Karl Popper on the roots of socialism and identity politics

Popper fought as an ANZAC in WW2. He was living in Christchurch but he was not allowed to put on a uniform because he was classified as an enemy alien so he wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies to help the war effort, or at least the reconstruction afterwards. He fought on the philosophy front in the stratosphere of ideas, taking on Plato, Aristotle, Hegel and Marx.

This piece was triggered by a particularly misleading commentary on Popper by Frank Furedi in Spiked last week where the Great Helmsman of Critical Rationalism was doxed as a warrior on the wrong side of the “cancel culture war.” Furedy took aim at Popper’s views on the need to move beyond primitive closed or tribal societies towards more open societies and he depicted Popper’s modern person as “an abstract person – someone detached from previous generations and their people, as well as from the past.” That is a very perverse read on Popper’s reference to non-tribal “abstract” societies by which he meant the catallaxy that supplements but does not replace our close personal relationships and semi-tribal allegiances like supporting the Irishtown football team.

The bottom line of this story is that the BLM movement can be explained as a mixture of temper tantrum and quest for meaning and community, driven by the intellectual errors of collectivism and racism propounded by Plato and weaponised in recent times by cultural marxism at all levels of education plus social media. That long story can’t be told here and I will only show how Furedi lost Popper’s plot, probably because he grew up as a Marxist and did no appreciate the book that Isiah Berlin described as the most devastating criticism of Marxism in the English language when it appeared in 1945.

The arguments that earned Furedi’s wrath are the concepts of the closed society, the open society and the “strain of civilization” expounded in Chapter 10. The open society and the closed society are “ideal types” that Popper used to explain the problems that emerge when people have more opportunities and variety in their lives while they have to shoulder more individual responsibility for their choices and actions.

A closed society resembles a herd or a tribe in being a semi-organic unit whose members are held together by semi-biological ties—kinship, living together, sharing common efforts, common dangers, common joys and common distress. It is still a concrete group of concrete individuals, related to one another not merely by such abstract social relationships as division of labour and exchange of commodities, but by concrete physical relationships such as touch, smell, and sight.

In more open societies there are is still a great body of more and less reasonable constraints and taboos but there is an ever-widening field of personal decisions, with its problems and responsibilities. As some of the organic character is lost it may, to a considerable extent, lose the character of a concrete or real group of men and it may become, by degrees, what I should like to term an ‘abstract society, or of a system of such real groups.

He made the point with a thought experiment (writing in the early 1940s) to envisage what he called a completely abstract or depersonalised society in which people practically never meet face to face [anticipating lockdown]. Business is conducted by individuals in isolation who communicate by typed letters or by telegrams, and travel in closed motor-cars. (Artificial insemination would allow even propagation without a personal element.)

He pointed out that our modern society resembles the abstract society in some ways. So without driving in closed cars we may walk in a crowded street and meet a great many people face to face without making any personal contact. Similarly, membership of a trade union may mean no more than the possession of a membership card and the payment of a contribution to an unknown secretary. There are many people living in a modern society who have no, or extremely few, intimate personal contacts, who live in anonymity and isolation, and consequently in unhappiness. For although society has become abstract, the biological make-up of man has not changed much; men have social needs which they cannot satisfy in an abstract society.

He quickly added some qualifications,  There never will be or can be a completely abstract or even a predominantly abstract society—no more than a completely rational or even a predominantly rational society. People still form real groups and enter into real social contacts of all kinds, and try to satisfy their emotional social needs as well as they can. But most of the social groups of a modern open society (with the exception of some lucky family groups) are poor substitutes, since they do not provide for a common life. And many of them do not have any function in the life of the society at large.

And second, the picture highlights the losses in the (partially) abstract society and misses out on the gains, Personal relationships of a new kind can arise where they can be freely entered into, instead of being determined by the accidents of birth; and with this, a new individualism arises.

What Popper called the strain of civilization is the feeling of unease that can arise when we move from a familiar and settled way of life (home to school, school to university, university to work)  and that feeling of unease will be widespread in times of rapid social change. It is not in itself a bad thing, it just has to be managed at the personal and institutional level to minimise pathological symptoms such as joining destructive social movements to gain a sense of identity and achieve some meaning and purpose in life.

