PART I: THE LEADING IDEAS
CHAPTER ONE: POPPER'S LIFE AND WORK
CHAPTER TWO: CRITICAL PREFERENCE VERSUS JUSTIFICATIONISM
CHAPTER THREE: OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE
CHAPTER ON ESSENTIALISM TO BE INSERTED
PART II: APPLICATION OF THE LEADING IDEAS
CHAPTER FOUR: MORALS AND POLITICS
CHAPTER FIVE: THE THEORY OF LITERATURE
CHAPTER SIX: PSYCHOLOGY AND HUMAN NATURE
CHAPTER SEVEN: UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL COHESION
CHAPTER EIGHT: HISTORY AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
CHAPTER NINE: HOW NOT TO READ POPPER
This describes the major objectives and themes of the book.
1. To describe how Popper has rescued the theory of rationality by detaching it from a number of theories which have traditionally been regarded as part and parcel of rationality, while in fact they have created crippling problems for it. These theories are:
justificationism (the quest for certainty),
subjectivism (the subjective theory of knowledge),
essentialism (the need to define terms and clarify concepts),
determinism (the world is a clockwork machine),
reductionism (closely allied with determinism).
2. To destroy some arguments raise against humanists and social reformers, in particular those that suggest that attempts to ameliorate the human condition are doomed to failure because;
people are not rational,
people are too stupid,
people are too selfish.
The two aims mesh because most of the arguments against reformers are based on the theories under criticism by Popper, listed in the first aim.
The relative neglect of Popper
In 1973 Bryan Magee noted that Karl Popper is not yet a household name among the educated. This is still much the case, certainly in Australia, even among liberal Humanists who held Bertrand Russell in almost Godlike awe and would be expected to at least admire his greatest follower. Some of the reasons for this neglect will be briefly noted, among them:
* There has only been one non-technical introduction to his work (Magee's Fontana Modern Masters Popper). Other recent interpretations have been overtly hostile and misleading (Stove) or seriously misleading without actually being hostile (Burke and O'Hear).
* He is not regarded as 'fashionable' in philosophical circles due partly to common misreadings of his work (described in Chapter 9), partly to its genuinely revolutionary nature (described in chapters 2 and 3).
* For some strange reason Marxism has been the mainspring of most youthful idealism in recent decades and Popper's criticism of Marx in The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) has largely denied him an open-minded readership among idealistic young people where one would expect his ideas to make the greatest impact.
* Some of his most brilliant students gave up his ideas and turned against him in strange and misleading ways (examples are Lakatos and Feyerabend.
* Most of his ideas are advanced in the context of vigorous polemics. This tends to obscure the systematic nature of his work which has not yet been expounded in depth, partly because it is still developing and partly due to the loss of followers who should be doing some of the work.
Chronological account of Popper's Life and Work
Born 1902, in Vienna of cultured middle-class parents. As a child he showed signs of the compassion and hatred of human suffering that activated much of his life's work.
'I was taken to a kindergarten, and there was a beautiful little girl who was blind. My heart was torn, both by the charm of her smile and by the tragedy of her blindness. It was love at first sight. I have never forgotten her, though I saw her only once, and only for an hour or two. I was not sent to the kindergarten again, perhaps my mother noticed how much I was upset'.
'The sight of abject poverty in Vienna was one of the main problems which agitated me when I was still a small child - so much so that it was almost always at the back of my mind...But we children could not help. We could do no more than ask for a few coppers to give to some poor people'.
As a teenager he discovered a major philosophical problem which he later named "essentialism". This is the obsession with the essential meaning of words and with the definition of terms which afflicts large areas of the social sciences and the humanities. He criticised this method at length in The Open Society and its Enemies.
Also as a teenager he had a flirtation with Marxism and socialism, and for a short time considered himself to be a communist.
At the university he studied psychology, physics, maths, philosophy and literature though he did not have plans due to the unsettled social conditions in post-war Vienna.
Probably under the influence of ideas from Tolstoy he apprenticed himself to a cabinet-maker, for a time worked as a manual labourer and helped Alfred Adler as a voluntary social worker in the slums.
