The Political Thought of Karl Popper

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The Political Thought of Karl Popper by Jeremy Shearmur

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Original Articles

About this Item xi, p. Black cloth hardcover in illustrated dustjacket. Science is no more than rational criticism…. I say all this because I want to interest you in my epistemology. This essay is a longer and later version of the essay cited in note In this too we have done our share.

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For a more in depth discussion of how the liberal tradition has become artificially compressed see A. Simhony and D. Weinstein Eds. We are indebted to J. Pocock for drawing our attention to how Popper was historicist himself. Thus history becomes the war between the Open Society and it Enemies Popper , or positive and negative liberty Berlin , or ancient and modern philosophy Strauss.

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Karl Popper on Definitions (1974)

Pages Published online: 23 Jan Original Articles. Exile and interpretation: Popper's re-invention of the history of political thought.

Edmonds and Eidenow, op. Cited in Hacohen, op. Cited in Edmonds and Eidinow, op.

Remembering Karl Popper

See Popper, op. That critique emerges out of Popper's rejection of verificationism and his espousal of falsificationism. Perhaps ironically, Popper was himself a teenage Marxist, attracted by the apparent explanatory power of the ideology.

Yet, with a remarkable degree of insight, fuelled by tragic personal experience, he soon realised that this explanatory power was itself an illusion — a weakness of the ideology, rather than a strength, and it was this insight derived ultimately from the much earlier work of Hume that provided the driving force behind his own critique of verificationism, both within Marxism and beyond it.

By the time he was 17, Popper said, he had realised that:. Marxism, Popper claims, is analogous to the psychological theories of Adler and pseudo-sciences such as astrology. His attack upon the ideology became two-pronged: Marxism principally consisted of unfalsifiable claims, and it was a historicism. It could not, therefore, be described as scientific.

What do we mean by "scientific", in this instance? Marx claimed that his system of political thought was predictive and, to an extent, this was the case. Yet Marxists did not follow the strict Popperian criterion of falsification: when predictions were not in fact borne out for example, the failure of working class revolution to occur throughout European societies , the underlying theory was not rejected, but was salvaged by the use of ad hoc hypotheses which were deployed to shore the theory up — a classic symptom of a pseudo-science, according to Popper. Initially an attempt at scientific rigour, Marxism collapses back into the mire.

It's obviously possible to take issue with this on a number of counts: Wollheim, Cornforth and Hudelson all did so, among others, concentrating primarily on the accusations of historicism.