As soon as one is sensitized to the strain of civilisation it is a recurring motif in historical and sociological studies, although it is not usually articulated in a robust theory that provides both an explanation and some pointers for a rational response. Children of the sixties and seventies may recall a book by Erich Fromm called The Fear of Freedom which was a psychological explanation of the appeal of fascism, couched in Marxist and Freudian jargon.

The theory of the strain of civilisation in times of culture clash or rapid social transition could have provided a framework for subsequent work on the problems of social change,  multicultural societies and living with the resurgent tribalism of radical Islam (not to mention the rabid left)  but it has never, to my knowledge, been used by any well known or influential anthropologist, historian or sociologist. This may reflect the dominance of people in those professions who were scandalized by Popper’s treatment of Plato and Marx, or it may be, as Roger Sandall has suggested, that it became politically incorrect in progressive circles after WW2 to talk about tribal societies in any way that implied that they are inferior.

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30 Responses to Karl Popper on the roots of socialism and identity politics

  1. thefrollickingmole

    I’d be guessing it’s both.
    The cult of the noble savage plus the Marxists getting their noses out of joint.

  2. pbw

    Furedi makes a number of claims, which I am in no position to judge.

    Opponents of Western culture and civilisation were particularly hostile to the nation, an institution they held responsible for two world wars. They looked to international institutions, global governance, to solve the problems facing humanity…doctrinal expression of this [is] in Karl Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper, along with a significant section of Western cosmopolitans, regarded closed societies – especially nations – as a source of conflict and destruction.

    …any form[s] of private and non-political bonds between people…were decried…[as]…discriminatory…even citizenship…

    Cutting pre-political bonds between generations and members of a…closed community was…pre-requisite for the rise of the modern person.

    [For Popper] the value of openness trumped that of democracy…he advocated support for an interventionist form of ‘democratic imperialism’…

    Whether it’s true of Popper or not, it’s a useful window on the rise of corporate wokeness, and the bizarre spectacle of corporate social warriors using commercial power irrespective of simple commercial considerations. Angelo Codevilla’s article, referred to in an earlier post, is essential reading.

  3. Aynsley Kellow

    ‘The theory of the strain of civilisation in times of culture clash or rapid social transition … has never, to my knowledge, been used by any well known or influential anthropologist, historian or sociologist.’

    Freud wrote of the problems of civilisation in Civilisation and its Discontents (published in 1930). Popper might well have been aware of this, because his parents were apparently friends with Freud’s sister, Rosa Graf.

    I studied this work as a student under James R. Flynn in a course pondering why there was so little utopian literature in the 20th Century. Answers: Freud suggested man could not be happy in civilisation, and this was a prevailing theme; the prevalence of ethical scepticism after GE Moore’s Principia Ethica where he demolished the epistemology of ethics and replaced it with the very weak ’emotivism.’

    Cultural Relativism was championed by the likes of Ruth Benedict as a reaction to the horrors of WWII, in the mistaken belief that, if we were aware of the rich variety of different cultures, we would become tolerant of them all. A hint of postmodernism about this – and it is nonsense. Jim used to point out that there was no need to approve morally of diverse practices like the Kwakiutl dipping their young in icy water as a kind of Darwinistic cultural practice.

    Popper (whom I heard lecture at Otago in the late 70s) was apparently arrested in Christchurch wandering down the street mumbling in German – or at least I was told. The police thought him drunk, which was ironic, because I understand he was a teetotaller.

    ‘probably because he grew up as a Marxist’ – I thought you were referring to Popper for a moment! While he didn’t grow up as such, Popper was a believer until at a riot some of his companions were shot by the police.

  4. Iampeter

    He fought on the philosophy front in the stratosphere of ideas, taking on Plato, Aristotle, Hegel and Marx.

    Why would you include Aristotle in that list?

    As to Popper’s writings in The Open Society and it’s Enemies, it’s the usual ad-hoc focus on random non-essentials from the point of view of a Kantian skeptic and post modernist.

