The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:23 am

Part 1 of 2

20: Capitalism and its Fate

According to Marxist doctrine, capitalism is labouring under inner contradictions that threaten to bring about its downfall. A minute analysis of these contradictions and of the historical movement which they force upon society constitutes the first step of Marx's prophetic argument. This step is not only the most important of his whole theory, it is also the one on which he spent most of his labour, since practically the whole of the three volumes of Capital (over 2,200 pages in the original edition [1]) is devoted to its elaboration. It is also the least abstract step of the argument since it is based upon a descriptive analysis, supported by statistics, of the economic system of his time — that of unrestrained capitalism [2]. As Lenin puts it: 'Marx deduces the inevitability of the transformation of capitalist society into socialism wholly and exclusively from the economic law of the movement of contemporary society.'

Before proceeding to explain in some detail the first step of Marx's prophetic argument, I shall try to describe its main ideas in the form of a very brief outline.

Marx believes that capitalist competition forces the capitalist's hand. It forces the capitalist to accumulate capital. By doing so, he works against his own long-term economic interests (since the accumulation of capital is liable to bring about a fall of his profits). But although working against his own personal interest, he works in the interest of the historical development; he works, unwittingly, for economic progress, and for socialism. This is due to the fact that accumulation of capital means (a) increased productivity; increase of wealth; and concentration of wealth in a few hands; (b) increase of pauperism and misery; the workers are kept on subsistence or starvation wages, mainly by the fact that the surplus of workers, called the 'industrial reserve army', keeps the wages on the lowest possible level. The trade cycle prevents, for any length of time, the absorption of the surplus of workers by the growing industry. This cannot be altered by the capitalists, even if they wish to do so; for the falling rate of their profits makes their own economic position much too precarious for any effective action. In this way, capitalist accumulation turns out to be a suicidal and self-contradictory process, even though it fosters the technical, economic, and historical progress towards socialism.


The premises of the first step are the laws of capitalist competition, and of the accumulation of the means of production. The conclusion is the law of increasing wealth and misery. I begin my discussion with an explanation of these premises and conclusions.

Under capitalism, competition between the capitalists plays an important role. 'The battle of competition', as analysed by Marx in Capital [3], is carried out by selling the commodities produced, if possible at a lower price than the competitor could afford to accept. 'But the cheapness of a commodity', Marx explains, 'depends in its turn, other things being equal, upon the productivity of labour; and this, again, depends on the scale of production.' For production on a very large scale is in general capable of employing more specialized machinery, and a greater quantity of it; this increases the productivity of the workers, and permits the capitalist to produce, and to sell, at a lower price. 'Large capitalists, therefore, get the better of small ones . . . Competition always ends with the downfall of many lesser capitalists and with the transition of their capital into the hands of the conqueror.' (This movement is, as Marx points out, much accelerated by the credit system.)

According to Marx's analysis, the process described, accumulation due to competition, has two different aspects. One of them is that the capitalist is forced to accumulate or concentrate more and more capital, in order to survive; this means in practice investing more and more capital in more and more as well as newer and newer machinery, thus continually increasing the productivity of his workers. The other aspect of the accumulation of capital is the concentration of more and more wealth in the hands of the various capitalists, and of the capitalist class; and along with it goes the reduction in the number of capitalists, a movement called by Marx the centralization [4] of capital (in contradistinction to mere accumulation or concentration).

Now three of these terms, competition, accumulation, and increasing productivity, indicate the fundamental tendencies of all capitalist production, according to Marx; they are the tendencies to which I alluded when I described the premise of the first step as 'the laws of capitalist competition and of accumulation'. The fourth and the fifth terms, however, concentration and centralization, indicate a tendency which forms one part of the conclusion of the first step; for they describe a tendency towards a continuous increase of wealth, and its centralization in fewer and fewer hands. The other part of the conclusion, however, the law of increasing misery, is only reached by a much more complicated argument. But before beginning an explanation of this argument, I must first explain this second conclusion itself.

The term 'increasing misery' may mean, as used by Marx, two different things. It may be used in order to describe the extent of misery, indicating that it is spread over an increasing number of people; or it may be used in order to indicate an increase in the intensity of the suffering of the people. Marx undoubtedly believed that misery was growing both in extent and in intensity. This, however, is more than he needed in order to carry his point. For the purpose of the prophetic argument, a wider interpretation of the term 'increasing misery' would do just as well (if not better [5]); an interpretation, namely, according to which the extent of misery increases, while its intensity may or may not increase, but at any rate does not show any marked decrease.

But there is a further and much more important comment to be made. Increasing misery, to Marx, involves fundamentally an increasing exploitation of the employed workers; not only in numbers but also in intensity. It must be admitted that in addition it involves an increase in the suffering as well as in the numbers of the unemployed, called [6] by Marx the (relative) 'surplus population' or the 'industrial reserve army'. But the function of the unemployed, in this process, is to exert pressure upon the employed workers, thus assisting the capitalists in their efforts to make profit out of the employed workers, to exploit them. 'The industrial reserve army', Marx writes [7], 'belongs to capitalism just as if its members had been reared by the capitalists at their own cost. For its own varying needs, capital creates an ever-ready supply of exploitable human material . . . During periods of depression and of semi-prosperity, the industrial reserve army keeps up its pressure upon the ranks of the employed workers; and during periods of excessive production and boom, it serves to bridle their aspirations.' Increasing misery, according to Marx, is essentially the increasing exploitation of labour power; and since labour power of the unemployed is not exploited, they can serve in this process only as unpaid assistants of the capitalists in the exploitation of the employed workers. The point is important since later Marxists have often referred to unemployment as one of the empirical facts that verify the prophecy that misery tends to increase; but unemployment can be claimed to corroborate Marx's theory only if it occurs together with increased exploitation of the employed workers, i.e. with long hours of work and with low real wages.

This may suffice to explain the term 'increasing misery'. But it is still necessary to explain the law of increasing misery which Marx claimed to have discovered. By this I mean the doctrine of Marx on which the whole prophetic argument hinges; namely, the doctrine that capitalism cannot possibly afford to decrease the misery of the workers, since the mechanism of capitalist accumulation keeps the capitalist under a strong economic pressure which he is forced to pass on to the workers if he is not to succumb. This is why the capitalists cannot compromise, why they cannot meet any important demand of the workers, even if they wished to do so; this is why 'capitalism cannot be reformed but can only be destroyed' [8]. It is clear that this law is the decisive conclusion of the first step. The other conclusion, the law of increasing wealth, would be a harmless matter, if only it were possible for the increase of wealth to be shared by the workers. Marx's contention that this is impossible will therefore be the main subject of our critical analysis. But before proceeding to a presentation and criticism of Marx's arguments in favour of this contention, I may briefly comment on the first part of the conclusion, the theory of increasing wealth.

The tendency towards the accumulation and concentration of wealth, which Marx observed, can hardly be questioned. His theory of increasing productivity is also, in the main, unexceptionable. Although there may be limits to the beneficial effects exerted by the growth of an enterprise upon its productivity, there are hardly any limits to the beneficial effects of the improvement and accumulation of machinery. But in regard to the tendency towards the centralization of capital in fewer and fewer hands, matters are not quite so simple. Undoubtedly, there is a tendency in that direction, and we may grant that under an unrestrained capitalist system there are few counteracting forces. Not much can be said against this part of Marx's analysis as a description of an unrestrained capitalism. But considered as a prophecy, it is less tenable. For we know that now there are many means by which legislation can intervene. Taxation and death duties can be used most effectively to counteract centralization, and they have been so used. And anti-trust legislation can also be used, although perhaps with less effect. To evaluate the force of Marx's prophetic argument we must consider the possibility of great improvements in this direction; and as in previous chapters, I must declare that the argument on which Marx bases this prophecy of centralization or of a decrease in the number of capitalists is inconclusive.

Having explained the main premises and conclusions of the first step, and having disposed of the first conclusion, we can now concentrate our attention entirely upon Marx's derivation of the other conclusion, the prophetic law of increasing misery. Three different trends of thought may be distinguished in his attempts to establish this prophecy. They will be dealt with in the next four sections of this chapter under the headings: II: the theory of value; III: the effect of the surplus population upon wages; IV: the trade cycle; V: the effects of the falling rate of profit.


Marx's theory of value, usually considered by Marxists as well as by anti- Marxists as a corner-stone of the Marxist creed, is in my opinion one of its rather unimportant parts; indeed, the sole reason why I am going to treat of it, instead of proceeding at once to the next section, is that it is generally held to be important, and that I cannot defend my reasons for differing from this opinion without discussing the theory. But I wish to make it clear at once that in holding that the theory of value is a redundant part of Marxism, I am defending Marx rather than attacking him. For there is little doubt that the many critics who have shown that the theory of value is very weak in itself are in the main perfectly right. But even if they were wrong, it would only strengthen the position of Marxism if it could be established that its decisive historico-political doctrines can be developed entirely independently of such a controversial theory.

The idea of the so-called labour theory of value [9], adapted by Marx for his purposes from suggestions he found in his predecessors (he refers especially to Adam Smith and David Ricardo), is simple enough. If you need a carpenter, you must pay him by the hour. If you ask him why a certain job is more expensive than another one, he will point out that there is more work in it. In addition to the labour, you must pay of course for the timber. But if you go into this a little more closely, then you find that you are, indirectly, paying for the labour involved in foresting, felling, transporting, sawing, etc. This consideration suggests the general theory that you have to pay for the job, or for any commodity you may buy, roughly in proportion to the amount of work in it, i.e. to the number of labour hours necessary for its production.

I say 'roughly' because the actual prices fluctuate. But there is, or so at least it appears, always something more stable behind these prices, a kind of average price about which the actual prices oscillate [10], christened the 'exchange-value' or, briefly, the 'value' of the thing. Using this general idea, Marx defined the value of a commodity as the average number of labour hours necessary for its production (or for its reproduction).

The next idea, that of the theory of surplus value, is nearly as simple. It too was adapted by Marx from his predecessors. (Engels asserts [11] — perhaps mistakenly, but I shall follow his presentation of the matter — that Marx's main source was Ricardo.) The theory of surplus value is an attempt, within the limits of the labour theory of value, to answer the question: 'How does the capitalist make his profit?' If we assume that the commodities produced in his factory are sold on the market at their true value, i.e. according to the number of labour hours necessary for their production, then the only way in which the capitalist can make a profit is by paying his workers less than the full value of their product. Thus the wages received by the worker represent a value which is not equal to the number of hours he has worked. And we can accordingly divide his working day into two parts, the hours he has spent in producing value equivalent to his wages and the hours he has spent in producing value for the capitalist [12]. And correspondingly, we can divide the whole value produced by the worker into two parts, the value equal to his wages, and the rest, which is called surplus value. This surplus value is appropriated by the capitalist and is the sole basis for his profit.

So far, the story is simple enough. But now there arises a theoretical difficulty. The whole value theory has been introduced in order to explain the actual prices at which all commodities are exchanged; and it is still assumed that the capitalist is able to obtain on the market the full value of his product, i.e. a price that corresponds to the total number of hours spent on it. But it looks as if the worker does not get the full price of the commodity which he sells to the capitalist on the labour market. It looks as if he is cheated, or robbed; at any rate, as if he is not paid according to the general law assumed by the value theory, namely, that all actual prices paid are, at least in a first approximation, determined by the value of the commodity. (Engels says that the problem was realized by the economists who belonged to what Marx called 'the school of Ricardo'; and he asserts [13] that their inability to solve it led to the breakdown of this school.) There appeared what seemed a rather obvious solution of the difficulty. The capitalist possesses a monopoly of the means of production, and this superior economic power can be used for bullying the worker into an agreement which violates the law of value. But this solution (which I consider quite a plausible description of the situation) utterly destroys the labour theory of value. For it now turns out that certain prices, namely, wages, do not correspond to their values, not even in a first approximation. And this opens up the possibility that this may be true of other prices for similar reasons.

Such was the situation when Marx entered the scene in order to save the labour theory of value from destruction. With the help of another simple but brilliant idea he succeeded in showing that the theory of surplus value was not only compatible with the labour theory of value but that it could also be rigidly deduced from the latter. In order to achieve this deduction, we have only to ask ourselves: what is, precisely, the commodity which the worker sells to the capitalist? Marx's reply is: not his labour hours, but his whole labour power. What the capitalist buys or hires on the labour market is the labour power of the worker. Let us assume, tentatively, that this commodity is sold at its true value. What is its value? According to the definition of value, the value of labour power is the average number of labour hours necessary for its production or reproduction. But this is, clearly, nothing but the number of hours necessary for producing the worker's (and his family's) means of subsistence.

Marx thus arrived at the following result. The true value of the worker's whole labour power is equal to the labour hours needed for producing the means of his subsistence. Labour power is sold for this price to the capitalist. If the worker is able to work longer than that, then his surplus labour belongs to the buyer or hirer of his power. The greater the productivity of labour, that is to say, the more a worker can produce per hour, the fewer hours will be needed for the production of his subsistence, and the more hours remain for his exploitation. This shows that the basis of capitalist exploitation is a high productivity of labour. If the worker could produce in a day no more than his own daily needs, then exploitation would be impossible without violating the law of value; it would be possible only by means of cheating, robbery, or murder. But once the productivity of labour has, by the introduction of machinery, risen so high that one man can produce much more than he needs, capitalist exploitation becomes possible. It is possible even in a capitalist society which is 'ideal' in the sense that every commodity, including labour power, is bought and sold at its true value. In such a society, the injustice of exploitation does not lie in the fact that the worker is not paid a 'just price' for his labour power, but rather in the fact that he is so poor that he is forced to sell his labour power, while the capitalist is rich enough to buy labour power in great quantities, and to make profit out of it.

By this derivation [14] of the theory of surplus value, Marx saved the labour theory of value from destruction for the time being; and in spite of the fact that I regard the whole 'value problem' (in the sense of an 'objective' true value round which the prices oscillate) as irrelevant, I am very ready to admit that this was a theoretical success of the first order. But Marx had done more than save a theory originally advanced by 'bourgeois economists'. With one stroke, he gave a theory of exploitation and a theory explaining why the workers' wages tend to oscillate about the subsistence (or starvation) level. But the greatest success was that he could now give an explanation, one in keeping with his economic theory of the legal system, of the fact that the capitalist mode of production tended to adopt the legal cloak of liberalism. For the new theory led him to the conclusion that once the introduction of new machinery had multiplied the productivity of labour, there arose the possibility of a new form of exploitation which used a free market instead of brutal force, and which was based on the 'formal' observance of justice, equality before the law, and freedom. The capitalist system, he asserted, was not only a system of 'free competition', but it was also 'maintained by the exploitation of the labour of others, but of labour which, in a formal sense, is free' [15].

It is impossible for me to enter here into a detailed account of the really astonishing number of further applications made by Marx of his value theory. But it is also unnecessary, since my criticism of the theory will show the way in which the value theory can be eliminated from all these investigations. I am now going to develop this criticism; its three main points are (a) that Marx's value theory does not suffice to explain exploitation, (b) that the additional assumptions which are necessary for such an explanation turn out to be sufficient, so that the theory of value turns out to be redundant, (c) that Marx's theory of value is an essentialist or metaphysical one.

(a) The fundamental law of the theory of value is the law that the prices of practically all commodities, including wages, are determined by their values, or more precisely, that they are at least in a first approximation proportional to the labour hours necessary for their production. Now this 'law of value', as I may call it, at once raises a problem. Why does it hold? Obviously, neither the buyer nor the seller of the commodity can see, at a glance, how many hours are necessary for its production; and even if they could, it would not explain the law of value. For it is clear that the buyer simply buys as cheaply as he can, and that the seller charges as much as he can get. This, it appears, must be one of the fundamental assumptions of any theory of market prices. In order to explain the law of value, it would be our task to show why the buyer is unlikely to succeed in buying below, and the seller in selling above, the 'value' of a commodity. This problem was seen more or less clearly by those who believed in the labour theory of value, and their reply was this. For the purpose of simplification, and in order to obtain a first approximation, let us assume perfectly free competition, and for the same reason let us consider only such commodities as can be manufactured in practically unlimited quantities (if only the labour were available). Now let us assume that the price of such a commodity is above its value; this would mean that excessive profits can be made in this particular branch of production. It would encourage various manufacturers to produce this commodity, and competition would lower the price. The opposite process would lead to an increase in the price of a commodity which is sold below its value. Thus there will be oscillations of price, and these will tend to centre about the values of commodities. In other words, it is a mechanism of supply and demand which, under free competition, tends to give force [16] to the law of value.

Such considerations as these can be found frequently in Marx, for instance, in the third volume of Capital [17], where he tries to explain why there is a tendency for all profits in the various branches of manufacture to approximate, and adjust themselves, to a certain average profit. And they are also used in the first volume, especially in order to show why wages are kept low, near subsistence level, or, what amounts to the same, just above starvation level. It is clear that with wages below this level, the workers would actually starve, and the supply of labour power on the labour market would disappear. But as long as men live, they will reproduce; and Marx attempts to show in detail (as we shall see in section IV), why the mechanism of capitalist accumulation must create a surplus population, an industrial reserve army. Thus as long as wages are just above starvation level there will always be not only a sufficient but even an excessive supply of labour power on the labour market; and it is this excessive supply which, according to Marx, prevents the rise of wages [18]: 'The industrial reserve army keeps up its pressure upon the ranks of the employed workers; ... thus surplus population is the background in front of which there operates the law of supply and demand of labour. Surplus population restricts the range within which this law is permitted to operate to such limits as best suit the capitalist greed for exploitation and domination.'

(b) Now this passage shows that Marx himself realized the necessity of backing up the law of value by a more concrete theory; a theory which shows, in any particular case, how the laws of supply and demand bring about the effect which has to be explained; for instance, starvation wages. But if these laws are sufficient to explain these effects, then we do not need the labour theory of value at all, whether or not it may be tenable as a first approximation (which I do not think it is). Furthermore, as Marx realized, the laws of supply and demand are necessary for explaining all those cases in which there is no free competition, and in which his law of value is therefore clearly out of operation; for instance, where a monopoly can be used to keep prices constantly above their 'values'. Marx considered such cases as exceptions, which is hardly the right view; but however this may be, the case of monopolies shows not only that the laws of supply and demand are necessary to supplement his law of value, but also that they are more generally applicable.

On the other hand, it is clear that the laws of supply and demand are not only necessary but also sufficient to explain all the phenomena of 'exploitation' which Marx observed — the phenomena, more precisely, of the misery of the workers side by side with the wealth of the entrepreneurs — if we assume, as Marx did, a free labour market as well as a chronically excessive supply of labour. (Marx's theory of this excessive supply will be discussed more fully in section IV below.) As Marx shows, it is clear enough that the workers will be forced, under such circumstances, to work long hours at low wages, in other words, to permit the capitalist to 'appropriate the best part of the fruits of their labour'. And in this trivial argument, which is part of Marx's own, there is no need even to mention 'value'.