While a student at the Pedagogic Institute (teaches college), he met his wife who became a tireless co-worker .
'She was one of my fellow-students, and was to become one of the severest judges of my work. Her part in it ever since has been at least as strenuous as my own. Indeed, without her much of it would never have been done at all'.
In 1928 he obtained his doctorate and later he graduated to be a school teacher. He continued working privately on the philosophy of science; he was not a member of the Vienna Circle of logical positivists though he was interested in similar problems and had some contact with members of the Circle, one of whom, Herbert Feigl, suggested that Popper should put his ideas in book form.
In 1934 Logic der Forschung (imprint 1935) was published, later translated as The Logic of Scientific Discovery. In 1937 he took a post as lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury College, Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1938, on hearing of the German invasion of Austria, began his war effort, The Open Society and its Enemies, a major review of moral and political philosophy.
This appeared in 2 vols (800 pages) in 1945.
After the war he moved to the London School of Economics. He almost came to Sydney where he was offered a position but while some acrimonious debate went on in Sydney about employing a foreigner, an offer came from London.
In 1957 The Poverty of Historicism appeared as a book (previously published as articles in Economica 1944/45).
During the 1950s Popper resolved to bring out Logik der Forschung in English, with a companion volume to be titled Postscript: After Twenty Years. This postscript ran to almost 800 pages but was held up at the proof stage for various reasons until the 1980s when it appeared in three volumes, edited by William Bartley.
1959 Logic of Scientific Discovery (500 pages).
1963 Conjectures and Refutations, collection of articles and essays (400 pages).
1972 Objective Knowledge essays and articles, (400 pages).
1974 The Schilp Library of Living Philosophers Karl Popper, containing an intellectual autobiography and replies to approximately 30 commentators and critics.(1,300 pp.)
1976 Unended Quest, an intellectual autobiography, based on the autobiography in the Schilp volume.
1977 The Self and its Brain with J.C. Eccles
1982 The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism and Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics, volumes II and III of the Postscript to The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
1983 Realism and the Aim of Science vol I of Postscript.
This section will outline some of the main themes of Popper's work in the theory of knowledge, language and mind. The purpose is to provide some background to the two themes selected for this book, namely the theory of critical preference and the theory of objective knowledge. To indicate the scope of Popper's work it may be desirable to briefly mention his contributions to some more technical areas such as the foundations of logic, probability theory, physics, and the exegesis of the Pre-
Socratics and Plato.
Some Metaphysical Themes
In addition to the relatively clearly defined problems that Popper has (tentatively) solved he has made a contribution to some problems that are less obvious. Beneath the surface of western thought there is a set of metaphysical dualisms, clearly articulated by Plato, following the Pythagorean table of opposites. These dualisms are like geological strata which outcrop in strange ways: they come to the surface in the form of tensions between classes of things that need not exist in any sort of antagonism. The confusion of thought and action caused by these dualisms can be described as a devastating self-inflicted wound in the Western psyche. It is self-inflicted because these tensions do not exist in the order of things, they exist in our
way of thinking about them. Once we become aware of these modes of thought we can systematically eliminate them by adopting a more productive approach.
Examples of these pairs of "opposites" are male and female, reason and imagination, the individual and society. In the social sciences there is a long-running argument between the conflict and the consensus models of society. The notion of contradictions is enshrined as a central principle of Marxist metaphysics. Good and evil are the primary metaphysical principles of many religions.
Another example is provided by Czeslaw Milosz, Polish Nobel prizewinner, describing his reaction to his role as a poet.
'An insoluble contradiction appears, a terribly real one, giving no peace of mind either day or night. It is the contradiction between being and action...Such was the contradiction at the very core of the conflicts of the twentieth century and discovered by poets.
In paying tribute to his namesake Oscar Milosz he wrote: 'I listened to him as a prophet who loved people, as he says "with old love worn out by pity, loneliness and anger" and for that reason tried to address a warning to a crazy world rushing towards a catastrophe.