    Fortunately mainstream political discourse is already utterly destroyed by these ideas so Popper couldn’t do the damage here that he did to the field of science.

  5. Aynsley Kellow

    ‘Popper couldn’t do the damage here that he did to the field of science.’ Please explain.

  6. Iampeter

    ‘Popper couldn’t do the damage here that he did to the field of science.’ Please explain.

    Popper posed as an expositor of science, a field he actually had no knowledge of whatsoever, in order to advance Kantian skepticism into the hard sciences. I.e. he advocated that induction is invalid, that theories have no basis in reality and are just floating abstractions, that you need to negatively falsify instead of positively provide evidence and so forth. This literally turns science on it’s head.
    You can imagine how popular this was among the legions of mediocre hacks who could now practice Popper’s kind of “science.”
    This is exactly how we end up with science by consensus, peer-review and the favoring of theoretic models in place of empirical data. The biggest example of what a disaster this has all been in practice is, “climate science.”
    Thanks Popper!
    A good read that gets into the details of this can be found here.

    But more broadly, ALL collectivist ideas, like socialism and identity politics, have their modern roots in Kant. They all require the rejection of induction as the basis of knowledge, leaving people with nothing but the collective, whatever form it might take, religion, race, nation, tribe, etc, to go on instead.
    So with Popper being a major conduit for Kantian ideas into our culture, he is not someone anyone should be quoting in opposition to socialism and identity politics.

  7. Rex Anger

    But more broadly, ALL collectivist ideas, like socialism and identity politics, have their modern roots in Kant. They all require the rejection of induction as the basis of knowledge, leaving people with nothing but the collective, whatever form it might take, religion, race, nation, tribe, etc, to go on instead.

    Funny, that. Not 24hr ago, IamTheMinistryOfTruth was tell8ng us all that Chrisitanity was the source of all the Western World’s ills…

    Make up your mind there, Petey. Who is literally the worst evah? Jesus, Kant? Popper? Or Evilbad Orange Man who is Evilbad and Orange and Evilbad?

  8. Aynsley Kellow

    I’ll read the ‘good read’ once I find time, but I fail to see how Popper’s scientific method encourages model-based climate science. Quite the opposite. He holds that we should hold our belief in scientific propositions only tentatively, and expect them to be falsified – and have greater confidence in those that have withstood repeated attempts at falsification. No amount of confirming observations can ever establish to veracity of a propositions.

    Induction is regarded as committing the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. Observing any number of white swans cannot make valid the statement ‘All swans are white.’

    I sometimes wonder whether his use of the swan example was drawn from his time in Christchurch, where the nearby Lake Ellesmere is full of black swans, but unfortunately his work on induction predates his time there!

  9. Iampeter

    Quite the opposite. He holds that we should hold our belief in scientific propositions only tentatively, and expect them to be falsified – and have greater confidence in those that have withstood repeated attempts at falsification. No amount of confirming observations can ever establish to veracity of a propositions.

    Which means we can’t know anything for certain and the closest we can get is via consensus. That’s how we get things like climate science.
    This is the opposite of actual science, which is all about the acquisition of certain knowledge, via induction at the most fundamental level, the validity of which is not determined by arbitrary factors like number of falsification attempts.

    Induction is regarded as committing the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. Observing any number of white swans cannot make valid the statement ‘All swans are white.’

    I’m not sure who regards it this way. Induction is simply the process of observing the facts of reality and integrating them into concepts.
    If induction is rejected then the only thing you have to go on is the group, your race, your feelings, or some other deterministic factor. This is how we get religion, dictatorships, identity politics, etc.

  10. Tim Neilson

    This literally turns science on it’s head.

    No it doesn’t.

    And not just because science cannot be “literally” turned on its head.