Thus the value theory turns out to be a completely redundant part of Marx's theory of exploitation; and this holds independently of the question whether or not the value theory is true. But the part of Marx's theory of exploitation which remains after the value theory is eliminated is undoubtedly correct, provided we accept the doctrine of surplus population. It is unquestionably true that (in the absence of a redistribution of wealth through the state) the existence of a surplus population must lead to starvation wages, and to provocative differences in the standard of living.

(What is not so clear, and not explained by Marx either, is why the supply of labour should continue to exceed the demand. For if it is so profitable to 'exploit' labour, how is it, then, that the capitalists are not forced, by competition, to try to raise their profits by employing more labour? In other words, why do they not compete against each other on the labour market, thereby raising the wages to the point where they begin to become no longer sufficiently profitable, so that it is no longer possible to speak of exploitation? Marx would have answered — see section V, below — 'Because competition forces them to invest more and more capital in machinery, so that they cannot increase that part of their capital which they use for wages'. But this answer is unsatisfactory since even if they spend their capital on machinery, they can do so only by buying labour to build machinery, or by causing others to buy such labour, thus increasing the demand for labour. It appears, for such reasons, that the phenomena of 'exploitation' which Marx observed were due, not, as he believed, to the mechanism of a perfectly competitive market, but to other factors — especially to a mixture of low productivity and imperfectly competitive markets. But a detailed and satisfactory explanation [19] of the phenomena appears still to be missing.)

(c) Before leaving this discussion of the value theory and the part played by it in Marx's analysis, I wish to comment briefly upon another of its aspects. The whole idea — which was not Marx's invention — that there is something behind the prices, an objective or real or true value of which prices are only a 'form of appearance' [20], shows clearly enough the influence of Platonic Idealism with its distinction between a hidden essential or true reality, and an accidental or delusive appearance. Marx, it must be said, made a great effort [21] to destroy this mystical character of objective 'value', but he did not succeed. He tried to be realistic, to accept only something observable and important — labour hours — as the reality which appears in the form of price; and it cannot be questioned that the number of labour hours necessary for producing a commodity, i.e. its Marxian 'value', is an important thing. And in a way, it surely is a purely verbal problem whether or not we should call these labour hours the 'value' of the commodity. But such a terminology may become most misleading and strangely unrealistic, especially if we assume with Marx that the productivity of labour increases. For it has been pointed out by Marx himself [22] that, with increasing productivity, the value of all commodities decreases, and that an increase is therefore possible in real wages as well as real profits, i.e. in the commodities consumed by workers and by capitalists respectively, together with a decrease in the 'value' of wages and of profits, i.e. in the hours spent on them. Thus wherever we find real progress, such as shorter working hours and a greatly improved standard of living of the workers (quite apart from a higher income in money [23], even if calculated in gold), then the workers could at the same time bitterly complain that the Marxian 'value', the real essence or substance of their income, is dwindling away, since the labour hours necessary for its production have been reduced. (An analogous complaint might be made by the capitalists.) All this is admitted by Marx himself; and it shows how misleading the value terminology must be, and how little it represents the real social experience of the workers. In the labour theory of value, the Platonic 'essence' has become entirely divorced from experience [24] ...
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:24 am

Part 2 of 2


After eliminating Marx's labour theory of value and his theory of surplus value, we can, of course, still retain his analysis (see the end of (a) in section II) of the pressure exerted by the surplus population upon the wages of the employed workers. It cannot be denied that, if there is a free labour market and a surplus population, i.e. widespread and chronic unemployment (and there can be no doubt that unemployment played its role in Marx's time and ever since), then wages cannot rise above starvation wages; and under the same assumption, together with the doctrine of accumulation developed above, Marx, although not justified in proclaiming a law of increasing misery, was right in asserting that, in a world of high profits and increasing wealth, starvation wages and a life of misery might be the permanent lot of the workers.

I think that, even if Marx's analysis was defective, his effort to explain the phenomenon of 'exploitation' deserves the greatest respect. (As mentioned at the end of (b) in the foregoing section, no really satisfactory theory seems to exist even now.) It must be said, of course, that Marx was wrong when he prophesied that the conditions which he observed were to be permanent if not changed by a revolution, and even more when he prophesied that they would get worse. The facts have refuted these prophecies. Moreover, even if we could admit the validity of his analysis for an unrestrained, a noninterventionist system, even then would his prophetic argument be inconclusive. For the tendency towards increasing misery operates, according to Marx's own analysis, only under a system in which the labour market is free — in a perfectly unrestrained capitalism. But once we admit the possibility of trade unions, of collective bargaining, of strikes, then the assumptions of the analysis are no longer applicable, and the whole prophetic argument breaks down. According to Marx's own analysis, we should have to expect that such a development would either be suppressed, or that it would be equivalent to a social revolution. For collective bargaining can oppose capital by establishing a kind of monopoly of labour; it can prevent the capitalist from using the industrial reserve army for the purpose of keeping wages down; and in this way it can force the capitalists to content themselves with lower profits. We see here why the cry 'Workers, unite! ' was, from a Marxian point of view, indeed the only possible reply to an unrestrained capitalism.

But we see, too, why this cry must open up the whole problem of state interference, and why it is likely to lead to the end of the unrestrained system, and to a new system, interventionism [25], which may develop in very different directions. For it is almost inevitable that the capitalists will contest the workers' right to unite, maintaining that unions must endanger the freedom of competition on the labour market. Non- interventionism thus faces the problem (it is part of the paradox of freedom [26]): Which freedom should the state protect? The freedom of the labour market, or the freedom of the poor to unite? Whichever decision is taken, it leads to state intervention, to the use of organized political power, of the state as well as of unions, in the field of economic conditions. It leads, under all circumstances, to an extension of the economic responsibility of the state, whether or not this responsibility is consciously accepted. And this means that the assumptions on which Marx's analysis is based must disappear.

The derivation of the historical law of increasing misery is thus invalid. All that remains is a moving description of the misery of the workers which prevailed a hundred years ago, and a valiant attempt to explain it with the help of what we may call, with Lenin [27], Marx's 'economic law of the movement of contemporary society' (that is, of the unrestrained capitalism of a hundred years ago). But in so far as it is meant as an historical prophecy, and in so far as it is used to deduce the 'inevitability' of certain historical developments, the derivation is invalid.


The significance of Marx's analysis rests very largely upon the fact that a surplus population actually existed at his time, and down to our own day (a fact which has hardly received a really satisfactory explanation yet, as I said before). So far, however, we have not yet discussed Marx's argument in support of his contention that it is the mechanism of capitalist production itself that always produces the surplus population which it needs for keeping down the wages of the employed workers. But this theory is not only ingenious and interesting in itself; it contains at the same time Marx's theory of the trade cycle and of general depressions, a theory which clearly bears upon the prophecy of the crash of the capitalist system because of the intolerable misery which it must produce. In order to make as strong a case for Marx's theory as I can, I have altered it slightly [28] (namely, by introducing a distinction between two kinds of machinery, the one for the mere extension, and the other for the intensification, of production). But this alteration need not arouse the suspicion of Marxist readers; for I am not going to criticize the theory at all.

The amended theory of surplus population and of the trade cycle may be outlined as follows. The accumulation of capital means that the capitalist spends part of his profits on new machinery; this may also be expressed by saying that only a part of his real profits consists in goods for consumption, while part of it consists in machines. These machines, in turn, may be intended either for the expansion of industry, for new factories, etc., or they may be intended for intensifying production by increasing the productivity of labour in the existing industries. The former kind of machinery makes possible an increase of employment, the latter kind has the effect of making workers superfluous, of 'setting the workers at liberty' as this process was called in Marx's day. (Nowadays it is sometimes called 'technological unemployment'.) Now the mechanism of capitalist production, as envisaged by the amended Marxist theory of the trade cycle, works roughly like this. If we assume, to start with, that for some reason or other there is a general expansion of industry, then a part of the industrial reserve army will be absorbed, the pressure upon the labour market will be relieved, and wages will show a tendency to rise. A period of prosperity begins. But the moment wages rise, certain mechanical improvements which intensify production and which were previously unprofitable because of the low wages may become profitable (even though the cost of such machinery will begin to rise). Thus more machinery will be produced of the kind that 'sets the workers at liberty'. As long as these machines are only in the process of being produced, prosperity continues, or increases. But once the new machines are themselves beginning to produce, the picture changes. (This change is, according to Marx, accentuated by a fall in the rate of profit, to be discussed under (V), below.) Workers will be 'set at liberty', i.e. condemned to starvation. But the disappearance of many consumers must lead to a collapse of the home market. In consequence, great numbers of machines in the expanded factories become idle (the less efficient machinery first), and this leads to a further increase of unemployment and a further collapse of the market. The fact that much machinery now lies idle means that much capital has become worthless, that many capitalists cannot fulfil their obligations; thus a financial crisis develops, leading to complete stagnation in the production of capital goods, etc. But while the depression (or, as Marx calls it, the 'crisis') takes its course, the conditions are ripening for a recovery. These conditions mainly consist in the growth of the industrial reserve army and the consequent readiness of the workers to accept starvation wages. At very low wages, production becomes profitable even at the low prices of a depressed market; and once production starts, the capitalist begins again to accumulate, to buy machinery. Since wages are very low, he will find that it is not yet profitable to use new machinery (perhaps invented in the meanwhile) of the type which sets the workers at liberty. At first he will rather buy machinery with the plan of extending production. This leads slowly to an extension of employment and to a recovery of the home market. Prosperity is coming once again. Thus we are back at our starting point. The cycle is closed, and the process can start once more.

This is the amended Marxist theory of unemployment and of the trade cycle. As I have promised, I am not going to criticize it. The theory of trade cycles is a very difficult affair, and we certainly do not yet know enough about it (at least I don't). It is very likely that the theory outlined is incomplete, and, especially, that such aspects as the existence of a monetary system based partly upon credit creation, and the effects of hoarding, are not sufficiently taken into account. But however this may be, the trade cycle is a fact which cannot easily be argued away, and it is one of the greatest of Marx's merits to have emphasized its significance as a social problem. But although all this must be admitted, we may criticize the prophecy which Marx attempts to base upon his theory of the trade cycle. First of all, he asserts that depressions will become increasingly worse, not only in their scope but also in the intensity of the workers' suffering. But he gives no argument to support this (apart, perhaps, from the theory of the fall in the rate of profit, which will be discussed presently). And if we look at actual developments, then we must say that terrible as are the effects and especially the psychological effects of unemployment even in those countries where the workers are now insured against it, there is no doubt that the workers' sufferings were incomparably worse in Marx's day. But this is not my main point.

In Marx's day, nobody ever thought of that technique of state intervention which is now called 'counter cycle policy'; and, indeed, such a thought must be utterly foreign to an unrestrained capitalist system. (But even before Marx's time, we find the beginning of doubts about, and even of investigations into, the wisdom of the credit policy of the Bank of England during a depression [29].) Unemployment insurance, however, means intervention, and therefore an increase in the responsibility of the state, and it is likely to lead to experiments in counter cycle policy. I do not maintain that these experiments must necessarily be successful (although I do believe that the problem may in the end prove not so very difficult, and that Sweden [30], in particular, has already shown what can be done in this field). But I wish to assert most emphatically that the belief that it is impossible to abolish unemployment by piecemeal measures is on the same plane of dogmatism as the numerous physical proofs (proffered by men who lived even later than Marx) that the problems of aviation would always remain insoluble. When the Marxists say, as they sometimes do, that Marx has proved the uselessness of a counter cycle policy and of similar piecemeal measures, then they simply do not speak the truth; Marx investigated an unrestrained capitalism, and he never dreamt of interventionism. He therefore never investigated the possibility of a systematic interference with the trade cycle, much less did he offer a proof of its impossibility. It is strange to find that the same people who complain of the irresponsibility of the capitalists in the face of human suffering are irresponsible enough to oppose, with dogmatic assertions of this kind, experiments from which we may learn how to relieve human suffering (how to become masters of our social environment, as Marx would have said), and how to control some of the unwanted social repercussions of our actions. But the apologists of Marxism are quite unaware of the fact that in the name of their own vested interests they are fighting against progress; they do not see that it is the danger of any movement like Marxism that it soon comes to represent all kinds of vested interests, and that there are intellectual investments, as well as material ones.

Another point must be stated here. Marx, as we have seen, believed that unemployment was fundamentally a gadget of the capitalist mechanism with the function of keeping wages low, and of making the exploitation of the employed workers easier; increasing misery always involved for him increasing misery of the employed workers too; and this is just the whole point of the plot. But even if we assume that this view was justified in his day, as a prophecy it has been definitely refuted by later experience. The standard of living of employed workers has risen everywhere since Marx's day; and (as Parkes [31] has emphasized in his criticism of Marx) the real wages of employed workers tend even to increase during a depression (they did so, for example, during the last great depression), owing to a more rapid fall in prices than in wages. This is a glaring refutation of Marx, especially since it proves that the main burden of unemployment insurance was borne not by the workers, but by the entrepreneurs, who therefore lost directly through unemployment, instead of profiting indirectly, as in Marx's scheme.


None of the Marxist theories so far discussed do even seriously attempt to prove the point which is the most decisive one within the first step; namely, that accumulation keeps the capitalist under a strong economic pressure which he is forced, on pain of his own destruction, to pass on to the workers; so that capitalism can only be destroyed, but not reformed. An attempt to prove this point is contained in that theory of Marx's which aims at establishing the law that the rate of profit tends to fall.

What Marx calls the rate of profit corresponds to the rate of interest; it is the percentage of the yearly average of capitalist profit over the whole invested capital. This rate, Marx says, tends to fall owing to the rapid growth of capital investments; for these must accumulate more quickly than profits can rise.

The argument by which Marx attempts to prove this is again rather ingenious. Capitalist competition, as we have seen, forces the capitalists to make investments that increase the productivity of labour. Marx even admitted that by this increase in productivity they render a great service to mankind [32]: 'It is one of the civilizing aspects of capitalism that it exacts surplus value in a manner and under circumstances which are more favourable than previous forms (such as slavery, serfdom, etc.) to the development of the productive powers, as well as to the social conditions for a reconstruction of society on a higher plane. For this, it even creates the elements; ... for the quantity of useful commodities produced in any given span of time depends upon the productivity of labour.' But this service to mankind is not only rendered without any intention by the capitalists; the action to which they are forced by competition also runs counter to their own interests, for the following reason.

The capital of any industrialist can be divided into two parts. One is invested in land, machinery, raw materials, etc. The other is used for wages. Marx calls the first part 'constant capital' and the second 'variable capital'; but since I consider this terminology rather misleading, I shall call the two parts 'immobilized capital' and 'wage capital'. The capitalist, according to Marx, can profit only by exploiting the workers; in other words, by using his wage capital. Immobilized capital is a kind of a dead weight which he is forced by competition to carry on with, and even to increase continually. This increase is not, however, accompanied by a corresponding increase in his profits; only an extension of the wage capital could have this wholesome effect. But the general tendency towards an increase in productivity means that the material part of capital increases relatively to its wage part. Therefore, the total capital increases also, and without a compensating increase in profits; that is to say, the rate of profit must fall.

Now this argument has been often questioned; indeed, it was attacked, by implication, long before Marx [33]. In spite of these attacks, I believe that there may be something in Marx's argument; especially if we take it together with his theory of the trade cycle. (I shall return to this point briefly in the next chapter.) But what I wish to question here is the bearing of this argument upon the theory of increasing misery.

Marx sees this connection as follows. If the rate of profit tends to fall, then the capitalist is faced with destruction. All he can do is to attempt to 'take it out of the workers', i.e. to increase exploitation. This he can do by extending working hours; speeding up work; lowering wages; raising the workers' cost of living (inflation); exploiting more women and children. The inner contradictions of capitalism, based on the fact that competition and profit-making are in conflict, develop here into a climax. First, they force the capitalist to accumulate and to increase productivity, and so reduce the rate of profit. Next, they force him to increase exploitation to an intolerable degree, and with it the tension between the classes. Thus compromise is impossible. The contradictions cannot be removed. They must finally seal the fate of capitalism.

This is the main argument. But can it be conclusive? We must remember that increased productivity is the very basis of capitalist exploitation; only if the worker can produce much more than he needs for himself and his family can the capitalist appropriate surplus labour. Increased productivity, in Marx's terminology, means increased surplus labour; it means both an increased number of hours available to the capitalist, and on top of this, an increased number of commodities produced per hour. It means, in other words, a greatly increased profit. This is admitted by Marx [34]. He does not hold that profits are dwindling; he only holds that the total capital increases much more quickly than the profits, so that the rate of profit falls.

But if this is so, there is no reason why the capitalist should labour under an economic pressure which he is forced to pass on to the workers, whether he likes it or not. It is true, probably, that he does not like to see a fall in his rate of profit. But as long as his income does not fall, but, on the contrary, rises, there is no real danger. The situation for a successful average capitalist will be this: he sees his income rise quickly, and his capital still more quickly; that is to say, his savings rise more quickly than the part of his income which he consumes. I do not think that this is a situation which must force him to desperate measures, or which makes a compromise with the workers impossible. On the contrary, it seems to me quite tolerable.

It is true, of course, that the situation contains an element of danger. Those capitalists who speculate on the assumption of a constant or of a rising rate of profit may get into trouble; and things such as these may indeed contribute to the trade cycle, accentuating the depression. But this has little to do with the sweeping consequences which Marx prophesied.

This concludes my analysis of the third and last argument, propounded by Marx in order to prove the law of increasing misery.


In order to show how completely wrong Marx was in his prophecies, and at the same time how justified he was in his glowing protest against the hell of an unrestrained capitalism as well as in his demand, 'Workers, unite!', I shall quote a few passages from the chapter of Capital in which he discusses the 'General Law of Capitalist Accumulation' [35]. 'In factories . . . young male workers are used up in masses before they reach the age of manhood; after that, only a very small proportion remains useful for industry, so that they are constantly dismissed in large numbers. They then form part of the floating surplus population which grows with the growth of industry . . . Labour power is so quickly used up by capital that the middle-aged worker is usually a worn-out man . . . Dr. Lee, medical officer of health, declared not long ago "that the average age at death of the Manchester upper middle class was 38, while the average age at death of the labouring class was 17; while at Liverpool those figures were represented as 35 against 15 ..." ... The exploitation of working-class children puts a premium upon their production . . . The higher the productivity of labour ... the more precarious become the worker's conditions of existence . . . Within the capitalist system, all the methods for raising the social productivity of labour . . . are transformed into means of domination and of exploitation; they mutilate the worker into a fragment of a human being, they degrade him to a mere cog in the machine, they make work a torture, ... and drag his wife and children beneath the wheels of the capitalist Juggernaut ...It follows that to the degree in which capital accumulates, the worker's condition must deteriorate, whatever his payment may be ... the greater the social wealth, the amount of capital at work, the extent and energy of its growth, ... the larger is the surplus population ... The size of the industrial reserve army grows as the power of wealth grows. But ... the larger the industrial reserve army, the larger are the masses of the workers whose misery is relieved only by an increase in the agony of toil; and ... the larger is the number of those who are officially recognized as paupers. This is the absolute and general law of capitalist accumulation ... The accumulation of wealth at the one pole of society involves at the same time an accumulation of misery, of the agony of toil, of slavery, ignorance, brutalization, and of moral degradation, at the opposite pole ...'

