Most of the eleven papers in this collection were delivered at the Popper Centenary conference in New Zealand in July 2002, in the city of Canterbury on the South Island were Popper wrote The Open Society and its Enemies sixty years ago. Some of the contributors were fresh (actually a little jet-lagged) from the Vienna Conference a few days before.

Alan Musgrave describes how Popper (might have) solved the problem of induction, though what he actually achieved was not a solution but an explanation that the problem is rather like the problem of building a perpetual motion machine, insoluble and not a barrier to progress.

Semiha Akini explained how Popper's conventionalism is different from that of Duhem and Pioncare because it points to the indispensable role of conventions in the methods of science and it does not underwrite decisions about the content or truth of theories. A reference to Jarvie's latest book on the role of conventions or rules of the game of science would have supported this case.

Phillip Catton undertook some really interesting and fine grained criticism of Popper's "conjecture and refutation" methodology with reference to Harvey's work on the role of the heart, Wegener on Continental Drift, Newton and the Einstein's early work. The gist of his argument is that these developments were "rational in ways that Popper ill equips us to fathom". I suspect that this criticism may not be as telling as he believes, for example finding out that Newton was a fallibilist hardly unsettles Popper's theory of conjectural knowledge, though it may correct some ideas that Popper and others had about Newton.

Wenceslao J Gonzalez discussed the many faces of Popper's methodological approach to prediction, with some reference to economics. Unfortunately there is no mention of the large body of work in this field by Larry Boland although he is the outstanding Popperian contributor to the philosophy and methodology of economics.

Jeremy Shearmur provided a challenge to the bulk of the philosophical profession to see if they might have something to learn from Popper, at least from his habit of addressing problems that have both intellectual and practical import, and writing in language that is accessible to interested members of the public. It seems that Popper has practically ceased to register among both Continental and analytical philosophers, on which topic see some evidence presented below by Jeremy Waldron. Peter Munz was also entertaining and especially challenging with his thesis that Popper and Wittgenstein should have gone into partnership to provide elements that are missing from each other's schemes.

Alan Ryan is a veteran commentator on these issues and he addressed the relationship between science and politics with three questions in mind. One, is democracy good for science? Two, can or should scientists seek consensus in their own fields in the same way that citizens seek consensus on public policy? Three, is science good for democracy? It seems that democracy is good for science. On the matter of scientific rationality as a model for rationality in the political domain, the answer is a muted yes, with some help from Dewey and a cryptic reference to Habermas. On the benefits of science for democracy, Ryan is not encouraging, noting the way that Big Science has generated demands for big money and that is the root of a great deal of political evil.

Anthony O'Hear contributed an interesting and challenging criticism of the notion of the open society as a utopia. His main criticism is that social institutions are not just problem-solving instruments that can be designed by social engineers and put in place on order (football clubs to solve the problem of people who want to play football), they function in many ways that give meaning and purpose to people's lives. This is a fascinating paper although I think if the open society is regarded as an ideal type (in contrast with an equally idealised closed society) rather than a utopian aim, then we can get the benefit of Popper's ideas without collapsing into that form of constructivist rationalism that Hayek has identified as the great and destructive superstition of modern times.

Jeremy Waldron writes on tribalism and the myth of the framework with special attention to the politics of cultural recognition. This is an intricate defence of the idea of expanding the scope of critical rationalism to address problems of culture clash in multicultural and multiracial societies. One of his targets, following Popper, is the idea that people need to share a whole framework of beliefs before they can get on together or discuss anything usefully. The example of trade would appear to be a major counter-example, where goods can be traded across all manner of social divisions just provided that both parties want to do business. I think there is a rather significant lesson to be learned there.

The following note is attached to Waldron's paper.

"The Open Society is not given much attention in modern political philosophy. The most prominent journals for publishing essays in political theory or political philosophy are Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs and Political Theory. A quick search on the 'JSTOR' data-base - searching for 'Popper' within ten words of 'Open' in the full text of articles published in these journals between 1960 and 1999 - indicates that Popper's book has been cited in just 23 articles in that period. Of those 23 citations, almost all are perfunctory: they cite Popper either as a source for a particular phrase (like 'radical social engineering') or in order to mention, without elaboration, his attacks on Plato, Hegel and Marx. Six of them devote a sentence or two to his views on topics like utopianism, psychologism, the fact/value gap and negative utilitarianism. Only three offer anything more than a paragraph, and of the articles published in these journals over the last forty years, only one - Lefevre 1974 - is devoted in its entirety to a discussion of Popper's thought. I should add that there are one or two articles on Popper's political philosophy published in other journals: for examples, see Lessnoff 1980, p. 113, Popper 1994, p. 49, and note 9 below. (I am grateful to Julia Maskivker for research assistance on this and other matters for this chapter.) "

Site IndexFull IndexPopper Articles

Phillip Catton and Graham Macdonald (eds) Karl Popper: Critical Appraisals. Routledge 2004, 240 pp paperback
the Rathouse