'He saw deeper causes in an erroneous direction taken by science in the eighteenth century, a direction that provoked landslide effects. Not unlike William Blake before him, he announced a New Age, a second renaissance of imagination now polluted by a certain type of scientific knowledge, but, as he believed, not of all scientific knowledge, least of all by science that would be discovered by men of the future.
Clearly, in my opinion, Popper's philosophy of science answers the need for the philosophy of a New Age by purging those elements of determinism and reductionism that have poisoned the post-Newtonian poetic imagination. In addition, his theory finds a place for poetic inspiration in science after the myth of induction seemed to have banished creativity from the scientific
Various other misleading 'dualisms' are put to flight, as indicated in appropriate chapters below.
CRITICAL PREFERENCE VERSUS JUSTIFICATION
As noted in the Introduction, Popper has challenged the prevailing Western tradition of "justification of belief". In this chapter I will explain how his theory of "critical preference" can be used to argue with a person who denies the reality of the world; to resolve some problems in the philosophy of science; and to formulate theories of rationality and objectivity that avoid difficulties that irrationalists and
subjectivists have exploited in the past.
1. The problem of arguing against the person who denies the existence of material bodies such as tables and chairs on the grounds that "the world is our dream".
The line of attack here is to ask the doubter to produce arguments and theories to account for the appearance and behaviour of the world and to critically examine those theories in comparison with our theories. The aim is to force the sceptic to examine the comparative credibility of realism versus "the world is our dream". The alternative, and more usual approach, is to take up the challenge and try to establish a justification for our view. This response plays into the hands of the sceptic who can sustain the attack and force us into an infinite regress by repeatedly demanding justification for our latest statement.
2. In the philosophy of science; the theories to attack here are on the one hand induction and on the other the irrational elements of the theories of Lakatos, Feyerabend and Kuhn.
The line of approach here is to outline Popper's general-purpose format for solving problems:
1. Formulate the problem.
2. Propose tentative solutions.
3. Criticise the solutions.
4. Confront the next set of problems that will emerge in the course of the third step.
Popper's theory of scientific knowledge is not just a philosophers plaything unlike most of the theories produced by inductivists. It can be related to the activities of the working scientist, the technologist (from moon shots to plumbing) and for problem-solving of all kinds, ranging from cosmology to what to have for lunch.
The theory of critical preference can be illustrated by the example of choosing a motor car from the range available, constrained by considerations of cost and our needs, likes and dislikes. In working on this problem a number of discoveries should be made:
We will clarify the proposed uses of the vehicle and our initial conception of our needs and of our likes and dislikes may be severely modified.
We may find no suitable vehicle, or we may find more than one that are more or less equal. In each case we should be able to specify with great precision what would count as a better vehicle than any of models currently available.
Shifting back to the philosophy of science, this understanding of what counts as a good solution to our problem enables us to form a critical preference among competing theories and, equally important, it enables us to assess the credentials of a new theory or a revamped version of an old one.
This section will show how Popper's theory gets over Hume's problem of induction, thereby salvaging both the empirical base of science and its rationality, all this without even the merest whiff of induction.
3. The problems of rationality and objectivity.
Space permitting, it could be desirable to sketch the theory of critical rationalism from Popper's account in The Open Society and its Enemies and from William Bartley's paper on rationality which links rationality with "non-justificationism".
It could also be desirable to outline how Popper's theory of knowledge shifts the problem of objectivity from a personal matter requiring that the individual scientist be "objective" and "unprejudiced" to a social and institutional matter for the scientific community.
"That knowledge involves true belief, is a pretty orthodox view" (David Armstrong)
This chapter takes up the second challenge that Popper has thrown out to Western orthodoxy. It describes Popper's "three world" theory which states that there is a form of knowledge which cannot be reduced to subjective states of mind or to physical brain states. His theory has been criticised as an attempt to rehabilitate Plato's theory of Ideal Forms or Ideas but Popper's formulation is decisively different. It forms part of an
evolutionary theory to explain the development of the brain, of human language, and of our capacity to generate and interact with objective knowledge.