Marx's terrible picture of the economy of his time is only too true. But his law that misery must increase together with accumulation does not hold. Means of production have accumulated and the productivity of labour has increased since his day to an extent which even he would hardly have thought possible. But child labour, working hours, the agony of toil, and the precariousness of the worker's existence, have not increased; they have declined. I do not say that this process must continue. There is no law of progress, and everything will depend on ourselves. But the actual situation is briefly and fairly summed up by Parkes [36] in one sentence: 'Low wages, long hours, and child labour have been characteristic of capitalism not, as Marx predicted, in its old age, but in its infancy.'

Unrestrained capitalism is gone. Since the day of Marx, democratic interventionism has made immense advances, and the improved productivity of labour — a consequence of the accumulation of capital — has made it possible virtually to stamp out misery. This shows that much has been achieved, in spite of undoubtedly grave mistakes, and it should encourage us to believe that more can be done. For much remains to be done and to be undone. Democratic interventionism can only make it possible. It rests with us to do it.

I have no illusions concerning the force of my arguments. Experience shows that Marx's prophecies were false. But experience can always be explained away. And, indeed, Marx himself, and Engels, began with the elaboration of an auxiliary hypothesis designed to explain why the law of increasing misery does not work as they expected it to do. According to this hypothesis, the tendency towards a falling rate of profit, and with it, increasing misery, is counteracted by the effects of colonial exploitation, or, as it is usually called, by 'modern imperialism'. Colonial exploitation, according to this theory, is a method of passing on economic pressure to the colonial proletariat, a group which, economically as well as politically, is weaker still than the industrial proletariat at home. 'Capital invested in colonies', Marx writes [37], 'may yield a higher rate of profit for the simple reason that the rate of profit is higher there where capitalist development is still in a backward stage, and for the added reason that slaves, coolies, etc., permit a better exploitation of labour. I can see no reason why these higher rates of profit . . . , when sent home, should not enter there as elements into the average rate of profit, and, in proportion, contribute to keeping it up.' (It is worth mentioning that the main idea behind this theory of 'modern' imperialism can be traced back for more than 160 years, to Adam Smith, who said of colonial trade that it 'has necessarily contributed to keep up the rate of profit'.) Engels went one step further than Marx in his development of the theory. Forced to admit that in Britain the prevailing tendency was not towards an increase in misery but rather towards a considerable improvement, he hints that this may be due to the fact that Britain 'is exploiting the whole world'; and he scornfully assails 'the British working class' which, instead of suffering as he expected them to do, 'is actually becoming more and more bourgeois'. And he continues [38]: 'It seems that this most bourgeois of all nations wants to bring matters to such a pass as to have a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat side by side with the bourgeoisie.' Now this change of front on Engels' part is at least as remarkable as that other one of his which I mentioned in the last chapter [39]; and like that, it was made under the influence of a social development which turned out to be one of decreasing misery. Marx blamed capitalism for 'proletarianizing the middle class and the lower bourgeoisie', and for reducing the workers to pauperism. Engels now blames the system — it is still blamed — for making bourgeois out of workers. But the nicest touch in Engels' complaint is the indignation that makes him call the British who behave so inconsiderately as to falsify Marxist prophecies 'this most bourgeois of all nations'. According to Marxist doctrine, we should expect from the 'most bourgeois of all nations' a development of misery and class tension to an intolerable degree; instead, we hear that the opposite takes place. But the good Marxist's hair rises when he hears of the incredible wickedness of a capitalist system that transforms good proletarians into bad bourgeois; quite forgetting that Marx showed that the wickedness of the system consisted solely in the fact that it was working the other way round. Thus we read in Lenin's analysis [40] of the evil causes and dreadful effects of modern British imperialism: 'Causes: (1) exploitation of the whole world by this country; (2) its monopolistic position in the world market; (3) its colonial monopoly. Effects: (1) bourgeoisification of a part of the British proletariat; (2) a part of the proletariat permits itself to be led by people who are bought by the bourgeoisie, or who are at least paid by it.' Having given such a pretty Marxist name, 'the bourgeoisification of the proletariat', to a hateful tendency — hateful mainly because it did not fit in with the way the world should go according to Marx — Lenin apparently believes that it has become a Marxist tendency. Marx himself held that the more quickly the whole world could go through the necessary historical period of capitalist industrialization, the better, and he was therefore inclined to support [41] imperialist developments. But Lenin came to a very different conclusion. Since Britain's possession of colonies was the reason why the workers at home followed 'leaders bought by the bourgeoisie' instead of the Communists, he saw in the colonial empire a potential trigger or fuse. A revolution there would make the law of increasing misery operative at home, and a revolution at home would follow. Thus the colonies were the place from which the fire would spread . . .

I do not believe that the auxiliary hypothesis whose history I have sketched can save the law of increasing misery; for this hypothesis is itself refuted by experience. There are countries, for instance the Scandinavian democracies, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, to say nothing of the United States, in which a democratic interventionism secured to the workers a high standard of living, in spite of the fact that colonial exploitation had no influence there, or was at any rate far too unimportant to support the hypothesis. Furthermore, if we compare certain countries that 'exploit' colonies, like Holland and Belgium, with Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Czechoslovakia which do not 'exploit' colonies, we do not find that the industrial workers profited from the possession of colonies, for the situation of the working classes in all those countries was strikingly similar. Furthermore, although the misery imposed upon the natives through colonization is one of the darkest chapters in the history of civilization, it cannot be asserted that their misery has tended to increase since the days of Marx. The exact opposite is the case; things have greatly improved. And yet, increasing misery would have to be very noticeable there if the auxiliary hypothesis and the original theory were both correct.


As I did with the second and third steps in the previous chapters, I shall now illustrate the first step of Marx's prophetic argument by showing something of its practical influence upon the tactics of Marxist parties.

The Social Democrats, under the pressure of obvious facts, tacitly dropped the theory that the intensity of misery increases; but their whole tactics remained based upon the assumption that the law of the increasing extent of misery was valid, that is to say, that the numerical strength of the industrial proletariat must continue to increase. This is why they based their policy exclusively upon representing the interests of the industrial workers, at the same time firmly believing that they were representing, or would very soon represent, 'the great majority of the population' [42]. They never doubted the assertion of the Manifesto that 'All previous historical movements were movements of minorities ... The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.' They waited confidently, therefore, for the day when the class consciousness and class assuredness of the industrial workers would win them the majority in the elections. 'There can be no doubt as to who will be victorious in the end — the few exploiters, or the immense majority, the workers.' They did not see that the industrial workers nowhere formed a majority, much less an 'immense majority', and that statistics no longer showed any tendency towards an increase in their numbers. They did not understand that the existence of a democratic workers' party was fully justified only as long as such a party was prepared to compromise or even to co-operate with other parties, for instance with some party representing the peasants, or the middle classes. And they did not see that, if they wanted to rule the state solely as the representatives of the majority of the population, they would have to change their whole policy and cease to represent mainly or exclusively the industrial workers. Of course, it is no substitute for this change of policy to assert naively that the proletarian policy as such may simply bring (as Marx said [43]) 'the rural producers under the intellectual leadership of the central towns of their districts, there securing to them, in the industrial worker, the natural trustee of their interests . . . '

The position of the Communist parties was different. They strictly adhered to the theory of increasing misery, believing in an increase not only of its extent but also of its intensity, once the causes of the temporary bourgeoisification of the workers were removed. This belief contributed considerably to what Marx would have called 'the inner contradictions' of their policy.

The tactical situation seems simple enough. Thanks to Marx's prophecy, the Communists knew for certain that misery must soon increase. They also knew that the party could not win the confidence of the workers without fighting for them, and with them, for an improvement of their lot. These two fundamental assumptions clearly determined the principles of their general tactics. Make the workers demand their share, back them up in every particular episode in their unceasing fight for bread and shelter. Fight with them tenaciously for the fulfilment of their practical demands, whether economic or political. Thus you will win their confidence. At the same time, the workers will learn that it is impossible for them to better their lot by these petty fights, and that nothing short of a wholesale revolution can bring about an improvement. For all these petty fights are bound to be unsuccessful; we know from Marx that the capitalists simply cannot continue to compromise and that, ultimately, misery must increase. Accordingly, the only result — but a valuable one — of the workers' daily fight against their oppressors is an increase in their class consciousness; it is that feeling of unity which can be won only in battle, together with a desperate knowledge that only revolution can help them in their misery. When this stage is reached, then the hour has struck for the final show-down.

This is the theory and the Communists acted accordingly. At first they support the workers in their fight to improve their lot. But, contrary to all expectations and prophecies, the fight is successful. The demands are granted. Obviously, the reason is that they had been too modest. Therefore one must demand more. But the demands are granted again [44]. And as misery decreases, the workers become less embittered, more ready to bargain for wages than to plot for revolution.

Now the Communists find that their policy must be reversed. Something must be done to bring the law of increasing misery into operation. For instance, colonial unrest must be stirred up (even where there is no chance of a successful revolution), and with the general purpose of counteracting the bourgeoisification of the workers, a policy fomenting catastrophes of all sorts must be adopted. But this new policy destroys the confidence of the workers. The Communists lose their members, with the exception of those who are inexperienced in real political fights. They lose exactly those whom they describe as the 'vanguard of the working class'; their tacitly implied principle: 'The worse things are, the better they are, since misery must precipitate revolution', makes the workers suspicious — the better the application of this principle, the worse are the suspicions entertained by the workers. For they are realists; to obtain their confidence, one must work to improve their lot.

Thus the policy must be reversed again: one is forced to fight for the immediate betterment of the workers' lot and to hope at the same time for the opposite.

With this, the 'inner contradictions' of the theory produce the last stage of confusion. It is the stage when it is hard to know who is the traitor, since treachery may be faithfulness and faithfulness treachery. It is the stage when those who followed the party not simply because it appeared to them (rightly, I am afraid) as the only vigorous movement with humanitarian ends, but especially because it was a movement based on a scientific theory, must either leave it, or sacrifice their intellectual integrity; for they must now learn to believe blindly in some authority. Ultimately, they must become mystics — hostile to reasonable argument.

It seems that it is not only capitalism which is labouring under inner contradictions that threaten to bring about its downfall . . .
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

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21 An Evaluation of the Prophecy

The arguments underlying Marx's historical prophecy are invalid. His ingenious attempt to draw prophetic conclusions from observations of contemporary economic tendencies failed. The reason for this failure does not lie in any insufficiency of the empirical basis of the argument. Marx's sociological and economic analyses of contemporary society may have been somewhat one-sided, but in spite of their bias, they were excellent in so far as they were descriptive. The reason for his failure as a prophet lies entirely in the poverty of historicism as such, in the simple fact that even if we observe to-day what appears to be a historical tendency or trend, we cannot know whether it will have the same appearance to-morrow.

We must admit that Marx saw many things in the right light. If we consider only his prophecy that the system of unrestrained capitalism, as he knew it, was not going to last much longer, and that its apologists who thought it would last forever were wrong, then we must say that he was right. He was right, too, in holding that it was largely the 'class struggle', i.e. the association of the workers, that was going to bring about its transformation into a new economic system. But we must not go so far as to say that Marx predicted that new system, interventionism [1], under another name, socialism. The truth is that he had no inkling of what was lying ahead. What he called 'socialism' was very dissimilar from any form of interventionism, even from the Russian form; for he strongly believed that the impending development would diminish the influence, political as well as economic, of the state, while interventionism has increased it everywhere.

Since I am criticizing Marx and, to some extent, praising democratic piecemeal interventionism (especially of the institutional kind explained in section VII to chapter 17), I wish to make it clear that I feel much sympathy with Marx's hope for a decrease in state influence. It is undoubtedly the greatest danger of interventionism — especially of any direct intervention — that it leads to an increase in state power and in bureaucracy. Most interventionists do not mind this, or they close their eyes to it, which increases the danger. But I believe that once the danger is faced squarely, it should be possible to master it. For this is again merely a problem of social technology and of social piecemeal engineering. But it is important to tackle it early, for it constitutes a danger to democracy. We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.

But let us return to Marx's prophecy. One of the historical tendencies which he claimed to have discovered seems to be of a more persistent character than the others; I mean the tendency towards the accumulation of the means of production, and especially towards increasing the productivity of labour. It seems indeed that this tendency will continue for some time, provided, of course, that we continue to keep civilization going. But Marx did not merely recognize this tendency and its 'civilizing aspects', he also saw its inherent dangers. More especially, he was one of the first (although he had some predecessors, for instance, Fourier [2]) to emphasize the connection between 'the development of the productive forces' in which he saw [3]'the historical mission and justification of capital', and that most destructive phenomenon of the credit system — a system which seems to have encouraged the rapid rise of industrialism — the trade cycle.

Marx's own theory of the trade cycle (discussed in section IV of the last chapter) may perhaps be paraphrased as follows: even if it is true that the inherent laws of the free market produce a tendency towards full employment, it is also true that every single approach towards full employment, i.e. towards a shortage of labour, stimulates inventors and investors to create and to introduce new labour-saving machinery, thereby giving rise (first to a short boom and then) to a new wave of unemployment and depression. Whether there is any truth in this theory, and how much, I do not know. As I said in the last chapter, the theory of the trade cycle is a rather difficult subject, and one upon which I do not intend to embark. But since Marx's contention that the increase of productivity is one of the factors contributing to the trade cycle seems to me important, I may be permitted to develop some rather obvious considerations in its support.

The following list of possible developments is, of course, quite incomplete; but it is constructed in such a way that whenever the productivity of labour increases, then at least one of the following developments, and possibly many at a time, must commence and must proceed in a degree sufficient to balance the increase in productivity.

(A) Investments increase, that is to say, such capital goods are produced as strengthen the power for producing other goods. (Since this leads to a further increase of productivity, it cannot alone balance its effects for any length of time.)

(B) Consumption increases — the standard of living rises:

(a) that of the whole population;

(b) that of certain parts of it (for instance, of a certain class).

(C) Labour time decreases:

(a) the daily labour hours are reduced;

(b) the number of people who are not industrial workers increases, and especially

(b1) the number of scientists, physicians, artists, businessmen, etc., increases. (b2) the number of unemployed workers increases.

(D) The quantity of goods produced but not consumed increases:

(a) consumption goods are destroyed;

(b) capital goods are not used (factories are idle);

(c) goods, other than consumption goods and goods of the type (A), are produced, for instance, arms;

(d) labour is used to destroy capital goods (and thereby to reduce productivity).

I have listed these developments — the list could, of course, be elaborated — in such a way that down to the dotted line, i.e. down to (C, b1), the developments as such are generally recognized as desirable, whilst from (C, b2) onward come those which are generally taken to be undesirable; they indicate depression, the manufacture of armaments, and war.  

Now it is clear that since (A) alone cannot restore the balance for good, although it may be a very important factor, one or several of the other developments must set in. It seems, further, reasonable to assume that if no institutions exist which guarantee that the desirable developments proceed in a degree sufficient to balance the increased productivity, some of the undesirable developments will begin. But all of these, with the possible exception of armament production, are of such a character that they are likely to lead to a sharp reduction of (A), which must severely aggravate the situation.

I do not think that such considerations as the above are able to 'explain' armament or war in any sense of the word, although they may explain the success of totalitarian states in fighting unemployment. Nor do I think that they are able to 'explain' the trade cycle, although they may perhaps contribute something to such an explanation, in which problems of credit and money are likely to play a very important part; for the reduction of (A), for instance, may be equivalent to the hoarding of such savings as would otherwise probably be invested — a much-discussed and important factor [4]. And it is not quite impossible that the Marxist law of the falling rate of profit (if this law is at all tenable [5]) may also give a hint for the explanation of hoarding; for assuming that a period of quick accumulation may lead to such a fall, this might discourage investments and encourage hoarding, and reduce (A).

But all this would not be a theory of the trade cycle. Such a theory would have a different task. Its main task would be to explain why the institution of the free market, as such a very efficient instrument for equalizing supply and demand, does not suffice to prevent depressions [6], i.e. overproduction or underconsumption. In other words, we should have to show that the buying and selling on the market produces, as one of the unwanted social repercussions [7] of our actions, the trade cycle. The Marxist theory of the trade cycle has precisely this aim in view; and the considerations sketched here regarding the effects of a general tendency towards increasing productivity can at the best only supplement this theory.

I am not going to pronounce judgement on the merits of all these speculations upon the trade cycle. But it seems to me quite clear that they are most valuable even if in the light of modern theories they should by now be entirely superseded. The mere fact that Marx treated this problem extensively is greatly to his credit. This much at least of his prophecy has come true, for the time being; the tendency towards an increase of productivity continues: the trade cycle also continues, and its continuation is likely to lead to interventionist counter-measures and therefore to a further restriction of the free market system; a development which conforms to Marx's prophecy that the trade cycle would be one of the factors that must bring about the downfall of the unrestrained system of capitalism. And to this, we must add that other piece of successful prophecy, namely, that the association of the workers would be another important factor in this process.

In view of this list of important and largely successful prophecies, is it justifiable to speak of the poverty of historicism? If Marx's historical prophecies have been even partially successful, then we should certainly not dismiss his method lightly. But a closer view of Marx's successes shows that it was nowhere his historicist method which led him to success, but always the methods of institutional analysis. Thus it is not an historicist but a typical institutional analysis which leads to the conclusion that the capitalist is forced by competition to increase productivity. It is an institutional analysis on which Marx bases his theory of the trade cycle and of surplus population. And even the theory of class struggle is institutional; it is part of the mechanism by which the distribution of wealth as well as of power is controlled, a mechanism which makes possible collective bargaining in the widest sense. Nowhere in these analyses do the typical historicist 'laws of historical development', or stages, or periods, or tendencies, play any part whatever. On the other hand, none of Marx's more ambitious historicist conclusions, none of his 'inexorable laws of development' and his 'stages of history which cannot be leaped over', has ever turned out to be a successful prediction. Marx was successful only in so far as he was analysing institutions and their functions. And the opposite is true also: none of his more ambitious and sweeping historical prophecies falls within the scope of institutional analysis. Wherever the attempt is made to back them up by such an analysis, the derivation is invalid. Indeed, compared with Marx's own high standards, the more sweeping prophecies are on a rather low intellectual level. They contain not only a lot of wishful thinking, they are also lacking in political imagination. Roughly speaking, Marx shared the belief of the progressive industrialist, of the 'bourgeois' of his time: the belief in a law of progress. But this naive historicist optimism, of Hegel and Comte, of Marx and Mill, is no less superstitious than a pessimistic historicism like that of Plato and Spengler. And it is a very bad outfit for a prophet, since it must bridle historical imagination. Indeed, it is necessary to recognize as one of the principles of any unprejudiced view of politics that everything is possible in human affairs; and more particularly that no conceivable development can be excluded on the grounds that it may violate the so-called tendency of human progress, or any other of the alleged laws of 'human nature'. 'The fact of progress', writes- [8]H. A. L. Fisher, 'is written plain and large on the page of history; but progress is not a law of nature. The ground gained by one generation may be lost by the next.'