    The scientific method is hypothesis, prediction, controlled reproducible experiment, result, conclusion. If the result contradicts the prediction there’s something wrong with the hypothesis*. That’s science. That’s been the case at least as far back as Galileo dropping two cannon balls off the top of the leaning tower of Pisa – it’s not some kind of invention of Popper’s.
    * The converse of course isn’t true – the result matching the prediction doesn’t prove that the hypothesis is true, it just provides grounds for accepting that it might be true. That’s science. That’s why Newtonian physics is now accepted as not being the absolute truth that it used to be thought to be, because hypotheses are always open to re-evaluation if new observational data appears.

    Climate “science” is archetypally bad science precisely because it elevates induction above the proper scientific method – “global temperature rose in the mid 1970’s to late 1990’s – CO2 levels rose at the same time, therefore we induce that CO2 increases caused the temperature increase”.

    Which means we can’t know anything for certain and the closest we can get is via consensus.

    Where did Popper advocate belief via consensus? He advocated scepticism tempered by the practical reality that we can operate only by provisional acceptance of propositions until and unless they’re disproved.

    Induction is simply the process of observing the facts of reality and integrating them into concepts.

    Like “all swans are white”.

    If induction is rejected then the only thing you have to go on is the group, your race, your feelings, or some other deterministic factor.

    Popper didn’t reject induction, he just exposed its limitations. Provisional acceptance of propositions a la Popper is of course an application of induction, not a rejection of it.

    This is how we get religion, dictatorships, identity politics, etc.

    If , having characterised Popper as meaning we can’t know anything for certain, you are then blaming Popper for absolutist ideologies, you’ve really jumped the shark.

  11. John A

    Children of the sixties and seventies may recall a book by Erich Fromm called The Fear of Freedom which was a psychological explanation of the appeal of fascism, couched in Marxist and Freudian jargon.

    Yes, I recall reading Fromm, without at that time understanding that he was a writer in the Frankfurt School, bringing cultural Marxism to the West.

    IIRC though, he was promoting collectivism and eventually communism, rather than fascism, because, in his view, humanity couldn’t handle absolute freedom, which happens to be true but not for the reasons he propounded.

    Now, I understand fascism and socialism/communism to be two sides of the same collectivist, totalitarian coin but there was a time when the two ideas were at loggerheads – especially in Italy.

  12. Iampeter

    it’s not some kind of invention of Popper’s.

    And no one’s saying that it was.
    Popper doesn’t agree with that view of science and apparently neither do you given the rest of your post.

    Like:

    Climate “science” is archetypally bad science precisely because it elevates induction above the proper scientific method

    Wait, then what do you even think the “proper scientific method” is?
    How do you think ” hypothesis, prediction, controlled reproducible experiment, result, conclusion” works without induction?

    Or is it that you just responded without knowing what “induction” means or how to use the word correctly, as you always do, thinking this wouldn’t be a show stopping problem for you?

  13. Tim Neilson

    How do you think ” hypothesis, prediction, controlled reproducible experiment, result, conclusion” works without induction?

    Poor old zero comprehension skills. Re-read what I’ve written, especially bits like Popper didn’t reject induction, he just exposed its limitations. Try to find anything I wrote which said that induction has to be rejected as an intellectual tool.
    Poor old mental defective, once again unable to think except in cartoon-like binary absolutist dogmatic terms.
    Of course induction can play a part in the formation of the hypothesis. But the difference between real science and pseudo-science is that real science doesn’t accept an inductive proposition as valid in science, i.e. as being a scientific proposition, unless it has predictive power in relation to at least one prediction capable of falsification. That is, unless it can be tested by the proper scientific method, i.e. (at its ideal) hypothesis, prediction, controlled reproducible experiment, result, conclusion, in accordance with Popper’s articulation of scientific reasoning.

  14. Rex Anger

    @ IamTheScientificMethod-

    Induction as you seem to define it, is based on rationalising observed phenomena. This requires reason, subordinate as it is to a person’s biases and emotions and ‘passions,’ as at least one modern philosopher has put it.

    As such, the Scientific Method you are trying to defend becomes as flawed as the biases of the inductive rationalist and their experiments. It takes great discipline to properly follow the Scientific Method, particularly when the results of your experiments and models steadfastly refuse to do what your inductive reasoning declares they should. This is not particularly favourable nor desirable when there are political agendas to satisfy, as your fellow travellers in all fields of research tend to demonstrate with depressing regularity.