'By "world 1" I mean what is usually called the world of physics, of rocks, and trees and physical fields of forces. By "world 2" I mean the psychological world, the world of feelings of fear and of hope, of dispositions to act, and of all kinds of subjective experiences'.
'By "world 3" I mean the world of the products of the human mind. Although I include works of art in world 3 and also ethical values and social institutions (and this, one might say, societies) , I shall confine myself largely to the world of scientific libraries, to books, to scientific problems, and to theories, including mistaken theories'.
For example a book, as a physical object, belongs to world 1. It contains information which belongs in world 3. Two identical books are two world 1 objects containing identical world 3 contents. When read by two people they give rise to two sets of world 2 events which are each quite distinct (and private). If they attempt to communicate their understanding of
the book in a spoken or written form then the contents of their speech or writing belong in world 3. (The communication will involve world 2 in the form of thoughts and intentions, and world 1 in the form of the sound waves or the marks on paper). The contents of the communication may be different from the original contents of the book (due to imperfect understanding). Even so,
there will be objective relationships between the original contents and the modified contents.
One of the vitally important features of this world 3, as distinct from earlier versions of similar ideas such as Plato's theory of Forms, is that Popper's version is both man-made and autonomous, at first sight a hopeless contradiction. As he puts it:
'I suggest that it is possible to accept the reality or (as it may be called) the autonomy of the third world, and at the same time to admit that the third world originates as a product of human activity. One can even admit that the third world is man-made and, in a very clear sense, superhuman at the same time . It transcends its makers. (We must beware, however, of interpreting
these objects [of thought] as the thoughts of a superhuman consciousness as did, for example, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Hegel)'.
This chapter will sketch the three world theory with some of the counter-arguments against critics who claim that world 3 can be explained in subjective terms. It may also be desirable to sketch his recently formulated theory of "evolutionary epistemology" which is a biological approach to personal (subjective) knowledge.
MORALITY AND POLITICS
Someone once prepared a light hearted "philosophers lexicon" in which To Popper was 'to philosophise in a tone of high moral seriousness'. The converse was impopper. There is many a true word spoken in jest but the truth in this joke did not carry to the moral philosophers who generally ignore Popper. One exception is Hare in The Langauge of Morals but here Popper is invoked, not in connection with moral principles but with some fine points of
This chapter will pursue the following arguments:
1. The central problem of moral and political philosophy is to formulate and criticise standards which, when adopted, act as regulatory standards or principles, or "rules of the game". These can be informal traditions as in codes of personal behaviour (examples are standards of politeness and manners). They can be more formal traditions that are embodied in social and political institutions; these are used to set the goals of these
institutions and to criticise them when they fall short of certain standards. Examples are the traditions of alleviating human suffering, avoiding tyranny and promoting tolerance. Possibly the most formal rules are those that are codified in legal rules and regulations.
2. "Rules of the game" occur in all social groups. Indeed they can be used to identify social groups. They may be enforced informally or by due process of law but in any case the question confronting us is not whether we will have rules but whether we will try to improve them by critical discussion and trial and error.
3. Individual rules of this nature cannot be positively justified beyond rational criticism and the possibility of improvement any more than scientific knowledge can be positively justified. As explained in Chapter 2 (Critical Preference) this does not imply that they are arbitrary or relative any more than scientific knowledge is arbitrary or relative.
4. Our aim should be to formulate the problems that we want our moral and political principles to solve, then propose tentative solutions and critically discuss them. We start with our existing social and political problems and the rules, laws and traditions that we have inherited.
5. In science we may have a critical preference for one theory rather than another while we know that both fall short of perfection. Similarly in any concrete moral or political situation we may have to settle on a policy or practice that appears to be the lesser of evils rather than a perfect solution.
The importance of world 3 in this context is that it provides a location for our values beyond our states of mind. Thus we can form critical preferences for one set of values rather than another, and we can criticise our values using consequences, (or likely consequences) and higher order values as regulatory principles. Like our scientific theories, moral standards become objects of critical scrutiny and subject to rational discussion, rather than expressions of our emotions, irrational commitments or matters of fact to be discovered in nature or human nature.