In accordance with the principle that everything is possible it may be worth while to point out that Marx's prophecies might well have come true. A faith like the progressivist optimism of the nineteenth century can be a powerful political force; it can help to bring about what it has predicted. Thus even a correct prediction must not be accepted too readily as a corroboration of a theory, and of its scientific character. It may rather be a consequence of its religious character and a proof of the force of the religious faith which it has been able to inspire in men. And in Marxism more particularly the religious element is unmistakable. In the hour of their deepest misery and degradation, Marx's prophecy gave the workers an inspiring belief in their mission, and in the great future which their movement was to prepare for the whole of mankind. Looking back at the course of events from 1864 to 1930, I think that but for the somewhat accidental fact that Marx discouraged research in social technology, European affairs might possibly have developed, under the influence of this prophetic religion, towards a socialism of a non- collectivist type. A thorough preparation for social engineering, for planning for freedom, on the part of the Russian Marxists as well as those in Central Europe, might possibly have led to an unmistakable success, convincing to all friends of the open society. But this would not have been a corroboration of a scientific prophecy. It would have been the result of a religious movement — the result of the faith in humanitarianism, combined with a critical use of our reason for the purpose of changing the world.

But things developed differently. The prophetic element in Marx's creed was dominant in the minds of his followers. It swept everything else aside, banishing the power of cool and critical judgement and destroying the belief that by the use of reason we may change the world. All that remained of Marx's teaching was the oracular philosophy of Hegel, which in its Marxist trappings threatens to paralyse the struggle for the open society.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

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Marx's Ethics

22. The Moral Theory of Historicism

The task which Marx set himself in Capital was to discover inexorable laws of social development. It was not the discovery of economic laws which would be useful to the social technologist. It was neither the analysis of the economic conditions which would permit the realization of such socialist aims as just prices, equal distribution of wealth, security, reasonable planning of production and, above all, freedom, nor was it an attempt to analyse and to clarify these aims.

But although Marx was strongly opposed to Utopian technology as well as to any attempt at a moral justification of socialist aims, his writings contained, by implication, an ethical theory. This he expressed mainly by moral evaluations of social institutions. After all, Marx's condemnation of capitalism is fundamentally a moral condemnation. The system is condemned, for the cruel injustice inherent in it which is combined with full 'formal' justice and righteousness. The system is condemned, because by forcing the exploiter to enslave the exploited it robs both of their freedom. Marx did not combat wealth, nor did he praise poverty. He hated capitalism, not for its accumulation of wealth, but for its oligarchical character; he hated it because in this system wealth means political power in the sense of power over other men. Labour power is made a commodity; that means that men must sell themselves on the market. Marx hated the system because it resembled slavery.

By laying such stress on the moral aspect of social institutions, Marx emphasized our responsibility for the more remote social repercussions of our actions; for instance, of such actions as may help to prolong the life of socially unjust institutions.

But although Capital is, in fact, largely a treatise on social ethics, these ethical ideas are never represented as such. They are expressed only by implication, but not the less forcibly on that account, since the implications are very obvious. Marx, I believe, avoided an explicit moral theory, because he hated preaching. Deeply distrustful of the moralist, who usually preaches water and drinks wine, Marx was reluctant to formulate his ethical convictions explicitly. The principles of humanity and decency were for him matters that needed no discussion, matters to be taken for granted. (In this field, too, he was an optimist.) He attacked the moralists because he saw them as the sycophantic apologists of a social order which he felt to be immoral; he attacked the eulogists of liberalism because of their self-satisfaction, because of their identification of freedom with the formal liberty then existing within a social system which destroyed freedom. Thus, by implication, he admitted his love for freedom; and in spite of his bias, as a philosopher, for holism, he was certainly not a collectivist, for he hoped that the state would 'wither away'. Marx's faith, I believe, was fundamentally a faith in the open society.

Marx's attitude towards Christianity is closely connected with these convictions, and with the fact that a hypocritical defence of capitalist exploitation was in his day characteristic of official Christianity. (His attitude was not unlike that of his contemporary Kierkegaard, the great reformer of Christian ethics, who exposed [1] the official Christian morality of his day as anti-Christian and anti-humanitarian hypocrisy.) A typical representative of this kind of Christianity was the High Church priest J. Townsend, author of A Dissertation on the Poor Laws, by a Wellwisher of Mankind, an extremely crude apologist for exploitation whom Marx exposed. 'Hunger', Townsend begins his eulogy [2], 'is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure but, as the most natural motive of industry and labour, it calls forth the most powerful exertions.' In Townsend's 'Christian' world order, everything depends (as Marx observes) upon making hunger permanent among the working class; and Townsend believes that this is indeed the divine purpose of the principle of the growth of population; for he goes on: 'It seems to be a law of nature that the poor should be to a certain degree improvident, so that there may always be some to fulfil the most servile, the most sordid, the most ignoble offices in the community. The stock of human happiness is thereby much increased, whilst the more delicate ... are left at liberty without interruption to pursue those callings which are suited to their various dispositions.' And the 'delicate priestly sycophant', as Marx called him for this remark, adds that the Poor Law, by helping the hungry, 'tends to destroy the harmony and beauty, the symmetry and order, of that system which God and nature have established in the world.'

If this kind of 'Christianity' has disappeared to-day from the face of the better part of our globe, it is in no small degree due to the moral reformation brought about by Marx. I do not suggest that the reform of the Church's attitude towards the poor in England did not commence long before Marx had any influence in England; but he influenced this development especially on the Continent, and the rise of socialism had the effect of strengthening it in England also. His influence on Christianity may be perhaps compared with Luther's influence on the Roman Church. Both were a challenge, both led to a counter-reformation in the camps of their enemies, to a revision and re-valuation of their ethical standards. Christianity owes not a little to Marx's influence if it is to-day on a different path from the one it was pursuing only thirty years ago. It is even partly due to Marx's influence that the Church has listened to the voice of Kierkegaard, who, in his Book of the Judge, described his own activity as follows [3]: 'He whose task it is to produce a corrective idea, has only to study, precisely and deeply, the rotten parts of the existing order — and then, in the most partial way possible, to stress the opposite of it.' ('Since that is so', he adds, 'an apparently clever man will easily raise the objection of partiality against the corrective idea — and he will make the public believe that this was the whole truth about it.') In this sense one might say that the early Marxism, with its ethical rigour, its emphasis on deeds instead of mere words, was perhaps the most important corrective idea of our time. [4] This explains its tremendous moral influence.

The demand that men should prove themselves in deeds is especially marked in some of Marx's earlier writings. This attitude, which might be described as his activism, is most clearly formulated in the last of his Theses on Feuerbach [5]: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.' But there are many other passages which show the same 'activist' tendency; especially those in which Marx speaks of socialism as the 'kingdom of freedom', a kingdom in which man would become the 'master of his own social environment'. Marx conceived of socialism as a period in which we are largely free from the irrational forces that now determine our life, and in which human reason can actively control human affairs. Judging by all this, and by Marx's general moral and emotional attitude, I cannot doubt that, if faced with the alternative 'are we to be the makers of our fate, or shall we be content to be its prophets?' he would have decided to be a maker and not merely a prophet.

But as we already know, these strong 'activist' tendencies of Marx's are counteracted by his historicism. Under its influence, he became mainly a prophet. He decided that, at least under capitalism, we must submit to 'inexorable laws' and to the fact that all we can do is 'to shorten and lessen the birth-pangs' of the 'natural phases of its evolution' [6]. There is a wide gulf between Marx's activism and his historicism, and this gulf is further widened by his doctrine that we must submit to the purely irrational forces of history. For since he denounced as Utopian any attempt to make use of our reason in order to plan for the future, reason can have no part in bringing about a more reasonable world. I believe that such a view cannot be defended, and must lead to mysticism.
But I must admit that there seems to be a theoretical possibility of bridging this gulf, although I do not consider the bridge to be sound. This bridge, of which there are only rough plans to be found in the writings of Marx and Engels, I call their historicist moral theory [7].

Unwilling to admit that their own ethical ideas were in any sense ultimate and self-justifying, Marx and Engels preferred to look upon their humanitarian aims in the light of a theory which explains them as the product, or the reflection, of social circumstances. Their theory can be described as follows. If a social reformer, or a revolutionary, believes that he is inspired by a hatred of 'injustice', and by a love for 'justice', then he is largely a victim of illusion (like anybody else, for instance the apologists of the old order). Or, to put it more precisely, his moral ideas of 'justice' and 'injustice' are by-products of the social and historical, development. But they are by-products of an important kind, since they are part of the mechanism by which the development propels itself. To illustrate this point, there are always at least two ideas of 'justice' (or of 'freedom' or of 'equality'), and these two ideas differ very widely indeed. The one is the idea of 'justice' as the ruling class understands it, the other, the same idea as the oppressed class understands it. These ideas are, of course, products of the class situation, but at the same time they play an important part in the class struggle — they have to provide both sides with that good conscience which they need in order to carry on their fight.

This theory of morality may be characterized as historicist because it holds that all moral categories are dependent on the historical situation; it is usually described as historical relativism in the field of ethics. From this point of view, it is an incomplete question to ask: Is it right to act in this way? The complete question would run like this: Is it right, in the sense of fifteenth-century feudal morality, to act in this way? Or perhaps: Is it right, in the sense of nineteenth-century proletarian morality, to act in this way? This historical relativism was formulated by Engels as follows [8]: 'What morality is preached to us to-day? There is first Christian-feudal morality, inherited from past centuries; and this again has two main subdivisions, Roman Catholic and Protestant moralities, each of which in turn has no lack of further subdivisions, from the Jesuit- Catholic and Orthodox-Protestant to loose "advanced" moralities. Alongside of these, we find the modern bourgeois morality, and with it, too, the proletarian morality of the future . . . '

But this so-called 'historical relativism' by no means exhausts the historicist character of the Marxist theory of morals. Let us imagine we could ask those who hold such a theory, for instance Marx himself: Why do you act in the way you do? Why would you consider it distasteful and repulsive, for instance, to accept a bribe from the bourgeoisie for stopping your revolutionary activities? I do not think that Marx would have liked to answer such a question; he would probably have tried to evade it, asserting perhaps that he just acted as he pleased, or as he felt compelled to. But all this does not touch our problem. It is certain that in the practical decisions of his life Marx followed a very rigorous moral code; it is also certain that he demanded from his collaborators a high moral standard. Whatever the terminology applied to these things may be, the problem which faces us is how to find a reply which he might have possibly made to the question: Why do you act in such a way? Why do you try, for instance, to help the oppressed? (Marx did not himself belong to this class, either by birth or by upbringing or by his way of living.)

If pressed in this way, Marx would, I think, have formulated his moral belief in the following terms, which form the core of what I call his historicist moral theory. As a social scientist (he might have said) I know that our moral ideas are weapons in the class struggle. As a scientist, I can consider them without adopting them. But as a scientist I find also that I cannot avoid taking sides in this struggle; that any attitude, even aloofness, means taking sides in some way or other. My problem thus assumes the form: Which side shall I take? When I have chosen a certain side, then I have, of course, also decided upon my morality. I shall have to adopt the moral system necessarily bound up with the interests of the class which I have decided to support. But before making this fundamental decision, I have not adopted any moral system at all, provided I can free myself from the moral tradition of my class; but this, of course, is a necessary prerequisite for making any conscious and rational decision regarding the competing moral systems. Now since a decision is 'moral' only in relation to some previously accepted moral code, my fundamental decision can be no 'moral' decision at all. But it can be a scientific decision. For as a social scientist, I am able to see what is going to happen. I am able to see that the bourgeoisie, and with it its system of morals, is bound to disappear, and that the proletariat, and with it a new system of morals, is bound to win. I see that this development is inevitable. It would be madness to attempt to resist it, just as it would be madness to attempt to resist the law of gravity. This is why my fundamental decision is in favour of the proletariat and of its morality. And this decision is based only on scientific foresight, on scientific historical prophecy. Although itself not a moral decision, since it is not based on any system of morality, it leads to the adoption of a certain system of morality. To sum up, my fundamental decision is not (as you suspected) the sentimental decision to help the oppressed, but the scientific and rational decision not to offer vain resistance to the developmental laws of society. Only after I have made this decision am I prepared to accept, and to make full use of, those moral sentiments which are necessary weapons in the fight for what is bound to come in any case. In this way, I adopt the facts of the coming period as the standards of my morality. And in this way, I solve the apparent paradox that a more reasonable world will come without being planned by reason; for according to my moral standards now adopted, the future world must be better, and therefore more reasonable. And I also bridge the gap between my activism and my historicism. For it is clear that even though I have discovered the natural law that determines the movement of society, I cannot shuffle the natural phases of its evolution out of the world by a stroke of the pen. But this much I can do. I can actively assist in shortening and lessening its birth-pangs.

This, I think, would have been Marx's reply, and it is this reply which to me represents the most important form of what I have called 'historicist moral theory'. It is this theory to which Engels alludes when he writes [9]: 'Certainly, that morality which contains the greatest number of elements that are going to last is the one which, within the present time, represents the overthrow of the present time; it is the one which represents the future; it is the proletarian morality . . . According to this conception, the ultimate causes of all social changes and political revolutions are not increasing insight into justice; they are to be sought not in the philosophy but in the economics of the epoch concerned. The growing realization that existing social institutions are irrational and unjust is only a symptom . . . ' It is the theory of which a modern Marxist says: 'In founding socialist aspirations on a rational economic law of social development, instead of justifying them on moral grounds, Marx and Engels proclaimed socialism a historical necessity.' [10] It is a theory which is very widely held; but it has rarely been formulated clearly and explicitly. Its criticism is therefore more important than might be realized at first sight.

First, it is clear enough that the theory depends largely on the possibility of correct historical prophecy. If this is questioned — and it certainly must be questioned — then the theory loses most of its force. But for the purpose of analysing it, I shall assume at first that historical foreknowledge is an established fact; and I shall merely stipulate that this historical foreknowledge is limited; I shall stipulate that we have foreknowledge for, say, the next 500 years, a stipulation which should not restrict even the boldest claims of Marxist historicism.

Now let us first examine the claim of historicist moral theory that the fundamental decision in favour of, or against, one of the moral systems in question is itself not a moral decision; that it is not based on any moral consideration or sentiment, but on a scientific historical prediction. This claim is, I think, untenable. In order to make this quite clear, it will suffice to make explicit the imperative, or principle of conduct, implied in this fundamental decision. It is the following principle: Adopt the moral system of the future! or: Adopt the moral system held by those whose actions are most useful for bringing about the future! Now it seems clear to me that even on the assumption that we know exactly what the next 500 years will be like, it is not at all necessary for us to adopt such a principle. It is, to give an example, at least conceivable that some humanitarian pupil of Voltaire who foresaw in 1764 the development of France down to, say, 1864 might have disliked the prospect; it is at least conceivable that he would have decided that this development was rather distasteful and that he was not going to adopt the moral standards of Napoleon III as his own. I shall be faithful to my humanitarian standards, he might have said, I shall teach them to my pupils; perhaps they will survive this period, perhaps some day they will be victorious. It is likewise at least conceivable (I do not assert more, at present) that a man who to-day foresees with certainty that we are heading for a period of slavery, that we are going to return to the cage of the arrested society, or even that we are about to return to the beasts, may nevertheless decide not to adopt the moral standards of this impending period but to contribute as well as he can to the survival of his humanitarian ideals, hoping perhaps for a resurrection of his morality in some dim future.

All that is, at least, conceivable. It may perhaps not be the 'wisest' decision to make. But the fact that such a decision is excluded neither by foreknowledge nor by any sociological or psychological law shows that the first claim of historicist moral theory is untenable. Whether we should accept the morality of the future just because it is the morality of the future, this in itself is just a moral problem. The fundamental decision cannot be derived from any knowledge of the future.

In previous chapters I have mentioned moral positivism (especially that of Hegel), the theory that there is no moral standard but the one which exists; that what is, is reasonable and good; and therefore, that might is right. The practical aspect of this theory is this. A moral criticism of the existing state of affairs is impossible, since this state itself determines the moral standard of things. Now the historicist moral theory we are considering is nothing but another form of moral positivism. For it holds that coming might is right. The future is here substituted for the present — that is all. And the practical aspect of the theory is this. Amoral criticism of the coming state of affairs is impossible, since this state determines the moral standard of things. The difference between 'the present' and 'the future' is here, of course, only a matter of degree. One can say that the future starts to-morrow, or in 500 years, or in 100. In their theoretical structure there is no difference between moral conservatism, moral modernism, and moral futurism. Nor is there much to choose between them in regard to moral sentiments. If the moral futurist criticizes the cowardice of the moral conservative who takes sides with the powers that be, then the moral conservative can return the charge; he can say that the moral futurist is a coward since he takes sides with the powers that will be, with the rulers of to-morrow.

I feel sure that, had he considered these implications, Marx would have repudiated historicist moral theory. Numerous remarks and numerous actions prove that it was not a scientific judgement but a moral impulse, the wish to help the oppressed, the wish to free the shamelessly exploited and miserable workers, which led him to socialism. I do not doubt that it is this moral appeal that is the secret of the influence of his teaching. And the force of this appeal was tremendously strengthened by the fact that he did not preach morality in the abstract. He did not pretend to have any right to do so. Who, he seems to have asked himself, lives up to his own standard, provided it is not a very low one? It was this feeling which led him to rely, in ethical matters, on understatements, and which led him to the attempt to find in prophetic social science an authority in matters of morals more reliable than he felt himself to be.

