The foreword to Dan Fishman’s book that I mentioned in my letter of 11/30/98 began with the following paragraphs:
Daniel B. Fishman’s book, The Case for Pragmatic Psychology, is revolutionary, both in substance and in portent. I mean that literally. Instead of assuming, as prevailing ideology would have us do, that practically useful, socially beneficial psychology must begin with a science that is passed on through a closely sifted technology to more or less routine application by practitioners, Fishman proposes that we turn psychology upside down. As practitioners, we begin with our clients, be they people in distress, dysfunctional families, failing corporations, or violent, culturally deteriorating communities. We take them as they come, in all their natural complexity, bring our best knowledge, experience, skill, and creative ingenuity to bear in understanding and improving the condition of each client, and in organized cooperation with other practitioners accumulate a database of successful and unsuccessful cases. On this base, we inform future generations of 73professionals and progressively extend the mass of useful knowledge that any true profession must embody and that the people who purchase our services deserve and demand.
If faithfully enacted, the program Fishman proposes will revolutionize the psychological professions. The intuitions and lore on which many professional actions are currently based will gradually be replaced by systematic records of comparable cases, though there will always be room for creative innovation in the ever-expanding range and ever-changing flow of problems that professional psychologists encounter. Results of pertinent research can be readily incorporated in the knowledge base that practitioners bring to each new case. Useful theoretical developments, whenever they appear, can be integrated with prior conceptions in guiding each inquiry. The emerging result will be, of all things, a science-based profession, in the pragmatic sense intended by William James, John Dewey, and contemporary pragmatists like Richard Rorty, Richard Bernstein, and Stephen Toulmin, whose thinking Fishman skillfully integrates in forming the epistemological foundations of his argument.