This approach eliminates the problem of psychological motivation from ethics (motivation is treated in Chapter 6). It also by-passes the question of human nature which is usually posed in the form of false alternatives derived from rival essentialistic schools of thought (i.e. people are basically rational versus people are basically rational, or, people are basically selfish versus people are basically altruistic).
Space permitting the method of critical preference can be applied to issues of public policy. This will mean sketching Popper's theory of the protective state, his non-contradictory theory of democracy and a proposed set of principles of public policy - avoiding tyranny, minimising suffering and promoting tolerance.
LITERATURE AND CRITICISM
It can fairly be said that the theory of literature and literary criticism have fallen among thieves and it would be a bad Samaritan who did not cross the road to lend assistance. This may be done for the sake of literature alone and those who love her would be pleased to help without need of further reasons. It may also be done with wider issues in mind such as the need to keep alive the finest traditions of morality, civilisation and culture. These traditions are clearly not a major preoccupation of many writers, certainly not popular ones (the name Robert Ludlum springs to mind). But it must be emphasised that humans do not live by bread and technology alone; we live by myths and traditions that are carried most powerfully and persuasively by imaginative literature and art generally (including the popular culture of film, music and television). In the words of Yvor
Winters, "It behooves us to discover the nature of artistic literature, what it does, how it does it, and how one may evaluate it. It is one of the facts of life and quite as important a fact as atomic fission".
There is a continuing crisis in meaning, purpose and values in literature, largely due to the Romantic reaction against the Newtonian mechanical universe. This century the Romantic reaction has been fuelled by common misconceptions of Einstein's relativity and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. In the light
of Popper's theories it can be shown that Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg have been thoroughly misundestood by writers who use the alleged theories of modern science to abandon traditional standards and values.
There is also a crisis in the theory of the literary text: is it an autonomous literary object to be judged solely in terms of literary criteria, or is it a social product to be explained and judged in terms of external criteria?. This formulation of the problem tends to lead to two polarised camps: on one hand the social reductionists, (usually Marxists or Structuralists) who regard the test as a product of external determinants. On the other hand are the "practical critics", New Critics and possibly
the Deconstructionists who argue that criticism should concern "what is in the text and nothing else" with the text inhabiting an autonomous world of its own.
This chapter will use the theory of objective knowledge to get a grip on the nature of the text. The theory of critical preference will be applied to the problem of literary and moral valuation of the text.
In the light of the theory of objective knowledge (world 3) the following aspects of the text can be saved without inconsistency. The alternative theories (Marxists, Structuralists and so on) cannot adequately account for all these features and so has to deny the existence of one or more of them. 1. It is produced by an individual with some degree of freedom and creativity. However it cannot be completely explained by the intentions or the psychological state of the author.
2. It is a social product, influenced by a wide range of social forces, particularly the traditions of language, value and meaning assimilated by the author. However it cannot be completely explained by these factors either, if the writer has any degree of originality.
3. In its turn the work is a vehicle of some traditions while it significantly challenges others.
4. It is also a vehicle of various kinds of truths and values which can to some extent be understood or grasped by readers though the full content of a great work (perhaps any work) will never be fully grasped or understood.
5. It says something about the world or human experience. This statement can be paraphrased but the paraphrase does not account for the power and impact of good work. This is the theory expounded by Yvor Winters In Defense of Reason (1947).
6. It can be criticised and evaluated from a particular point of view, and rational reasons can be advanced to justify a critical preference for some judgements rather than others, from that point of view. Judgements can alter in a rational manner either in response to criticism or as more of the contents of the object are grasped.
7. It can be criticised and evaluated from many points of view and reasons can be given for some points of view being better than others. One may concede to the Deconstructionists that a work of literature is sufficiently rich in potential meanings so that the ingenuity of the critic is the only limit on the number of possible interpretations but at the same time one can argue
that of the infinity of interpretations, some make a great deal more sense than others and some are mutually exclusive (i.e. strongly reductive theories).