Surely, in Marx's practical ethics such categories as freedom and equality played the major role. He was, after all, one of those who took the ideals of 1789 seriously. And he had seen how shamelessly a concept like 'freedom' could be twisted. This is why he did not preach freedom in words — why he preached it in action. He wanted to improve society and improvement meant to him more freedom, more equality, more justice, more security, higher standards of living, and especially that shortening of the working day which at once gives the workers some freedom. It was his hatred of hypocrisy, his reluctance to speak about these 'high ideals', together with his amazing optimism, his trust that all this would be realized in the near future, which led him to veil his moral beliefs behind historicist formulations.

Marx, I assert, would not seriously have defended moral positivism in the form of moral futurism if he had seen that it implies the recognition of future might as right. But there are others who do not possess his passionate love of humanity, who are moral futurists just because of these implications, i.e. opportunists wishing to be on the winning side. Moral futurism is widespread to-day. Its deeper, non-opportunist basis is probably the belief that goodness must 'ultimately' triumph over wickedness. But moral futurists forget that we are not going to live to witness the 'ultimate' outcome of present events. 'History will be our judge!' What does this mean? That success will judge. The worship of success and of future might is the highest standard of many who would never admit that present might is right. (They quite forget that the present is the future of the past.) The basis of all this is a halfhearted compromise between a moral optimism and a moral scepticism. It seems to be hard to believe in one's conscience. And it seems to be hard to resist the impulse to be on the winning side.

All these critical remarks are consistent with the assumption that we can predict the future for the next, say, 500 years. But if we drop this entirely fictitious assumption, then historicist moral theory loses all its plausibility. And we must drop it. For there is no prophetic sociology to help us in selecting a moral system. We cannot shift our responsibility for such a selection on to anybody, not even on to 'the future'.

Marx's historicist moral theory is, of course, only the result of his view concerning the method of social science, of his sociological determinism, a view which has become rather fashionable in our day. All our opinions, it is said, including our moral standards, depend upon society and its historical state. They are the products of society or of a certain class situation. Education is defined as a special process by which the community attempts to 'pass on' to its members 'its culture including the standards by which it would have them to live' [11], and the 'relativity of educational theory and practice to a prevailing order' is emphasized. Science, too, is said to depend on the social stratum of the scientific worker, etc.

A theory of this kind which emphasizes the sociological dependence of our opinions is sometimes called sociologism; if the historical dependence is emphasized, it is called historism. (Historism must not, of course, be mixed up with historicism.) Both sociologism and historism, in so far as they maintain the determination of scientific knowledge by society or history, will be discussed in the next two chapters. In so far as sociologism bears upon moral theory, a few remarks may be added here. But before going into any detail, I wish to make quite clear my opinion concerning these Hegelianizing theories. I believe that they chatter trivialities clad in the jargon of oracular philosophy.

Let us examine this moral 'sociologism'. That man, and his aims, are in a certain sense a product of society is true enough. But it is also true that society is a product of man and of his aims and that it may become increasingly so. The main question is: Which of these two aspects of the relations between men and society is more important? Which is to be stressed?

We shall understand sociologism better if we compare it with the analogous 'naturalistic' view that man and his aims are a product of heredity and environment. Again we must admit that this is true enough. But it is also quite certain that man's environment is to an increasing extent a product of him and his aims (to a limited extent, the same might be said even of his heredity). Again we must ask: which of the two aspects is more important, more fertile? The answer may be easier if we give the question the following more practical form. We, the generation now living, and our minds, our opinions, are largely the product of our parents, and of the way they have brought us up. But the next generation will be, to a similar extent, a product of ourselves, of our actions and of the way in which we bring them up. Which of the two aspects is the more important one for us to-day?

If we consider this question seriously, then we find that the decisive point is that our minds, our opinions, though largely dependent on our upbringing are not totally so. If they were totally dependent on our upbringing, if we were incapable of self-criticism, of learning from our own way of seeing things, from our experience, then, of course, the way we have been brought up by the last generation would determine the way in which we bring up the next. But it is quite certain that this is not so. Accordingly, we can concentrate our critical faculties on the difficult problem of bringing up the next generation in a way which we consider better than the way in which we have been brought up ourselves.

The situation stressed so much by sociologism can be dealt with in an exactly analogous way. That our minds, our views, are in a way a product of 'society' is trivially true. The most important part of our environment is its social part; thought, in particular, is very largely dependent on social intercourse; language, the medium of thought, is a social phenomenon. But it simply cannot be denied that we can examine thoughts, that we can criticize them, improve them, and further that we can change and improve our physical environment according to our changed, improved thoughts. And the same is true of our social environment.

All these considerations are entirely independent of the metaphysical 'problem of free will'. Even the indeterminist admits a certain amount of dependence on heredity and on environmental, especially social, influence. On the other hand, the determinist must agree that our views and actions are not fully and solely determined by heredity, education, and social influences. He has to admit that there are other factors, for instance, the more 'accidental' experiences accumulated during one's life, and that these also exert their influence. Determinism or indeterminism, as long as they remain within their metaphysical boundaries, do not affect our problem. But the point is that they may trespass beyond these boundaries; that metaphysical determinism, for instance, may encourage sociological determinism or 'sociologism'. But in this form, the theory can be confronted with experience. And experience shows that it is certainly false.

Beethoven, to take an instance from the field of aesthetics, which has a certain similarity to that of ethics, is surely to some extent a product of musical education and tradition, and many who take an interest in him will be impressed by this aspect of his work. The more important aspect, however, is that he is also a producer of music, and thereby of musical tradition and education. I do not wish to quarrel with the metaphysical determinist who would insist that every bar Beethoven wrote was determined by some combination of hereditary and environmental influences. Such an assertion is empirically entirely insignificant, since no one could actually 'explain' a single bar of his writing in this way. The important thing is that everyone admits that what he wrote can be explained neither by the musical works of his predecessors, nor by the social environment in which he lived, nor by his deafness, nor by the food which his housekeeper cooked for him; not, in other words, by any definite set of environmental influences or circumstances open to empirical investigation, or by anything we could possibly know of his heredity.

I do not deny that there are certain interesting sociological aspects of Beethoven's work. It is well known, for instance, that the transition from a small to a large symphony orchestra is connected, in some way, with a socio-political development. Orchestras cease to be the private hobbies of princes, and are at least partly supported by a middle class whose interest in music greatly increases. I am willing to appreciate any sociological 'explanation' of this sort, and I admit that such aspects may be worthy of scientific study. (After all, I myself have attempted similar things in this book, for instance, in my treatment of Plato.)

What then, more precisely, is the object of my attack? It is the exaggeration and generalization of any aspect of this kind. If we 'explain' Beethoven's symphony orchestra in the way hinted above, we have explained very little. If we describe Beethoven as representing the bourgeoisie in the process of emancipating itself, we say very little, even if it is true. Such a function could most certainly be combined with the production of bad music (as we see from Wagner). We cannot attempt to explain Beethoven's genius in this way, or in any way at all.

I think that Marx's own views could likewise be used for an empirical refutation of sociological determinism. For if we consider in the light of this doctrine the two theories, activism and historicism, and their struggle for supremacy in Marx's system, then we will have to say that historicism would be a view more fitting for a conservative apologist than for a revolutionary or even a reformer. And, indeed, historicism was used by Hegel with that tendency. The fact that Marx not only took it over from Hegel, but in the end permitted it to oust his own activism, may thus show that the side a man takes in the social struggle need not always determine his intellectual decisions. These may be determined, as in Marx's case, not so much by the true interest of the class he supported as by accidental factors, such as the influence of a predecessor, or perhaps by shortsightedness. Thus in this case, sociologism may further our understanding of Hegel, but the example of Marx himself exposes it as an unjustified generalization. A similar case is Marx's underrating of the significance of his own moral ideas; for it cannot be doubted that the secret of his religious influence was in its moral appeal, that his criticism of capitalism was effective mainly as a moral criticism. Marx showed that a social system can as such be unjust; that if the system is bad, then all the righteousness of the individuals who profit from it is a mere sham righteousness, is mere hypocrisy. For our responsibility extends to the system, to the institutions which we allow to persist. It is this moral radicalism of Marx which explains his influence; and that is a hopeful fact in itself. This moral radicalism is still alive. It is our task to keep it alive, to prevent it from going the way which his political radicalism will have to go. 'Scientific' Marxism is dead. Its feeling of social responsibility and its love for freedom must survive.  
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:49 pm

The Aftermath

23. The Sociology of Knowledge

Rationality, in the sense of an appeal to a universal and impersonal standard of truth, is of supreme importance not only in ages in which it easily prevails, but also, and even more, in those less fortunate times in which it is despised and rejected as the vain dream of men who lack the virility to kill where they cannot agree.

-- Bertrand Russell.

It can hardly be doubted that Hegel's and Marx's historicist philosophies are characteristic products of their time — a time of social change. Like the philosophies of Heraclitus and Plato, and like those of Comte and Mill, Lamarck and Darwin, they are philosophies of change, and they witness to the tremendous and undoubtedly somewhat terrifying impression made by a changing social environment on the minds of those who live in this environment. Plato reacted to this situation by attempting to arrest all change. The more modern social philosophers appear to react very differently, since they accept, and even welcome, change; yet this love of change seems to me a little ambivalent. For even though they have given up any hope of arresting change, as historicists they try to predict it, and thus to bring it under rational control; and this certainly looks like an attempt to tame it. Thus it seems that, to the historicist, change has not entirely lost its terrors.

In our own time of still more rapid change, we even find the desire not only to predict change, but to control it by centralized large-scale planning. These holistic views (which I have criticized in The Poverty of Historicism) represent a compromise, as it were, between Platonic and Marxian theories. Plato's will to arrest change, combined with Marx's doctrine of its inevitability, yield, as a kind of Hegelian 'synthesis', the demand that since it cannot be entirely arrested, change should at least be 'planned', and controlled by the state whose power is to be vastly extended.

An attitude like this may seem, at first sight, to be a kind of rationalism; it is closely related to Marx's dream of the 'realm of freedom' in which man is for the first time master of his own fate. But as a matter of fact, it occurs in closest alliance with a doctrine which is definitely opposed to rationalism (and especially to the doctrine of the rational unity of mankind; see chapter 24). one which is well in keeping with the irrationalist and mystical tendencies of our time. I have in mind the Marxist doctrine that our opinions, including our moral and scientific opinions, are determined by class interest, and more generally by the social and historical situation of our time. Under the name of 'sociology of knowledge' or 'sociologism', this doctrine has been developed recently (especially by M. Scheler and K. Mannheim [1]) as a theory of the social determination of scientific knowledge.

The sociology of knowledge argues that scientific thought, and especially thought on social and political matters, does not proceed in a vacuum, but in a socially conditioned atmosphere. It is influenced largely by unconscious or subconscious elements. These elements remain hidden from the thinker's observing eye because they form, as it were, the very place which he inhabits, his social habitat. The social habitat of the thinker determines a whole system of opinions and theories which appear to him as unquestionably true or self-evident. They appear to him as if they were logically and trivially true, such as, for example, the sentence 'all tables are tables'. This is why he is not even aware of having made any assumptions at all. But that he has made assumptions can be seen if we compare him with a thinker who lives in a very different social habitat; for he too will proceed from a system of apparently unquestionable assumptions, but from a very different one; and it may be so different that no intellectual bridge may exist and no compromise be possible between these two systems. Each of these different socially determined systems of assumptions is called by the sociologists of knowledge a total ideology.

The sociology of knowledge can be considered as a Hegelian version of Kant's theory of knowledge. For it continues on the lines of Kant's criticism of what we may term the 'passivist' theory of knowledge. I mean by this the theory of the empiricists down to and including Hume, a theory which may be described, roughly, as holding that knowledge streams into us through our senses, and that error is due to our interference with the sense-given material, or to the associations which have developed within it; the best way of avoiding error is to remain entirely passive and receptive. Against this receptacle theory of knowledge (I usually call it the 'bucket theory of the mind'), Kant [2] argued that knowledge is not a collection of gifts received by our senses and stored in the mind as if it were a museum, but that it is very largely the result of our own mental activity; that we must most actively engage ourselves in searching, comparing, unifying, generalizing, if we wish to attain knowledge. We may call this theory the 'activist' theory of knowledge. In connection with it, Kant gave up the untenable ideal of a science which is free from any kind of presuppositions. (That this ideal is even self-contradictory will be shown in the next chapter.) He made it quite clear that we cannot start from nothing, and that we have to approach our task equipped with a system of presuppositions which we hold without having tested them by the empirical methods of science; such a system may be called a 'categorial apparatus' [3]. Kant believed that it was possible to discover the one true and unchanging categorial apparatus, which represents as it were the necessarily unchanging framework of our intellectual outfit, i.e. human 'reason'. This part of Kant's theory was given up by Hegel, who, as opposed to Kant, did not believe in the unity of mankind. He taught that man's intellectual outfit was constantly changing, and that it was part of his social heritage; accordingly the development of man's reason must coincide with the historical development of his society, i.e. of the nation to which he belongs. This theory of Hegel's, and especially his doctrine that all knowledge and all truth is 'relative' in the sense of being determined by history, is sometimes called 'historism' (in contradistinction to 'historicism', as mentioned in the last chapter). The sociology of knowledge or 'sociologism' is obviously very closely related to or nearly identical with it, the only difference being that, under the influence of Marx, it emphasizes that the historical development does not produce one uniform 'national spirit', as Hegel held, but rather several and sometimes opposed 'total ideologies' within one nation, according to the class, the social stratum, or the social habitat, of those who hold them.

But the likeness to Hegel goes further. I have said above that according to the sociology of knowledge, no intellectual bridge or compromise between different total ideologies is possible. But this radical scepticism is not really meant quite as seriously as it sounds. There is a way out of it, and the way is analogous to the Hegelian method of superseding the conflicts which preceded him in the history of philosophy. Hegel, a spirit freely poised above the whirlpool of the dissenting philosophies, reduced them all to mere components of the highest of syntheses, of his own system. Similarly, the sociologists of knowledge hold that the 'freely poised intelligence' of an intelligentsia which is only loosely anchored in social traditions may be able to avoid the pitfalls of the total ideologies; that it may even be able to see through, and to unveil, the various total ideologies and the hidden motives and other determinants which inspire them. Thus the sociology of knowledge believes that the highest degree of objectivity can be reached by the freely poised intelligence analysing the various hidden ideologies and their anchorage in the unconscious. The way to true knowledge appears to be the unveiling of unconscious assumptions, a kind of psycho-therapy, as it were, or if I may say so, a socio-therapy. Only he who has been socio-analysed or who has socio- analysed himself, and who is freed from this social complex, i.e. from his social ideology, can attain to the highest synthesis of objective knowledge.

In a previous chapter, when dealing with 'Vulgar Marxism' I mentioned a tendency which can be observed in a group of modern philosophies, the tendency to unveil the hidden motives behind our actions. The sociology of knowledge belongs to this group, together with psycho-analysis and certain philosophies which unveil the 'meaninglessness' of the tenets of their opponents [4]. The popularity of these views lies, I believe, in the ease with which they can be applied, and in the satisfaction which they confer on those who see through things, and through the follies of the unenlightened. This pleasure would be harmless, were it not that all these ideas are liable to destroy the intellectual basis of any discussion, by establishing what I have called [5] a 'reinforced dogmatism'. (Indeed, this is something rather similar to a 'total ideology'.) Hegelianism does it by declaring the admissibility and even fertility of contradictions. But if contradictions need not be avoided, then any criticism and any discussion becomes impossible since criticism always consists in pointing out contradictions either within the theory to be criticized, or between it and some facts of experience. The situation with psycho-analysis is similar: the psycho-analyst can always explain away any objections by showing that they are due to the repressions of the critic. And the philosophers of meaning, again, need only point out that what their opponents hold is meaningless, which will always be true, since 'meaninglessness' can be so defined that any discussion about it is by definition without meaning [6]. Marxists, in a like manner, are accustomed to explain the disagreement of an opponent by his class bias, and the sociologists of knowledge by his total ideology. Such methods are both easy to handle and good fun for those who handle them. But they clearly destroy the basis of rational discussion, and they must lead, ultimately, to anti-rationalism and mysticism.

In spite of these dangers, I do not see why I should entirely forgo the fun of handling these methods. For just like the psycho-analysts, the people to whom psycho-analysis applies best, [7] the socio-analysts invite the application of their own methods to themselves with an almost irresistible hospitality. For is not their description of an intelligentsia which is only loosely anchored in tradition a very neat description of their own social group? And is it not also clear that, assuming the theory of total ideologies to be correct, it would be part of every total ideology to believe that one's own group was free from bias, and was indeed that body of the elect which alone was capable of objectivity? Is it not, therefore, to be expected, always assuming the truth of this theory, that those who hold it will unconsciously deceive themselves by producing an amendment to the theory in order to establish the objectivity of their own views? Can we, then, take seriously their claim that by their sociological self-analysis they have reached a higher degree of objectivity; and their claim that socio-analysis can cast out a total ideology? But we could even ask whether the whole theory is not simply the expression of the class interest of this particular group; of an intelligentsia only loosely anchored in tradition, though just firmly enough to speak Hegelian as their mother tongue.

How little the sociologists of knowledge have succeeded in socio-therapy, that is to say, in eradicating their own total ideology, will be particularly obvious if we consider their relation to Hegel. For they have no idea that they are just repeating him; on the contrary, they believe not only that they have outgrown him, but also that they have successfully seen through him, socio-analysed him; and that they can now look at him, not from any particular social habitat, but objectively, from a superior elevation. This palpable failure in self-analysis tells us enough.

But, all joking apart, there are more serious objections. The sociology of knowledge is not only self-destructive, not only a rather gratifying object of socio-analysis, it also shows an astounding failure to understand precisely its main subject, the social aspects of knowledge, or rather, of scientific method. It looks upon science or knowledge as a process in the mind or 'consciousness' of the individual scientist, or perhaps as the product of such a process. If considered in this way, what we call scientific objectivity must indeed become completely ununderstandable, or even impossible; and not only in the social or political sciences, where class interests and similar hidden motives may play a part, but just as much in the natural sciences. Everyone who has an inkling of the history of the natural sciences is aware of the passionate tenacity which characterizes many of its quarrels. No amount of political partiality can influence political theories more strongly than the partiality shown by some natural scientists in favour of their intellectual offspring. If scientific objectivity were founded, as the sociologistic theory of knowledge naively assumes, upon the individual scientist's impartiality or objectivity, then we should have to say good-bye to it. Indeed, we must be in a way more radically sceptical than the sociology of knowledge; for there is no doubt that we are all suffering under our own system of prejudices (or 'total ideologies', if this term is preferred); that we all take many things as self-evident, that we accept them uncritically and even with the naive and cocksure belief that criticism is quite unnecessary; and scientists are no exception to this rule, even though they may have superficially purged themselves from some of their prejudices in their particular field. But they have not purged themselves by socio-analysis or any similar method; they have not attempted to climb to a higher plane from which they can understand, socio-analyse, and expurgate their ideological follies. For by making their minds more 'objective' they could not possibly attain to what we call 'scientific objectivity'. No, what we usually mean by this term rests on different grounds [8]. It is a matter of scientific method. And, ironically enough, objectivity is closely bound up with the social aspect of scientific method, with the fact that science and scientific objectivity do not (and cannot) result from the attempts of an individual scientist to be 'objective', but from the friendly-hostile cooperation of many scientists. Scientific objectivity can be described as the inter-subjectivity of scientific method. But this social aspect of science is almost entirely neglected by those who call themselves sociologists of knowledge.