    Given all this, IamOnlySupportiveofTheScientificMethodWhenItConfirmsMyBiases, Popper is far closer to the mark than your ‘reason’will ever permit you to be.

    Now go away and sulk.

    (Don’t forget to call me stOopid and TiggUrd by Your Superior Ev3ryThink, and remind me that Evilbad Orange Man is Evilbad. And Orange. And aMan. Who is Evilbad. And Evil. And Bad…)

  15. Aynsley Kellow

    Bravo Tim Nielson!

    It should be quite clear that Popper saw a place for induction in the scientific method. It is the basis of one word in the title one one of his books, Conjectures and Refutations. The problem with climate science is that (as I have put it previously) it is all conjectures with not attempts at refutation. Frequently, models built from observations are then tested back against the same data, or similar observations. The set should be not whether they can replicate the past, but whether their predictions of the future are accurate or falsified. On this score they don’t do too well.

    There is a reason why philosophers call it The Problem of Induction.

  16. Rafe Champion

    Over 20 years ago I read the paper cited by Iampeter, it was in draft form and it has not improved since!
    Don’t waste your time!

    David Stove’s commentary on Popper is equally bad, it was also written many years ago and reprinted by an Australian publisher.

    Many people think that Popper’s theory of conjectural knowledge is defective because it does not provide “sufficient grounds for gaining from science anything as concrete as ‘knowledge’ in the usual sense of the world. What this means is that Popper’s thesis has great difficulty in explaining why science is superior to any alternative belief system like, say, astrology”

    Keith went on: “A logical positivist could argue that the real difference between astrophysics and astrology is that the findings of the former are established by a large body of evidence while the latter remains largely speculative. However, because he thinks inductive evidence is powerless to substantiate a scientific theory, Popper is in no position to make this type of distinction. If he is to avoid the charge of relativism, he has to explain why some speculations are better than others, but his theory of falsification is not designed to do this”.

    That is simply not true. It is very easy to explain in Popperian terms what makes a good theory better than a bad theory. Good scientific theories explain more phenomena than astrological theories, they predict more precisely, they articulate with other scientific theories and they stand up to tests.

    So far as large bodies of evidence are concerned, despite the great body of evidence that apparently supported Newton’s theory, Newton’s theory turned out to be false. The same evidence also supported Einstein’s theory and that turned out to be false as well, though an advance on Newton.

  17. Iampeter

    Poor old zero comprehension skills. Re-read what I’ve written, especially bits like Popper didn’t reject induction, he just exposed its limitations. Try to find anything I wrote which said that induction has to be rejected as an intellectual tool.

    Yes, you wrote lots of stuff in your post that doesn’t make any sense and demonstrates you don’t know what induction even means. It’s just the usual unaware, contradictory mess.

    It should be quite clear that Popper saw a place for induction in the scientific method.

    This is unintelligible. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what induction actually means.
    Like I said earlier, induction is the process of observing the facts of reality and integrating them into concepts.
    In other words, there is no scientific method without induction. There’s no leaving a place for it, or something. It is fundamental.
    To even say “induction is wrong” would require induction.
    To suggest induction needs to be “balanced,” or something, raises the question of WHAT you would be balancing it with, since there is no other means of knowledge without induction. Just determinism.
    So you either operate by induction OR by identity politics. That’s the choice.

    Popper absolutely rejected induction, he then went on to make numerous contradictions because nothing makes any sense without induction. These are all just symptoms of his many thinking errors, not him taking a “balanced view,” or something.

    The problem with climate science is that (as I have put it previously) it is all conjectures with not attempts at refutation.

    The contradictory premises, endless cycle of publish-or-perish, peer-review and detachment from empirical data that typifies climate science, is exactly what falsification looks like taken to it’s logical conclusion.

    There is a reason why philosophers call it The Problem of Induction.

    Call what the problem of induction?

  18. Iampeter

    Over 20 years ago I read the paper cited by Iampeter, it was in draft form and it has not improved since!
    Don’t waste your time!