PSYCHOLOGY AND HUMAN NATURE
This chapter explores the application of Popper's three world theory in human psychology. The major propositions advanced are:
1. Human psychology needs to be revolutionised by regarding the mind as an organ that interacts with world 3 objects.
2. Something like Cartesian body/mind dualism is asserted; the mind is based on the brain (it is not disembodied) but it is not reducible to brain processes.
3. This theory has nothing to say about an immortal soul and provides no argument in favour of psychic phenomena or parapsychology. Nor does it provide any justification for the various forms of irrationalism and mysticism that have arisen from attempts to escape from the theory of 'the mechanical mind'.
The utility of this theory will be tested by its capacity to resolve the "Two Models of Man" dilemma described by William D. Hitt. This is not a paper of great weight or insight except that some important conflicts are concisely sketched in it. He summarised the proceedings of a symposium in 1969 attended by representatives of the two major rival schools of thought in American psychology, the behaviorists and the phenomenologists. The latter group may also be described as humanistic or existential psychologists. The two schools differ on several fundamental issues and he reported:
'The presentations dealt with two distinct models of man and the scientific methodologies associated with each model. The discussions following each presentation may be described as aggressive, hostile, and rather emotional; they would suggest that there is little likelihood of a reconciliation between the two schools of thought represented at the symposium'.
The contrasting views
a) Man can be described meaningfully in terms of his behaviour versus Man can be described meaningfully in terms of his consciousness.
b) Man is predictable versus Man is unpredictable.
c) Man is an information transmitter versus Man is an information generator.
d) Man lives in an objective world versus Man lives in a subjective world.
e) Man is a rational being versus Man is an arational being.
f) One man is like each other man versus Each man is unique.
g) Man can be described in absolute terms versus Man must be described in relative terms.
h) Human characteristics can be investigated independently of one another versus Man must be studied as a whole.
i) Man is a reality versus Man is a potentiality.
j) Man is knowable in scientific terms versus Man is more than we can ever know about him.
I will argue that Popper's three world theory enables these apparently opposite views to be harmonised (except in some cases where one side or the other, or both can be decisively rejected) though the protagonists on each side may not like the consequences. Behaviorists are unwilling to abandon their program of materialistic reduction (though they may admit that success is distant). They will probably regard a retreat from reductionism as a concession to mysticism and mumbo-jumbo. The existentialists may not like to accept the notion of objective knowledge in world 3 as a determinant of human behaviour, on the grounds that this violates the primacy of the individual's subjective sense of freedom and autonomy. This fear is groundless in the light of Popper's theory of rationality and freedom. Space permitting the theory will be used to criticise and elaborate some ideas in the book Plans and the Structure of Behavior. Written by three leading psychologists all committed to the reductionist program, this book contains theories that cry
out for translation into the "three world" theory.
Space permitting there could be a criticism of the Artificial Intelligence industry or research program which attempts to mimic human problem solving by means of computer programs. I contend that this will not work because human intelligence and learning involve error elimination by critical discussion of world 3 objects. New world 3 objects (ideas,
theories, arguments) are required to solve novel problems, and these arise in the course of critical discussion. But the only world 3 things in a computer are those either built into the hardware, programmed into the software or fed in using the software.
It follows that computers will not really simulate human intelligence (however cleverly they may simulate some aspects of mental activity) until such time as they are built to the complexity and specifications required to have a consciousness (world 2) of their own which will enable them to independently interact with world 3 objects.
Feminism and the biology of destiny
The psychological theory sketched here can be given a practical application in the current debate about womens liberation and the biology of womens' destinies. My aim is to attack the notion that the choice of occupation or role in life is strictly determined by genetics, by biology and specifically by maleness or femaleness. It is possible to distinguish three groups of human
attributes with varying degrees of biological or genetic determinism.