Two aspects of the method of the natural sciences are of importance in this connection. Together they constitute what I may term the 'public character of scientific method'. First, there is something approaching free criticism. A scientist may offer his theory with the full conviction that it is unassailable. But this will not impress his fellow-scientists and competitors; rather it challenges them: they know that the scientific attitude means criticizing everything, and they are little deterred even by authorities. Secondly, scientists try to avoid talking at cross-purposes. (I may remind the reader that I am speaking of the natural sciences, but a part of modern economics may be included.) They try very seriously to speak one and the same language, even if they use different mother tongues. In the natural sciences this is achieved by recognizing experience as the impartial arbiter of their controversies. When speaking of 'experience' I have in mind experience of a 'public' character, like observations, and experiments, as opposed to experience in the sense of more 'private' aesthetic or religious experience; and an experience is 'public' if everybody who takes the trouble can repeat it. In order to avoid speaking at cross-purposes, scientists try to express their theories in such a form that they can be tested, i.e. refuted (or else corroborated) by such experience.

This is what constitutes scientific objectivity. Everyone who has learned the technique of understanding and testing scientific theories can repeat the experiment and judge for himself. In spite of this, there will always be some who come to judgements which are partial, or even cranky. This cannot be helped, and it does not seriously disturb the working of the various social institutions which have been designed to further scientific objectivity and criticism; for instance the laboratories, the scientific periodicals, the congresses. This aspect of scientific method shows what can be achieved by institutions designed to make public control possible, and by the open expression of public opinion, even if this is limited to a circle of specialists. Only political power, when it is used to suppress free criticism, or when it fails to protect it, can impair the functioning of these institutions, on which all progress, scientific, technological, and political, ultimately depends.

In order to elucidate further still this sadly neglected aspect of scientific method, we may consider the idea that it is advisable to characterize science by its methods rather than by its results. Let us first assume that a clairvoyant produces a book by dreaming it, or perhaps by automatic writing. Let us assume, further, that years later as a result of recent and revolutionary scientific discoveries, a great scientist (who has never seen that book) produces one precisely the same. Or to put it differently, we assume that the clairvoyant 'saw' a scientific book which could not then have been produced by a scientist owing to the fact that many relevant discoveries were still unknown at that date. We now ask: is it advisable to say that the clairvoyant produced a scientific book? We may assume that, if submitted at the time to the judgement of competent scientists, it would have been described as partly ununderstandable, and partly fantastic; thus we shall have to say that the clairvoyant's book was not when written a scientific work, since it was not the result of scientific method. I shall call such a result, which, though in agreement with some scientific results, is not the product of scientific method, a piece of 'revealed science'.

In order to apply these considerations to the problem of the publicity of scientific method, let us assume that Robinson Crusoe succeeded in building on his island physical and chemical laboratories, astronomical observatories, etc., and in writing a great number of papers, based throughout on observation and experiment. Let us even assume that he had unlimited time at his disposal, and that he succeeded in constructing and in describing scientific systems which actually coincide with the results accepted at present by our own scientists. Considering the character of this Crusonian science, some people will be inclined, at first sight, to assert that it is real science and not 'revealed science'. And, no doubt, it is very much more like science than the scientific book which was revealed to the clairvoyant, for Robinson Crusoe applied a good deal of scientific method. And yet, I assert that this Crusonian science is still of the 'revealed' kind; that there is an element of scientific method missing, and consequently, that the fact that Crusoe arrived at our results is nearly as accidental and miraculous as it was in the case of the clairvoyant. For there is nobody but himself to check his results; nobody but himself to correct those prejudices which are the unavoidable consequence of his peculiar mental history; nobody to help him to get rid of that strange blindness concerning the inherent possibilities of our own results which is a consequence of the fact that most of them are reached through comparatively irrelevant approaches. And concerning his scientific papers, it is only in attempts to explain his work to somebody who has not done it that he can acquire the discipline of clear and reasoned communication which too is part of scientific method. In one point — a comparatively unimportant one — is the 'revealed' character of the Crusonian science particularly obvious; I mean Crusoe's discovery of his 'personal equation' (for we must assume that he made this discovery), of the characteristic personal reaction-time affecting his astronomical observations. Of course it is conceivable that he discovered, say, changes in his reaction-time, and that he was led, in this way, to make allowances for it. But if we compare this way of finding out about reaction-time, with the way in which it was discovered in 'public' science — through the contradiction between the results of various observers — then the 'revealed' character of Robinson Crusoe's science becomes manifest.

To sum up these considerations, it may be said that what we call 'scientific objectivity' is not a product of the individual scientist's impartiality, but a product of the social or public character of scientific method; and the individual scientist's impartiality is, so far as it exists, not the source but rather the result of this socially or institutionally organized objectivity of science.

Both [9] Kantians and Hegelians make the same mistake of assuming that our presuppositions (since they are, to start with, undoubtedly indispensable instruments which we need in our active 'making' of experiences) can neither be changed by decision nor refuted by experience; that they are above and beyond the scientific methods of testing theories, constituting as they do the basic presuppositions of all thought. But this is an exaggeration, based on a misunderstanding of the relations between theory and experience in science. It was one of the greatest achievements of our time when Einstein showed that, in the light of experience, we may question and revise our pre-suppositions regarding even space and time, ideas which had been held to be necessary presuppositions of all science, and to belong to its 'categorial apparatus'. Thus the sceptical attack upon science launched by the sociology of knowledge breaks down in the light of scientific method. The empirical method has proved to be quite capable of taking care of itself.

But it does so not by eradicating our prejudices all at once; it can eliminate them only one by one. The classical case in point is again Einstein's discovery of our prejudices regarding time. Einstein did not set out to discover prejudices; he did not even set out to criticize our conceptions of space and time. His problem was a concrete problem of physics, the re-drafting of a theory that had broken down because of various experiments which in the light of the theory seemed to contradict one another. Einstein together with most physicists realized that this meant that the theory was false. And he found that if we alter it in a point which had so far been held by everybody to be self-evident and which had therefore escaped notice, then the difficulty could be removed. In other words, he just applied the methods of scientific criticism and of the invention and elimination of theories, of trial and error. But this method does not lead to the abandonment of all our prejudices; rather, we can discover the fact that we had a prejudice only after having got rid of it.

But it certainly has to be admitted that, at any given moment, our scientific theories will depend not only on the experiments, etc., made up to that moment, but also upon prejudices which are taken for granted, so that we have not become aware of them (although the application of certain logical methods may help us to detect them). At any rate, we can say in regard to this incrustation that science is capable of learning, of breaking down some of its crusts. The process may never be perfected, but there is no fixed barrier before which it must stop short. Any assumption can, in principle, be criticized. And that anybody may criticize constitutes scientific objectivity.

Scientific results are 'relative' (if this term is to be used at all) only in so far as they are the results of a certain stage of scientific development and liable to be superseded in the course of scientific progress. But this does not mean that truth is 'relative'. If an assertion is true, it is true for ever [10]. It only means that most scientific results have the character of hypotheses, i.e. statements for which the evidence is inconclusive, and which are therefore liable to revision at any time. These considerations (with which I have dealt more fully elsewhere [11]), though not necessary for a criticism of the sociologists, may perhaps help to further the understanding of their theories. They also throw some light, to come back to my main criticism, on the important role which co-operation, intersubjectivity, and the publicity of method play in scientific criticism and scientific progress.

It is true that the social sciences have not yet fully attained this publicity of method. This is due partly to the intelligence-destroying influence of Aristotle and Hegel, partly perhaps also to their failure to make use of the social instruments of scientific objectivity. Thus they are really 'total ideologies', or putting it differently, some social scientists are unable, and even unwilling, to speak a common language. But the reason is not class interest, and the cure is not a Hegelian dialectical synthesis, nor self-analysis. The only course open to the social sciences is to forget all about the verbal fire-works and to tackle the practical problems of our time with the help of the theoretical methods which are fundamentally the same in all sciences. I mean the methods of trial and error, of inventing hypotheses which can be practically tested, and of submitting them to practical tests. A social technology is needed whose results can be tested by piecemeal social engineering.

The cure here suggested for the social sciences is diametrically opposed to the one suggested by the sociology of knowledge. Sociologism believes that it is not their unpractical character, but rather the fact that practical and theoretical problems are too much intertwined in the field of social and political knowledge, that creates the methodological difficulties of these sciences. Thus we can read in a leading work on the sociology of knowledge [12]: 'The peculiarity of political knowledge, as opposed to "exact" knowledge, lies in the fact that knowledge and will, or the rational element and the range of the irrational, are inseparably and essentially intertwined.' To this we can reply that 'knowledge' and 'will' are, in a certain sense, always inseparable; and that this fact need not lead to any dangerous entanglement. No scientist can know without making an effort, without taking an interest; and in his effort there is usually even a certain amount of self-interest involved. The engineer studies things mainly from a practical point of view. So does the farmer. Practice is not the enemy of theoretical knowledge but the most valuable incentive to it. Though a certain amount of aloofness may be becoming to the scientist, there are many examples to show that it is not always important for a scientist to be thus disinterested. But it is important for him to remain in touch with reality, with practice, for those who overlook it have to pay by lapsing into scholasticism. Practical application of our findings is thus the means by which we may eliminate irrationalism from social science, and not any attempt to separate knowledge from 'will'.

As opposed to this, the sociology of knowledge hopes to reform the social sciences by making the social scientists aware of the social forces and ideologies which unconsciously beset them. But the main trouble about prejudices is that there is no such direct way of getting rid of them. For how shall we ever know that we have made any progress in our attempt to rid ourselves from prejudice? Is it not a common experience that those who are most convinced of having got rid of their prejudices are most prejudiced? The idea that a sociological or a psychological or an anthropological or any other study of prejudices may help us to rid ourselves of them is quite mistaken; for many who pursue these studies are full of prejudice; and not only does self-analysis not help us to overcome the unconscious determination of our views, it often leads to even more subtle self-deception. Thus we can read in the same work on the sociology of knowledge [13] the following references to its own activities: 'There is an increasing tendency towards making conscious the factors by which we have so far been unconsciously ruled . . . Those who fear that our increasing knowledge of determining factors may paralyse our decisions and threaten "freedom" should put their minds at rest. For only he is truly determined who does not know the most essential determining factors but acts immediately under the pressure of determinants unknown to him.' Now this is clearly just a repetition of a pet idea of Hegel's which Engels naively repeated when he said [14]: 'Freedom is the appreciation of necessity.' And it is a reactionary prejudice. For are those who act under the pressure of well-known determinants, for example, of a political tyranny, made free by their knowledge? Only Hegel could tell us such tales. But that the sociology of knowledge preserves this particular prejudice shows clearly enough that there is no possible short-cut to rid us of our ideologies. (Once a Hegelian, always a Hegelian.) Self-analysis is no substitute for those practical actions which are necessary for establishing the democratic institutions which alone can guarantee the freedom of critical thought, and the progress of science.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:08 am

Part 1 of 2

24: Oracular Philosophy and the Revolt Against Reason

Marx was a rationalist. With Socrates, and with Kant, he believed in human reason as the basis of the unity of mankind. But his doctrine that our opinions are determined by class interest hastened the decline of this belief. Like Hegel's doctrine that our ideas are determined by national interests and traditions, Marx's doctrine tended to undermine the rationalist belief in reason. Thus threatened both from the right and from the left, a rationalist attitude to social and economic questions could hardly resist when historicist prophecy and oracular irrationalism made a frontal attack on it. This is why the conflict between rationalism and irrationalism has become the most important intellectual, and perhaps even moral, issue of our time. I Since the terms 'reason' and 'rationalism' are vague, it will be necessary to explain roughly the way in which they are used here. First, they are used in a wide sense [1]; they are used to cover not only intellectual activity but also observation and experiment. It is necessary to keep this remark in mind, since 'reason' and 'rationalism' are often used in a different and more narrow sense, in opposition not to 'irrationalism' but to 'empiricism'; if used in this way, rationalism extols intelligence above observation and experiment, and might therefore be better described as 'intellectualism'. But when I speak here of 'rationalism', I use the word always in a sense which includes 'empiricism' as well as 'intellectualism'; just as science makes use of experiments as well as of thought. Secondly, I use the word 'rationalism' in order to indicate, roughly, an attitude that seeks to solve as many problems as possible by an appeal to reason, i.e. to clear thought and experience, rather than by an appeal to emotions and passions. This explanation, of course, is not very satisfactory, since all terms such as 'reason' or 'passion' are vague; we do not possess 'reason' or 'passions' in the sense in which we possess certain physical organs, for example, brains or a heart, or in the sense in which we possess certain 'faculties', for example, the power of speaking, or of gnashing our teeth.

In order therefore to be a little more precise, it may be better to explain rationalism in terms of practical attitudes or behaviour. We could then say that rationalism is an attitude of readiness to listen to critical arguments and to learn from experience. It is fundamentally an attitude of admitting that '/ may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth'. It is an attitude which does not lightly give up hope that by such means as argument and careful observation, people may reach some kind of agreement on many problems of importance; and that, even where their demands and their interests clash, it is often possible to argue about the various demands and proposals, and to reach — perhaps by arbitration — a compromise which, because of its equity, is acceptable to most, if not to all. In short, the rationalist attitude, or, as I may perhaps label it, the 'attitude of reasonableness', is very similar to the scientific attitude, to the belief that in the search for truth we need co-operation, and that, with the help of argument, we can in time attain something like objectivity.

It is of some interest to analyse this resemblance between this attitude of reasonableness and that of science more fully. In the last chapter, I tried to explain the social aspect of scientific method with the help of the fiction of a scientific Robinson Crusoe. An exactly analogous consideration can show the social character of reasonableness, as opposed to intellectual gifts, or cleverness. Reason, like language, can be said to be a product of social life. A Robinson Crusoe (marooned in early childhood) might be clever enough to master many difficult situations; but he would invent neither language nor the art of argumentation. Admittedly, we often argue with ourselves; but we are accustomed to do so only because we have learned to argue with others, and because we have learned in this way that the argument counts, rather than the person arguing. (This last consideration cannot, of course, tip the scales when we argue with ourselves.) Thus we can say that we owe our reason, like our language, to intercourse with other men.

The fact that the rationalist attitude considers the argument rather than the person arguing is of far-reaching importance. It leads to the view that we must recognize everybody with whom we communicate as a potential source of argument and of reasonable information; it thus establishes what may be described as the 'rational unity of mankind'.

In a way, our analysis of 'reason' may be said to resemble slightly that of Hegel and the Hegelians, who consider reason as a social product and indeed as a kind of department of the soul or the spirit of society (for example, of the nation, or the class) and who emphasize, under the influence of Burke, our indebtedness to our social heritage, and our nearly complete dependence on it. Admittedly, there is some similarity. But there are very considerable differences also. Hegel and the Hegelians are collectivists. They argue that, since we owe our reason to 'society' — or to a certain society such as a nation — 'society' is everything and the individual nothing; or that whatever value the individual possesses is derived from the collective, the real carrier of all values. As opposed to this, the position presented here does not assume the existence of collectives; if I say, for example, that we owe our reason to 'society', then I always mean that we owe it to certain concrete individuals — though perhaps to a considerable number of anonymous individuals — and to our intellectual intercourse with them. Therefore, in speaking of a 'social' theory of reason (or of scientific method), I mean more precisely that the theory is an inter-personal one, and never that it is a collectivist theory. Certainly we owe a great deal to tradition, and tradition is very important, but the term 'tradition' also has to be analysed into concrete personal relations [2]. And if we do this, then we can get rid of that attitude which considers every tradition as sacrosanct, or as valuable in itself, replacing this by an attitude which considers traditions as valuable or pernicious, as the case may be, according to their influence upon individuals. We thus may realize that each of us (by way of example and criticism) may contribute to the growth or the suppression of such traditions.

The position here adopted is very different from the popular, originally Platonic, view of reason as a kind of 'faculty', which may be possessed and developed by different men in vastly different degrees. Admittedly, intellectual gifts may be different in this way, and they may contribute to reasonableness; but they need not. Clever men may be very unreasonable; they may cling to their prejudices and may not expect to hear anything worth while from others. According to our view, however, we not only owe our reason to others, but we can never excel others in our reasonableness in a way that would establish a claim to authority; authoritarianism and rationalism in our sense cannot be reconciled, since argument, which includes criticism, and the art of listening to criticism, is the basis of reasonableness. Thus rationalism in our sense is diametrically opposed to all those modern Platonic dreams of brave new worlds in which the growth of reason would be controlled or 'planned' by some superior reason. Reason, like science, grows by way of mutual criticism; the only possible way of 'planning' its growth is to develop those institutions that safeguard the freedom of this criticism, that is to say, the freedom of thought. It may be remarked that Plato, even though his theory is authoritarian, and demands the strict control of the growth of human reason in his guardians (as has been shown especially in chapter 8), pays tribute, by his manner of writing, to our inter-personal theory of reason; for most of his earlier dialogues describe arguments conducted in a very reasonable spirit.

My way of using the term 'rationalism' may become a little clearer, perhaps, if we distinguish between a true rationalism and a false or a pseudo-rationalism. What I shall call the 'true rationalism' is the rationalism of Socrates. It is the awareness of one's limitations, the intellectual modesty of those who know how often they err, and how much they depend on others even for this knowledge. It is the realization that we must not expect too much from reason; that argument rarely settles a question, although it is the only means for learning — not to see clearly, but to see more clearly than before.

What I shall call 'pseudo-rationalism' is the intellectual intuitionism of Plato. It is the immodest belief in one's superior intellectual gifts, the claim to be initiated, to know with certainty, and with authority. According to Plato, opinion — even 'true opinion', as we can read in the Timaeus [3] — 'is shared by all men; but reason' (or 'intellectual intuition') 'is shared only by the gods, and by very few men'. This authoritarian intellectualism, this belief in the possession of an infallible instrument of discovery, or an infallible method, this failure to distinguish between a man's intellectual powers and his indebtedness to others for all he can possibly know or understand, this pseudo-rationalism is often called 'rationalism', but it is diametrically opposed to what we call by this name.

My analysis of the rationalist attitude is undoubtedly very incomplete, and, I readily admit, a little vague; but it will suffice for our purpose. In a similar way I shall now describe irrationalism, indicating at the same time how an irrationalist is likely to defend it.

