulership, in science, or in philosophy; and he offers this dynamic universe as a challenge to the volition and intelligence of man, a universe to be won or lost at man’s option, a universe not to fall down before and worship as the slave before his master, the subject before his king, the scientist before his principle, the philosopher before his system, but a universe to be controlled, directed and recreated by man’s intelligence.
Holly Estil Cunningham