1. Those subject to simple genetic determination such as eye colour and blood group.
2. Those where genetic and environmental factors interact, for example height, weight and intelligence.
3.Those where genetics and the material environment have a minimal to vanishingly small impact, for example our ideas about human evolution( and scientific theories generally), our moral values and our aims in life, including our choice of occupation.
4. It must be conceded that certain activities such as childbirth depend on the person being female but this concession does not damage the argument that subsequent to birth the only nurturing activity that is sex-determined is breast feeding which of course is optional.
At this point we encounter the argument that these decisions on roles are influenced by another part of our environment, namely the climate of ideas and customs which we assimilate from our culture and our society by learning and imitation. This raises the issue of social determination of knowledge, values and forms of life. In the next chapter I will argue that social determinism is nowhere near as strong as the social determinists like to
think, provided that we become conscious and critical of our ideas.
THE MYTH OF SOCIAL DETERMINISM
Social determinists shift the search for the causes of human behaviour from individual factors to the social or perhaps the historical plane. They postulate that we internalise certain bodies of knowledge from our social environment (which may be described as 'given' by a historical process) and then we interpret everything in terms of those internalised maps of the
world. These maps are "relative" because different societies
have different histories and so give rise to different maps.
Three assumptions tend to be built into the model:
1. The maps come as a whole which means that we are not really free to pick and choose among bits of the map, we must take the lot.
2. We cannot really understand or rationally criticise other maps because they exist as a whole as well and unless we abandon our map and take on the other we cannot really understand it.
3. These maps are forms of subjective knowledge.
In opposition I will argue along the lines:
1'. Our personal maps are a mish-mash of conflicting elements and when we reach the point of critical thinking we can start to criticise and evaluate our ideas in a piecemeal fashion.
2'. Similarly at the social level we have a mish-mash of cultural traditions. There is no need to explain diversity, though we can speculate about it. Mixing and mingling of cultures maintains pluralism, as does the creation of new ideas.
3'. These traditions exist as personal knowledge and they also exist in world 3 where we can come to grips with them as objective entities to be critically discussed and subjected to continuous piecemeal improvement.
Explanation in the social sciences
Debate continues as to whether explanatory theories should concern individuals or groups. At another level the debate concerns whether the things to be explained are allegedly rational goal-seeking behaviours or the functional aspects of social systems. And at another level is the debate between the "conflict" and the "consensus" models of society. The conflict schools claims that society is essentially an arena occupied by
conflicting interest groups (the Marxist classes). The consensus school claims that society is essentially an organised whole in which conflicts are a special and interesting type of deviation from the ideal steady state of the social system.
Popper's theory of the "logic of the situation", augmented by his theory of objective knowledge can provide an alternative to these conflicting models and theories.
A particularly obvious application of the three world theory in classical sociological theory is to reformulate Durkheim's "collective representations" as world 3 objects. These collective representations (which are rather similar to Wittgenstein's "forms of life") have proved difficult to interpret - some translators call them the "collective conscience", some the "collective consciousness". They have been dismissed as an attempt to introduce a Group Mind into sociological theory which was certainly not Durkheim's intention.
Collective representations were designed to indicate the primacy of the collective as a moral influence over the individual. In terms of the three world theory they are world 3 objects embodied in cultural traditions that we assimilate by learning and imitation. Durkheim did not have the theory of knowledge that he needed to make sense of his insights. Durkheim
is not generally regarded as a philosopher or an epistemologist, his formulation of the defects in both classical empiricism and classical rationalism is as good as any before Popper. Durkheim's response to this problem was to locate the basis of knowledge with the social collective, internalised by the individual.
Popper's response was the non-authoritarian theory of knowledge and subsequently his theory of objective knowlege.
Another application in classical sociological theory is to re-interpret and strengthen Weber's critique of Marxist historical materialism. Weber claimed that the critical determinant in the rise of capitalism in Europe was a body of ideas which appeared in Calvinism. Sociologists who follow Weber nowadays appear to be largely concerned with his theory of
bureaucracy. Hence his crucial insight into the role of ideas in social change has not been consolidated, possibly for lack of an adequate theory of knowledge.