The irrationalist attitude may be developed along the following lines. Though perhaps recognizing reason and scientific argument as tools that may do well enough if we wish to scratch the surface of things, or as means to serve some irrational end, the irrationalist will insist that 'human nature' is in the main not rational. Man, he holds, is more than a rational animal, and also less. In order to see that he is less, we need only consider how small is the number of men who are capable of argument; this is why, according to the irrationalist, the majority of men will always have to be tackled by an appeal to their emotions and passions rather than by an appeal to their reason. But man is also more than just a rational animal, since all that really matters in his life goes beyond reason. Even the few scientists who take reason and science seriously are bound to their rationalist attitude merely because they love it. Thus even in these rare cases, it is the emotional make-up of man and not his reason that determines his attitude. Moreover, it is his intuition, his mystical insight into the nature of things, rather than his reasoning which makes a great scientist. Thus rationalism cannot offer an adequate interpretation even of the apparently rational activity of the scientist. But since the scientific field is exceptionally favourable to a rationalist interpretation, we must expect that rationalism will fail even more conspicuously when it tries to deal with other fields of human activity. And this expectation, so the irrationalist will continue his argument, proves to be quite accurate. Leaving aside the lower aspects of human nature, we may look to one of its highest, to the fact that man can be creative. It is the small creative minority of men who really matter; the men who create works of art or of thought, the founders of religions, and the great statesmen. These few exceptional individuals allow us to glimpse the real greatness of man. But although these leaders of mankind know how to make use of reason for their purposes, they are never men of reason. Their roots lie deeper — deep in their instincts and impulses, and in those of the society of which they are parts. Creativeness is an entirely irrational, a mystical faculty . . .


The issue between rationalism and irrationalism is of long standing. Although Greek philosophy undoubtedly started off as a rationalist undertaking, there were streaks of mysticism even in its first beginnings. It is (as hinted in chapter 10) the yearning for the lost unity and shelter of tribalism which expresses itself in these mystical elements within a fundamentally rational approach [4]. An open conflict between rationalism and irrationalism broke out for the first time in the Middle Ages, as the opposition between scholasticism and mysticism. (It is perhaps not without interest that rationalism flourished in the former Roman provinces, while men from the 'barbarian' countries were prominent among the mystics.) In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, when the tide of rationalism, of intellectualism, and of 'materialism' was rising, irrationalists had to pay some attention to it, to argue against it; and by exhibiting its limitations, and exposing the immodest claims and dangers of pseudo-rationalism (which they did not distinguish from rationalism in our sense), some of these critics, notably Burke, have earned the gratitude of all true rationalists. But the tide has now turned, and 'profoundly significant allusions ... and allegories' (as Kant puts it) have become the fashion of the day. An oracular irrationalism has established (especially with Bergson and the majority of German philosophers and intellectuals) the habit of ignoring or at best deploring the existence of such an inferior being as a rationalist. To them the rationalists — or the 'materialists', as they often say — and especially, the rationalist scientist, are the poor in spirit, pursuing soulless and largely mechanical activities [5], and completely unaware of the deeper problems of human destiny and of its philosophy. And the rationalists usually reciprocate by dismissing irrationalism as sheer nonsense. Never before has the break been so complete. And the break in the diplomatic relations of the philosophers proved its significance when it was followed by a break in the diplomatic relations of the states.

In this issue, I am entirely on the side of rationalism. This is so much the case that even where I feel that rationalism has gone too far I still sympathize with it, holding as I do that an excess in this direction (as long as we exclude the intellectual immodesty of Plato's pseudo- rationalism) is harmless indeed as compared with an excess in the other. In my opinion, the only way in which excessive rationalism is likely to prove harmful is that it tends to undermine its own position and thus to further an irrationalist reaction. It is only this danger which induces me to examine the claims of an excessive rationalism more closely and to advocate a modest and self-critical rationalism which recognizes certain limitations. Accordingly, I shall distinguish in what follows between two rationalist positions, which I label 'critical rationalism' and 'uncritical rationalism' or 'comprehensive rationalism'. (This distinction is independent of the previous one between a 'true' and a 'false' rationalism, even though a 'true' rationalism in my sense will hardly be other than critical.)

Uncritical or comprehensive rationalism can be described as the attitude of the person who says 'I am not prepared to accept anything that cannot be defended by means of argument or experience'. We can express this also in the form of the principle that any assumption which cannot be supported either by argument or by experience is to be discarded [6]. Now it is easy to see that this principle of an uncritical rationalism is inconsistent; for since it cannot, in its turn, be supported by argument or by experience, it implies that it should itself be discarded. (It is analogous to the paradox of the liar [7], i.e. to a sentence which asserts its own falsity.) Uncritical rationalism is therefore logically untenable; and since a purely logical argument can show this, uncritical rationalism can be defeated by its own chosen weapon, argument.

This criticism may be generalized. Since all argument must proceed from assumptions, it is plainly impossible to demand that all assumptions should be based on argument. The demand raised by many philosophers that we should start with no assumption whatever and never assume anything about 'sufficient reason', and even the weaker demand that we should start with a very small set of assumptions ('categories'), are both in this form inconsistent. For they themselves rest upon the truly colossal assumption that it is possible to start without, or with only a few assumptions, and still to obtain results that are worth while. (Indeed, this principle of avoiding all presuppositions is not, as some may think, a counsel of perfection, but a form of the paradox of the liar [8].)

Now all this is a little abstract, but it may be restated in connection with the problem of rationalism in a less formal way. The rationalist attitude is characterized by the importance it attaches to argument and experience. But neither logical argument nor experience can establish the rationalist attitude; for only those who are ready to consider argument or experience, and who have therefore adopted this attitude already, will be impressed by them. That is to say, a rationalist attitude must be first adopted if any argument or experience is to be effective, and it cannot therefore be based upon argument or experience. (And this consideration is quite independent of the question whether or not there exist any convincing rational arguments which favour the adoption of the rationalist attitude.) We have to conclude from this that no rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude. Thus a comprehensive rationalism is untenable.

But this means that whoever adopts the rationalist attitude does so because he has adopted, consciously or unconsciously, some proposal, or decision, or belief, or behaviour; an adoption which may be called 'irrational'. Whether this adoption is tentative or leads to a settled habit, we may describe it as an irrational faith in reason. So rationalism is necessarily far from comprehensive or self-contained. This has frequently been overlooked by rationalists who thus exposed themselves to a beating in their own field and by their own favourite weapon whenever an irrationalist took the trouble to turn it against them. And indeed it did not escape the attention of some enemies of rationalism that one can always refuse to accept arguments, either all arguments or those of a certain kind; and that such an attitude can be carried through without becoming logically inconsistent. This led them to see that the uncritical rationalist who believes that rationalism is self-contained and can be established by argument must be wrong. Irrationalism is logically superior to uncritical rationalism.

Then why not adopt irrationalism? Many who started as rationalists but were disillusioned by the discovery that a too comprehensive rationalism defeats itself have indeed practically capitulated to irrationalism. (This is what has happened to Whitehead [9], if I am not quite mistaken.) But such panic action is entirely uncalled for. Although an uncritical and comprehensive rationalism is logically untenable, and although a comprehensive irrationalism is logically tenable, this is no reason why we should adopt the latter. For there are other tenable attitudes, notably that of critical rationalism which recognizes the fact that the fundamental rationalist attitude results from an (at least tentative) act of faith — from faith in reason. Accordingly, our choice is open. We may choose some form of irrationalism, even some radical or comprehensive form. But we are also free to choose a critical form of rationalism, one which frankly admits its origin in an irrational decision (and which, to that extent, admits a certain priority of irrationalism).


The choice before us is not simply an intellectual affair, or a matter of taste. It is a moral decision [10] (in the sense of chapter 5). For the question whether we adopt some more or less radical form of irrationalism, or whether we adopt that minimum concession to irrationalism which I have termed 'critical rationalism', will deeply affect our whole attitude towards other men, and towards the problems of social life. It has already been said that rationalism is closely connected with the belief in the unity of mankind. Irrationalism, which is not bound by any rules of consistency, may be combined with any kind of belief, including a belief in the brotherhood of man; but the fact that it may easily be combined with a very different belief, and especially the fact that it lends itself easily to the support of a romantic belief in the existence of an elect body, in the division of men into leaders and led, into natural masters and natural slaves, shows clearly that a moral decision is involved in the choice between it and a critical rationalism.

As we have seen before (in chapter 5), and now again in our analysis of the uncritical version of rationalism, arguments cannot determine such a fundamental moral decision. But this does not imply that our choice cannot be helped by any kind of argument whatever. On the contrary, whenever we are faced with a moral decision of a more abstract kind, it is most helpful to analyse carefully the consequences which are likely to result from the alternatives between which we have to choose. For only if we can visualize these consequences in a concrete and practical way, do we really know what our decision is about; otherwise we decide blindly. In order to illustrate this point, I may quote a passage from Shaw's Saint Joan. The speaker is the Chaplain; he has stubbornly demanded Joan's death; but when he sees her at the stake, he breaks down: 'I meant no harm. I did not know what it would be like ... I did not know what I was doing ... If I had known, I would have torn her from their hands. You don't know. You haven't seen: it is so easy to talk when you don't know. You madden yourself with words . . . But when it is brought home to you; when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then — then — O God, take away this sight from me!' There were, of course, other figures in Shaw's play who knew exactly what they were doing, and yet decided to do it; and who did not regret it afterwards. Some people dislike seeing their fellow men burning at the stake, and others do not. This point (which was neglected by many Victorian optimists) is important, for it shows that a rational analysis of the consequences of a decision does not make the decision rational; the consequences do not determine our decision; it is always we who decide. But an analysis of the concrete consequences, and their clear realization in what we call our 'imagination', makes the difference between a blind decision and a decision made with open eyes; and since we use our imagination very little [11], we only too often decide blindly. This is especially so if we are intoxicated by an oracular philosophy, one of the most powerful means of maddening ourselves with words — to use Shaw's expression.

The rational and imaginative analysis of the consequences of a moral theory has a certain analogy in scientific method. For in science, too, we do not accept an abstract theory because it is convincing in itself; we rather decide to accept or reject it after we have investigated those concrete and practical consequences which can be more directly tested by experiment. But there is a fundamental difference. In the case of a scientific theory, our decision depends upon the results of experiments. If these confirm the theory, we may accept it until we find a better one. If they contradict the theory, we reject it. But in the case of a moral theory, we can only confront its consequences with our conscience. And while the verdict of experiments does not depend upon ourselves, the verdict of our conscience does.

I hope I have made it clear in which sense the analysis of consequences may influence our decision without determining it. And in presenting the consequences of the two alternatives between which we must decide, rationalism and irrationalism, I warn the reader that I shall be partial. So far, in presenting the two alternatives of the moral decision before us — it is, in many senses, the most fundamental decision in the ethical field — I have tried to be impartial, although I have not hidden my sympathies. But now I am going to present those considerations of the consequences of the two alternatives which appear to me most telling, and by which I myself have been influenced in rejecting irrationalism and accepting the faith in reason.

Let us examine the consequences of irrationalism first. The irrationalist insists that emotions and passions rather than reason are the mainsprings of human action. To the rationalist's reply that, though this may be so, we should do what we can to remedy it, and should try to make reason play as large a part as it possibly can, the irrationalist would rejoin (if he condescends to a discussion) that this attitude is hopelessly unrealistic. For it does not consider the weakness of 'human nature', the feeble intellectual endowment of most and their obvious dependence upon emotions and passions.

It is my firm conviction that this irrational emphasis upon emotion and passion leads ultimately to what I can only describe as crime. One reason for this opinion is that this attitude, which is at best one of resignation towards the irrational nature of human beings, at worst one of scorn for human reason, must lead to an appeal to violence and brutal force as the ultimate arbiter in any dispute. For if a dispute arises, then this means that those more constructive emotions and passions which might in principle help to get over it, reverence, love, devotion to a common cause, etc., have shown themselves incapable of solving the problem. But if that is so, then what is left to the irrationalist except the appeal to other and less constructive emotions and passions, to fear, hatred, envy, and ultimately, to violence? This tendency is very much strengthened by another and perhaps even more important attitude which also is in my opinion inherent in irrationalism, namely, the stress on the inequality of men.

It cannot, of course, be denied that human individuals are, like all other things in our world, in very many respects very unequal. Nor can it be doubted that this inequality is of great importance and even in many respects highly desirable [12]. (The fear that the development of mass production and collectivization may react upon men by destroying their inequality or individuality is one of the nightmares [13] of our times.) But all this simply has no bearing upon the question whether or not we should decide to treat men, especially in political issues, as equals, or as much like equals as is possible; that is to say, as possessing equal rights, and equal claims to equal treatment; and it has no bearing upon the question whether we ought to construct political institutions accordingly. 'Equality before the law' is not a fact but a political demand [14] based upon a moral decision', and it is quite independent of the theory — which is probably false — that 'all men are born equal'. Now I do not intend to say that the adoption of this humanitarian attitude of impartiality is a direct consequence of a decision in favour of rationalism. But a tendency towards impartiality is closely related to rationalism, and can hardly be excluded from the rationalist creed. Again, I do not intend to say that an irrationalist could not consistently adopt an equalitarian or impartial attitude; and even if he could not do so consistently, he is not bound to be consistent. But I do wish to stress the fact that the irrationalist attitude can hardly avoid becoming entangled with the attitude that is opposed to equalitarianism. This fact is connected with its emphasis upon emotions and passions; for we cannot feel the same emotions towards everybody. Emotionally, we all divide men into those who are near to us, and those who are far from us. The division of mankind into friend and foe is a most obvious emotional division; and this division is even recognized in the Christian commandment, 'Love thy enemies!' Even the best Christian who really lives up to this commandment (there are not many, as is shown by the attitude of the average good Christian towards 'materialists' and 'atheists'), even he cannot feel equal love for all men. We cannot really love 'in the abstract'; we can love only those whom we know. Thus the appeal even to our best emotions, love and compassion, can only tend to divide mankind into different categories. And this will be more true if the appeal is made to lesser emotions and passions. Our 'natural' reaction will be to divide mankind into friend and foe; into those who belong to our tribe, to our emotional community, and those who stand outside it; into believers and unbelievers; into compatriots and aliens; into class comrades and class enemies; and into leaders and led.

I have mentioned before that the theory that our thoughts and opinions are dependent upon our class situation, or upon our national interests, must lead to irrationalism. I now wish to emphasize the fact that the opposite is also true. The abandonment of the rationalist attitude, of the respect for reason and argument and the other fellow's point of view, the stress upon the 'deeper' layers of human nature, all this must lead to the view that thought is merely a somewhat superficial manifestation of what lies within these irrational depths. It must nearly always, I believe, produce an attitude which considers the person of the thinker instead of his thought. It must produce the belief that 'we think with our blood', or 'with our national heritage', or 'with our class'. This view may be presented in a materialist form or in a highly spiritual fashion; the idea that we 'think with our race' may perhaps be replaced by the idea of elect or inspired souls who 'think by God's grace'. I refuse, on moral grounds, to be impressed by these differences; for the decisive similarity between all these intellectually immodest views is that they do not judge a thought on its own merits. By thus abandoning reason, they split mankind into friends and foes; into the few who share in reason with the gods, and the many who don't (as Plato says); into the few who stand near and the many who stand far; into those who speak the untranslatable language of our own emotions and passions and those whose tongue is not our tongue. Once we have done this, political equalitarianism becomes practically impossible.

Now the adoption of an anti-equalitarian attitude in political life, i.e. in the field of problems concerned with the power of man over man, is just what I should call criminal. For it offers a justification of the attitude that different categories of people have different rights; that the master has the right to enslave the slave; that some men have the right to use others as their tools. Ultimately, it will be used, as in Plato [15], to justify murder.

I do not overlook the fact that there are irrationalists who love mankind, and that not all forms of irrationalism engender criminality. But I hold that he who teaches that not reason but love should rule opens the way for those who rule by hate. (Socrates, I believe, saw something of this when he suggested [16] that mistrust or hatred of argument is related to mistrust or hatred of man.) Those who do not see this connection at once, who believe in a direct rule of emotional love, should consider that love as such certainly does not promote impartiality. And it cannot do away with conflict either. That love as such may be unable to settle a conflict can be shown by considering a harmless test case, which may pass as representative of more serious ones. Tom likes the theatre and Dick likes dancing. Tom lovingly insists on going to a dance while Dick wants for Tom's sake to go to the theatre. This conflict cannot be settled by love; rather, the greater the love, the stronger will be the conflict. There are only two solutions; one is the use of emotion, and ultimately of violence, and the other is the use of reason, of impartiality, of reasonable compromise. All this is not intended to indicate that I do not appreciate the difference between love and hate, or that I think that life would be worth living without love. (And I am quite prepared to admit that the Christian idea of love is not meant in a purely emotional way.) But I insist that no emotion, not even love, can replace the rule of institutions controlled by reason.

This, of course, is not the only argument against the idea of a rule of love. Loving a person means wishing to make him happy. (This, by the way, was Thomas Aquinas' definition of love.) But of all political ideals, that of making the people happy is perhaps the most dangerous one. It leads invariably to the attempt to impose our scale of 'higher' values upon others, in order to make them realize what seems to us of greatest importance for their happiness; in order, as it were, to save their souls. It leads to Utopianism and Romanticism. We all feel certain that everybody would be happy in the beautiful, the perfect community of our dreams. And no doubt, there would be heaven on earth if we could all love one another. But, as I have said before (in chapter 9), the attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell. It leads to intolerance. It leads to religious wars, and to the saving of souls through the inquisition. And it is, I believe, based on a complete misunderstanding of our moral duties. It is our duty to help those who need our help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intentions. The political demand for piecemeal (as opposed to Utopian) methods corresponds to the decision that the fight against suffering must be considered a duty, while the right to care for the happiness of others must be considered a privilege confined to the close circle of their friends. In their case, we may perhaps have a certain right to try to impose our scale of values — our preferences regarding music, for example. (And we may even feel it our duty to open to them a world of values which, we trust, can so much contribute to their happiness.) This right of ours exists only if, and because, they can get rid of us; because friendships can be ended. But the use of political means for imposing our scale of values upon others is a very different matter. Pain, suffering, injustice, and their prevention, these are the eternal problems of public morals, the 'agenda' of public policy (as Bentham would have said). The 'higher' values should very largely be considered as 'non-agenda', and should be left to the realm of laissez-faire. Thus we might say: help your enemies; assist those in distress, even if they hate you; but love only your friends.