    Wouldn’t you have just quoted something from the paper and demolished it then?
    Instead you linked to some other critique of Popper that no one raised.

    More importantly, how certain are you that the paper I cited is a waste of time?
    As Popper said, “precision and certainty are false ideals. They are impossible to attain and therefore dangerously misleading.”
    Stop being dangerous and misleading, Rafe!

    Also, how funny and perfectly fitting is it for the Cat to have people arguing in support of someone who claims, “we never know what we are talking about?”

  19. Tim Neilson

    Yes, you wrote lots of stuff in your post that doesn’t make any sense and demonstrates you don’t know what induction even means. It’s just the usual unaware, contradictory mess.

    Poor old intellectual failure, once again going into a trouser-soiling emotionally incontinent meltdown when he’s been proved 100% wrong yet again.

    Like I said earlier, induction is the process of observing the facts of reality and integrating them into concepts.
    Poor old logic fail. Once again confusing his own erroneous perceptions with reality. That’s not a totally wrong description of induction, but it’s a failure because it fails to contain any analysis of how that “integration” occurs. On its face it could apply to astrology or Ptolemaic astronomy. (Perhaps rightly – they are both “inductive”, with a healthy dose of retro-fitting to explain away new inconsistent data.)
    In particular it fails to distinguish between “every swan we’ve observed is white so we postulate that all swans are white” (“induction” in the accurate philosophical sense) with “well this swan is black so the proposition “all swans are white” is incorrect” (Popper style falsification, using formal “deductive” (in the accurate philosophical sense) logic).

    This leads to Iamashiteater’s further confused irrationalities.
    E.G To even say “induction is wrong” would require induction. except that no-one has said that, and that includes Popper.

    To suggest induction needs to be “balanced,” or something, raises the question of WHAT you would be balancing it with, since there is no other means of knowledge without induction.
    Wrong. There’s no absolute knowledge with induction alone, only through induction along with deductive reasoning such as Popper style falsification.

    So you either operate by induction OR by identity politics. That’s the choice.

    This is, of course, obvious bullshit. Identity politics is of course pure “induction” in accordance with Iamashiteater’s definition, untrammelled by the tempering effect of deductive reasoning and Popperian falsification.

    Popper absolutely rejected induction,
    No he didn’t.
    he then went on to make numerous contradictions
    You haven’t identified any.
    because nothing makes any sense without induction.
    Wrong – disciplines like mathematics can make sense as self-referential systems without any induction.

    The contradictory premises, endless cycle of publish-or-perish, peer-review and detachment from empirical data that typifies climate science, is exactly what falsification looks like taken to it’s logical conclusion.

    This is unquestionably the stupidest statement ever made by a purportedly sentient being. After having been schooled in the proper scientific method deploying Popper style falsification i.e. “hypothesis, prediction, controlled reproducible experiment, result, conclusion” he comes up with that. Iamashiteater has broken all his previous records.

  20. Rex Anger

    As Popper said, “precision and certainty are false ideals. They are impossible to attain and therefore dangerously misleading.”
    Stop being dangerous and misleading, Rafe

    So says the allegedly irreligious ‘rationalist’ who treats everything he encounters as an absolute binary, and who considers everything he agrees with as absolutely right, and everything he does not agree with as being absolutely wrong.

    And who considers anything related to the alleged primacy of reason as an Article of Faith.

    Nothing in this world of humans is absolute, IamAnUnreasoningRationalist. The only thing that is, you reject out of hand because even the concept of a Deity (I.E. Someone bigger than yourself) brings your whole ideological house of cards crashing down about you. So you scream like a Dalek whenever this is pointed out.

    Go away and sulk again, IamSoRationalIt’sMyReligion.

  21. Rafe Champion

    I would like to encourage people to get a better grip on Popper’s ideas but debating somewhat complex philosophical issues for an audience of five or six deep in a thread on an obscure blog is not an efficient way to do it. Try dipping into some of these booklets.

  22. Tim Neilson

    I suspect that what’s happened is a typical example of one page from the Iamashiteater playbook.