HISTORY AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
Under the heading of Method this chapter will criticise "mindless" historical research (endless fact gathering in the belief that the facts will somehow speak for themselves) and "one-eyed" theories of history such as McQueen's "all history is the history of class conflict".
Clearly,in the light of the arguments about knowledge and explanation in the social sciences contained in the previous chapters, there is no special method of history, no secret key to unlocking the mysteries of the past (or the future). The historians, in company with all other scholars should formulate their problems clearly, propose tentative solutions and criticise them using empirical evidence as much as possible. Of course the selection of problems can be criticised just as much as the results; there are no doubt some lines of work that are less fertile than others and some methods of approach such as Marxism can be shown to be defective.
As to the question of Meaning; the thesis here, following Popper, is that meaning is not found, it is given or created. "We can bestow a meaning upon our lives through our work, through our active conduct, through our whole way of life, and through the attitude we adopt towards our friends and our fellow men and towards the world" (From "Emancipation Through Knowledge" in The Humanist Outlook ed. Ayer 1968).
This section will canvass issues such as moral responsibility, rationality and human freedom in the light of the principles sketched in previous chapters.
HOW NOT TO READ POPPER
This chapter refutes some common misunderstandings of Popper's ideas. Some of these may not be as widespread as they have been in the past but they have all contributed to the neglect and misreading of his work.
a) Popper is a positivist.
This is a common Marxist view and perhaps the standard Marxist interpretation of Popper. It is a little difficult to work out what it means because Marxists rarely tackle Popper head-on. This would require them to read some of his books which might encourage other people to do the same.
The 'positivist' label may mean that Popper is regarded as a typical logical positivist of the Vienna Circle, a view that is not consistent with Popper's efforts over fifty years to refute some central components of the positivists' program (as described below). It may mean that Popper is allegedly committed to the view that the structure of the social world is in some sense
"given" and the role of a positive social science is to passively describe that structure, in contrast with the Marxist aim of changing it. This is a highly perverse interpretation, given that the whole of The Open Society and its Enemies is devoted to refuting various doctrines of social determinism which argue that rational human intervention to alleviate suffering, tyranny and injustice are either wicked or impossible.
b) Popper shared the logical positivists' preocupation with "meaning" and formulated a different criterion (falsification) to replace the positivists' criterion (verification).
In fact Popper was never concerned with meaning as a major problem, beyond the need to write clearly so that people can understand what you mean.
c) Popper's theory, by rejecting grounds of authoritative knowledge, means that we cannot know anything at all.
This is not true because Popper has shown that we can reject the notion of certainty without giving up the search for better and better theories.
d) Popper has been superseded by T.S. Kuhn and his theory of scientific revolutions.
This belief cannot be sustained by critical reading of the arguments (especially in Realism and the Aim of Science, 1983).
e) Popper has attempted to degrade and diminish Plato by unfairly labeling him an enemy of the open society.
In fact Popper pays tribute to Plato's overwhelming intellectual achievement. However Popper has attempted to eliminate errors in our thinking that can be traced to Plato's work and its authoritative status over a period of 2,000 years or so.
f) Popper has attempted to degrade and diminish Marx.
In fact Popper pays tribute to Marx's achievement while attempting to eliminate errors in it which prejudice Marx's humanitarian intentions. Popper attributed the highest possible motives of reason and humanitarianism to Marx (subsequent studies cast doubt on his interpretation). But regardless of Marx's motivation, Popper perceived the need for relentless creative criticism of the ideas due to their remarkable and profoundly ambivalent moral impact. By profoundly ambivalent I mean that Marx's ideas have provided the rationale for turning a third of the world into a large prison cell, while elsewhere great numbers of intelligent and humanitarian people claim Marx as the authority for their efforts to improve our part of the world and the other bit as well.
g) Popper is politically a reactionary in the mould of Burke, hating any change and worshipping the authority of tradition and the status quo.
In fact Popper has explicitly criticised Burke's attitude towards tradition and the whole of his criticism of Plato was directed against theories that attempt to arrest all change in society.