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- Ethical instrumentalism resembles utilitarianism in defining moral rules only as tools for moral good. Thus the moral code rising from a given population is simply a collection of rules that are useful to the population. David Hume was perhaps the first person to suggest that there might not be any intrinsic or metaphysical value of rules, but that they are simply secular and natural rules that are human-made.
- Political instrumentalism is defended by the Chicago school of economics, which sees politics as simply means to an end. Milton Friedman paraphrased the viewpoint by explaining that he had no ideological love for free markets, but he might as simply be a socialist if socialism fulfilled the ends most people seem to want. The fallibilistic epistemology of Karl Popper (see fallibilism here) adds to this a belief that we should empirically measure the effects of all politics and verify whether or not they fulfill their goals, and try to falsify the doctrines of our politics, critique them and come up with better ways to reach the ends.
- In the philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences, instrumentalism is the view (sometimes, somewhat controversially, attributed to Daniel Dennett), that propositional attitudes such as belief are not concepts on which we can base scientific investigations of the mind and brain, but that acting as if other beings do have beliefs is often a successful strategy. For example, acting as if the chess playing computer has the belief that taking the queen will give it a significant advantage is a successful strategy, despite the fact that few people would argue simple electronics devices have beliefs as we normally think of them.
- Linguistic instrumentalism is a language ideology that holds that the sole purpose of language is as an instrument of communication, and would deny other, often social, functions of language.
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