    The template is that:
    Iamashiteater struts on and announces that 2+2=5
    It’s pointed out that 2+2=4
    Iamashiteater doesn’t really understand the response but he has a dull-witted sensation that something’s not right,
    So he announces that no-one else understands what 2 really is.

    Here, he’s beclowned himself because of his total ignorance of the scientific method, which led him to sneer that Popper had turned science on its head and that This is exactly how we end up with science by consensus, peer-review and the favoring of theoretic models in place of empirical data.

    When the truth was set out, revealing his hopeless wrongology for what it was, he had his usual trouser-soiling experience, then he started spinning furiously, frantically throwing out accusations that “you don’t know what induction even means” while himself deploying a useless and totally idiolectic definition of it himself.

  23. Iampeter

    Iamashiteater struts on and announces that 2+2=5
    It’s pointed out that 2+2=4
    Iamashiteater doesn’t really understand the response but he has a dull-witted sensation that something’s not right,
    So he announces that no-one else understands what 2 really is.

    Except it’s the exact other way around.

    I would like to encourage people to get a better grip on Popper’s ideas but debating somewhat complex philosophical issues for an audience of five or six deep in a thread on an obscure blog is not an efficient way to do it. Try dipping into some of these booklets.

    Popper isn’t complex. As I showed in my last post.

  24. Rex Anger

    Except it’s the exact other way around.

    Of course it is, IamAlwaysRightAndYouAreAllStupid…

  25. dover_beach

    Excellent post, Rafe. Popper seems to me too Weberian in thinking that biological ties are either irrational or non-rational because they are accidental/non-consensual, personal, emotional, and the like, and that this is then read back into his dichotomy, open v closed societies. Open societies must be, ideally, consensual, impersonal, rational, and so on, and closed societies, the opposite. I don’t agree that the relationship between parent and child, or between neighbours, are necessarily non-rational or irrational because they are ‘accidental’ / non-consensual, personal, emotional, and so on. In fact, these relationships seem to be perfectly rational given the type of relationships that they are, given the proximity (geographically and culturally) of the agents concerned, and so on.

  26. dover_beach

    GE Moore’s Principia Ethica where he demolished the epistemology of ethics

    These reports are greatly exaggerated. It works quite well against naturalistic moral theories of the utilitarian kind but is less effective against those that follow from classical metaphysics, whether Aristotelian or Thomistic.

  27. Tim Neilson

    Except it’s the exact other way around.

    It’s the brilliant “No-U” defence!

  28. Rafe Champion

    I don’t agree that the relationship between parent and child, or between neighbours, are necessarily non-rational or irrational because they are ‘accidental’ / non-consensual, personal, emotional, and so on. n fact, these relationships seem to be perfectly rational given the type of relationships that they are, given the proximity (geographically and culturally) of the agents concerned, and so on.

    Dover, please read Popper in the original and do not depend on my heavily truncated account. He agrees with you precisely (or vice versa). The open/closed comparison has nothing to do with the rationality or irrationality of relationships, it is a device to illuminate the difference between communities where practically everything is regulated by taboos that are accepted uncritically and those where there is more scope for criticism, social change and individual choices. The two things are ideal types that will never be found in a pure form. As we see, rapid social change and the breakdown of more or less settled social orders can generate chaos in the absence of tolerance and/or a tradition of rational discussion of controversial issues.

    Actually I think I addressed your concern with this rejoinder to Furedi at the start of my piece That is a very perverse read on Popper’s reference to non-tribal “abstract” societies by which he meant the catallaxy that supplements but does not replace our close personal relationships and semi-tribal allegiances like supporting the Irishtown football team.

  29. Rafe Champion

    See also Chapter 24 on The Revolt Against Reason. BTW it is interesting that a person with your deep interest in these historical and cultural issues is not fully conversant with the The Open Society and Its Enemies. Did you study these matters at university or are you self-taught? (no disgrace in that, Popper was essentially an autodidact himself).

  30. dover_beach

    Cheers, Rafe. I do have to remedy my unfamiliarity with Popper but there is always so much to read. BTW, the former but Popper was never on the menu.

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