This is only part of the case against irrationalism, and of the consequences which induce me to adopt the opposite attitude, that is, a critical rationalism. This latter attitude with its emphasis upon argument and experience, with its device 'I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth', is, as mentioned before, closely akin to the scientific attitude. It is bound up with the idea that everybody is liable to make mistakes, which may be found out by himself, or by others, or by himself with the assistance of the criticism of others. It therefore suggests the idea that nobody should be his own judge, and it suggests the idea of impartiality. (This is closely related to the idea of 'scientific objectivity' as analysed in the previous chapter.) Its faith in reason is not only a faith in our own reason, but also — and even more — in that of others. Thus a rationalist, even if he believes himself to be intellectually superior to others, will reject all claims to authority [17] since he is aware that, if his intelligence is superior to that of others (which is hard for him to judge), it is so only in so far as he is capable of learning from criticism as well as from his own and other people's mistakes, and that one can learn in this sense only if one takes others and their arguments seriously. Rationalism is therefore bound up with the idea that the other fellow has a right to be heard, and to defend his arguments. It thus implies the recognition of the claim to tolerance, at least [18] of all those who are not intolerant themselves. One does not kill a man when one adopts the attitude of first listening to his arguments. (Kant was right when he based the 'Golden Rule' on the idea of reason. To be sure, it is impossible to prove the rightness of any ethical principle, or even to argue in its favour in just the manner in which we argue in favour of a scientific statement. Ethics is not a science. But although there is no 'rational scientific basis' of ethics, there is an ethical basis of science, and of rationalism.) Also the idea of impartiality leads to that of responsibility; we have not only to listen to arguments, but we have a duty to respond, to answer, where our actions affect others. Ultimately, in this way, rationalism is linked up with the recognition of the necessity of social institutions to protect freedom of criticism, freedom of thought, and thus the freedom of men. And it establishes something like a moral obligation towards the support of these institutions. This is why rationalism is closely linked up with the political demand for practical social engineering — piecemeal engineering, of course — in the humanitarian sense, with the demand for the rationalization of society [19], for planning for freedom, and for its control by reason; not by 'science', not by a Platonic, a pseudo-rational authority, but by that Socratic reason which is aware of its limitations, and which therefore respects the other man and does not aspire to coerce him — not even into happiness. The adoption of rationalism implies, moreover, that there is a common medium of communication, a common language of reason; it establishes something like a moral obligation towards that language, the obligation to keep up its standards of clarity [20] and to use it in such a way that it can retain its function as the vehicle of argument. That is to say, to use it plainly; to use it as an instrument of rational communication, of significant information, rather than as a means of 'self-expression', as the vicious romantic jargon of most of our educationists has it. (It is characteristic of the modern romantic hysteria that it combines a Hegelian collectivism concerning 'reason' with an excessive individualism concerning 'emotions': thus the emphasis on language as a means of self-expression instead of a means of communication. Both attitudes, of course, are parts of the revolt against reason.) And it implies the recognition that mankind is united by the fact that our different mother tongues, in so far as they are rational, can be translated into one another. It recognizes the unity of human reason.

A few remarks may be added concerning the relation of the rationalist attitude to the attitude of readiness to use what is usually called 'imagination'. It is frequently assumed that imagination has a close affinity with emotion and therefore with irrationalism, and that rationalism rather tends towards an unimaginative dry scholasticism. I do not know whether such a view may have some psychological basis, and I rather doubt it. But my interests are institutional rather than psychological, and from an institutional point of view (as well as from that of method) it appears that rationalism must encourage the use of imagination because it needs it, while irrationalism must tend to discourage it. The very fact that rationalism is critical, whilst irrationalism must tend towards dogmatism (where there is no argument, nothing is left but full acceptance or flat denial), leads in this direction.

Criticism always demands a certain degree of imagination, whilst dogmatism suppresses it. Similarly, scientific research and technical construction and invention are inconceivable without a very considerable use of imagination; one must offer something new in these fields (as opposed to the field of oracular philosophy where an endless repetition of impressive words seems to do the trick). At least as important is the part played by imagination in the practical application of equalitarianism and of impartiality. The basic attitude of the rationalist, 'I may be wrong and you may be right', demands, when put into practice, and especially when human conflicts are involved, a real effort of our imagination. I admit that the emotions of love and compassion may sometimes lead to a similar effort. But I hold that it is humanly impossible for us to love, or to suffer with, a great number of people; nor does it appear to me very desirable that we should, since it would ultimately destroy either our ability to help or the intensity of these very emotions. But reason, supported by imagination, enables us to understand that men who are far away, whom we shall never see, are like ourselves, and that their relations to one another are like our relations to those we love. A direct emotional attitude towards the abstract whole of mankind seems to me hardly possible. We can love mankind only in certain concrete individuals. But by the use of thought and imagination, we may become ready to help all who need our help.

All these considerations show, I believe, that the link between rationalism and humanitarianism is very close, and certainly much closer than the corresponding entanglement of irrationalism with the anti- equalitarian and anti-humanitarian attitude. I believe that as far as possible this result is corroborated by experience. A rationalist attitude seems to be usually combined with a basically equalitarian and humanitarian outlook; irrationalism, on the other hand, exhibits in most cases at least some of the anti-equalitarian tendencies described, even though it may often be associated with humanitarianism also. My point is that the latter connection is anything but well founded.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:08 am

Part 2 of 2


I have tried to analyse those consequences of rationalism and irrationalism which induce me to decide as I do. I wish to repeat that the decision is largely a moral decision. It is the decision to try to take argument seriously. This is the difference between the two views; for irrationalism will use reason too, but without any feeling of obligation; it will use it or discard it as it pleases. But I believe that the only attitude which I can consider to be morally right is one which recognizes that we owe it to other men to treat them and ourselves as rational.

Considered in this way, my counter-attack upon irrationalism is a moral attack. The intellectualist who finds our rationalism much too commonplace for his taste, and who looks out for the latest esoteric intellectual fashion, which he discovers in the admiration of medieval mysticism, is not, one fears, doing his duty by his fellow men. He may think himself and his subtle taste superior to our 'scientific age', to an 'age of industrialization' which carries its brainless division of labour and its 'mechanization' and 'materialization' even into the field of human thought [21]. But he only shows that he is incapable of appreciating the moral forces inherent in modern science. The attitude I am attacking can perhaps be illustrated by the following passage which I take from A. Keller [22]: a passage that seems to me a typical expression of this romantic hostility towards science: 'We seem to be entering upon a new era where the human soul is regaining its mystical and religious faculties, and protesting, by inventing new myths, against the materialization and mechanization of life. The mind suffered when it had to serve humanity as technician, as chauffeur; it is reawakening again as poet and prophet, obeying the command and leadership of dreams which seem to be quite as wise and reliable as, but more inspiring and stimulating than, intellectual wisdom and scientific programmes. The myth of revolution is a reaction against the unimaginative banality and conceited self- sufficiency of bourgeois society and of an old tired culture. It is the adventure of men who have lost all security and are embarking on dreams instead of concrete facts.' In analysing this passage I wish first, but only in passing, to draw attention to its typical historicist character and to its moral futurism [23] ('entering a new era', 'old and tired culture', etc.). But more important even than to realize the technique of the word-magic which the passage uses is to ask whether what it says is true. Is it true that our soul protests against the materialization and mechanization of our life, that it protests against the progress we have made in the fight against the untold suffering through hunger and pestilence which characterized the Middle Ages? Is it true that the mind suffered when it had to serve humanity as a technician, and was it happier to serve as a serf or a slave? I do not intend to belittle the very serious problem of purely mechanical work, of a drudgery which is felt to be meaningless, and which destroys the creative power of the workers; but the only practical hope lies, not in a return to slavery and serfdom, but in an attempt to make machinery take over this mechanical drudgery. Marx was right in insisting that increased productivity is the only reasonable hope of humanizing labour, and of further shortening the labour day. (Besides, I do not think that the mind always suffers when it has to serve humanity as a technician; I suspect that often enough, the 'technicians', including the great inventors and the great scientists, rather enjoyed it, and that they were just as adventurous as the mystics.) And who believes that the 'command and leadership of dreams', as dreamt by our contemporary prophets, dreamers, and leaders, are really 'quite as wise and reliable as intellectual wisdom and scientific programmes'? But we need only turn to the 'myth of revolution', etc., in order to see more clearly what we are facing here. It is a typical expression of the romantic hysteria and the radicalism produced by the dissolution of the tribe and by the strain of civilization (as I have described it in chapter 10). This kind of 'Christianity' which recommends the creation of myth as a substitute for Christian responsibility is a tribal Christianity. It is a Christianity that refuses to carry the cross of being human. Beware of these false prophets! What they are after, without being aware of it, is the lost unity of tribalism. And the return to the closed society which they advocate is the return to the cage, and to the beasts [24].

It may be useful to consider how the adherents of this kind of romanticism are likely to react to such criticism. Arguments will hardly be offered; since it is impossible to discuss such profundities with a rationalist, the most likely reaction will be a high-handed withdrawal, combined with the assertion that there is no language common to those whose souls have not yet 'regained their mystical faculties', and those whose souls possess such faculties. Now this reaction is analogous to that of the psycho-analyst (mentioned in the last chapter) who defeats his opponents not by replying to their arguments but by pointing out that their repressions prevent them from accepting psycho-analysis. It is analogous also to that of the socio-analyst who points out that the total ideologies of his opponents prevent them from accepting the sociology of knowledge. This method, as I admitted before, is good fun for those who practise it. But we can see here more clearly that it must lead to the irrational division of men into those who are near to us and those who are far from us. This division is present in every religion, but it is comparatively harmless in Mohammedanism, Christianity, or the rationalist faith, which all see in every man a potential convert, and the same may be said of psycho-analysis, which sees in every man a potential object of treatment (only that in the last case the fee for conversion constitutes a serious obstacle). But the division is getting less harmless when we proceed to the sociology of knowledge. The socio-analyst claims that only certain intellectuals can get rid of their total ideology, can be freed from 'thinking with their class'; he thus gives up the idea of a potential rational unity of man, and delivers himself body and soul to irrationalism. And this situation gets very much worse when we proceed to the biological or naturalist version of this theory, to the racial doctrine that we 'think with our blood' or that we 'think with our race'. But at least as dangerous, since more subtle, is the same idea when it appears in the cloak of a religious mysticism; not in the mysticism of the poet or musician, but in that of the Hegelianizing intellectualist who persuades himself and his followers that their thoughts are endowed, because of special grace, with 'mystical and religious faculties' not possessed by others, and who thus claim that they 'think by God's grace'. This claim with its gentle allusion to those who do not possess God's grace, this attack upon the potential spiritual unity of mankind, is, in my opinion, as pretentious, blasphemous and anti-Christian, as it believes itself to be humble, pious, and Christian.

As opposed to the intellectual irresponsibility of a mysticism which escapes into dreams and of an oracular philosophy which escapes into verbiage, modern science enforces upon our intellect the discipline of practical tests. Scientific theories can be tested by their practical consequences. The scientist, in his own field, is responsible for what he says; you can know him by his fruits, and thus distinguish him from the false prophets [25]. One of the few who have appreciated this aspect of science is the Christian philosopher J. Macmurray (with whose views on historical prophecy I widely disagree, as will be seen in the next chapter): 'Science itself, he says [26], 'in its own specific fields of research, employs a method of understanding which restores the broken integrity of theory and practice.' This, I believe, is why science is such an offence in the eyes of mysticism, which evades practice by creating myths instead. 'Science, in its own field,' says Macmurray in another place, 'is the product of Christianity, and its most adequate expression so far; ... its capacity for co-operative progress, which knows no frontiers of race or nationality or sex, its ability to predict, and its ability to control, are the fullest manifestations of Christianity that Europe has yet seen.' I fully agree with this, for I too believe that our Western civilization owes its rationalism, its faith in the rational unity of man and in the open society, and especially its scientific outlook, to the ancient Socratic and Christian belief in the brotherhood of all men, and in intellectual honesty and responsibility. (A frequent argument against the morality of science is that many of its fruits have been used for bad purposes, for instance, in war. But this argument hardly deserves serious consideration. There is nothing under the sun which cannot be misused, and which has not been misused. Even love can be made an instrument of murder; and pacifism can be made one of the weapons of an aggressive war. On the other hand, it is only too obvious that it is irrationalism and not rationalism that has the responsibility for all national hostility and aggression. There have been only too many aggressive religious wars, both before and after the Crusades, but I do not know of any war waged for a 'scientific' aim, and inspired by scientists.)

It will have been observed that in the passages quoted, Macmurray emphasizes that what he appreciates is science 'in its own specific fields of research'. I think that this emphasis is particularly valuable. For nowadays one often hears, usually in connection with the mysticism of Eddington and Jeans, that modern science, as opposed to that of the nineteenth century, has become more humble, in that it now recognizes the mysteries of this world. But this opinion, I believe, is entirely on the wrong track. Darwin and Faraday, for instance, sought for truth as humbly as anybody, and I do not doubt that they were much more humble than the two great contemporary astronomers mentioned. For great as these are 'in their own specific fields of research', they do not, I believe, prove their humility by extending their activities to the field of philosophical mysticism [27]. Speaking more generally, however, it may indeed be the case that scientists are becoming more humble, since the progress of science is largely by way of the discovery of errors, and since, in general, the more we know, the more clearly we realize what we do not know. (The spirit of science is that of Socrates [28].)

Although I am mainly concerned with the moral aspect of the conflict between rationalism and irrationalism, I feel that I should briefly touch upon a more 'philosophical' aspect of the problem; but I wish to make it clear that I consider this aspect as of minor importance here. What I have in mind is the fact that the critical rationalist can turn the tables upon the irrationalist in another way as well. He may contend that the irrationalist who prides himself on his respect for the more profound mysteries of the world and his understanding of them (as opposed to the scientist who just scratches its surface) in fact neither respects nor understands its mysteries, but satisfies himself with cheap rationalizations. For what is a myth if not an attempt to rationalize the irrational? And who shows greater reverence for mystery, the scientist who devotes himself to discovering it step by step, always ready to submit to facts, and always aware that even his boldest achievement will never be more than a stepping-stone for those who come after him, or the mystic who is free to maintain anything because he need not fear any test? But in spite of this dubious freedom, the mystics endlessly repeat the same thing. (It is always the myth of the lost tribal paradise, the hysterical refusal to carry the cross of civilization [29].) All mystics, as F. Kafka, the mystical poet, wrote [30] in despair, 'set out to say ... that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and that we knew before'. And the irrationalist not only tries to rationalize what cannot be rationalized, but he also gets hold of the wrong end of the stick altogether. For it is the particular, the unique and concrete individual, which cannot be approached by rational methods, and not the abstract universal. Science can describe general types of landscape, for example, or of man, but it can never exhaust one single individual landscape, or one single individual man. The universal, the typical, is not only the domain of reason, but it is also largely the product of reason, in so far as it is the product of scientific abstraction. But the unique individual and his unique actions and experiences and relations to other individuals can never be fully rationalized [31]. And it appears to be just this irrational realm of unique individuality which makes human relations important. Most people would feel, for example, that what makes their lives worth living would largely be destroyed if they themselves, and their lives, were in no sense unique but in all and every respect typical of a class of people, so that they repeated exactly all the actions and experiences of all other men who belong to this class. It is the uniqueness of our experiences which, in this sense, makes our lives worth living, the unique experience of a landscape, of a sunset, of the expression of a human face. But since the day of Plato, it has been a characteristic of all mysticism that it transfers this feeling of the irrationality of the unique individual, and of our unique relations to individuals, to a different field, namely, to the field of abstract universals, a field which properly belongs to the province of science. That it is this feeling which the mystic tries to transfer can hardly be doubted. It is well known that the terminology of mysticism, the mystical union, the mystical intuition of beauty, the mystical love, have in all times been borrowed from the realm of relations between individual men, and especially from the experience of sexual love. Nor can it be doubted that this feeling is transferred by mysticism to the abstract universals, to the essences, to the Forms or Ideas. It is again the lost unity of the tribe, the wish to return into the shelter of a patriarchal home and to make its limits the limits of our world, which stands behind this mystical attitude. 'The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical feeling', says [32] Wittgenstein. But this holistic and universalistic irrationalism is misplaced. The 'world' and the 'whole' and 'nature', all these are abstractions and products of our reason. (This makes the difference between the mystical philosopher and the artist who does not rationalize, who does not use abstractions, but who creates, in his imagination, concrete individuals and unique experiences.) To sum up, mysticism attempts to rationalize the irrational, and at the same time it seeks the mystery in the wrong place; and it does so because it dreams of the collective [33], and the union of the elect, since it dares not face the hard and practical tasks which those must face who realize that every individual is an end in himself.

The nineteenth-century conflict between science and religion appears to me to be superseded [34]. Since an 'uncritical' rationalism is inconsistent, the problem cannot be the choice between knowledge and faith, but only between two kinds of faith. The new problem is: which is the right faith and which is the wrong faith? What I have tried to show is that the choice with which we are confronted is between a faith in reason and in human individuals and a faith in the mystical faculties of man by which he is united to a collective; and that this choice is at the same time a choice between an attitude that recognizes the unity of mankind and an attitude that divides men into friends and foes, into masters and slaves.

Enough has been said, for the present purpose, to explain the terms 'rationalism' and 'irrationalism', as well as my motives in deciding in favour of rationalism, and the reason why I see in the irrational and mystical intellectualism which is at present so fashionable the subtle intellectual disease of our time. It is a disease which need not be taken too seriously, and it is not more than skin-deep. (Scientists, with very few exceptions, are particularly free from it.) But in spite of its superficiality, it is a dangerous disease, because of its influence in the field of social and political thought.


In order to illustrate the danger, I shall briefly criticize two of the most influential irrationalist authorities of our time. The first of them is A. N. Whitehead, famous for his work in mathematics, and for his collaboration with the greatest contemporary rationalist philosopher, Bertrand Russell [35]. Whitehead considers himself a rationalist philosopher too; but so did Hegel, to whom Whitehead owes a great deal; indeed, he is one of the few Neo-Hegelians who know how much they owe to Hegel [36] (as well as to Aristotle). Undoubtedly, he owes it to Hegel that he has the courage, in spite of Kant's burning protest, to build up grandiose metaphysical systems with a royal contempt for argument.

Let us consider first one of the few rational arguments offered by Whitehead in his Process and Reality, the argument by which he defends his speculative philosophical method (a method which he calls 'rationalism'). 'It has been an objection to speculative philosophy', he writes [37], 'that it is over- ambitious. Rationalism, it is admitted, is the method by which advance is made within the limits of particular sciences. It is, however, held that this limited success must not encourage attempts to frame ambitious schemes expressive of the general nature of things. One alleged justification of this criticism is ill-success; European thought is represented as littered with metaphysical problems, abandoned and unreconciled ... [But] the same criterion would fasten ill-success upon science. We no more retain the physics of the seventeenth century than we do the Cartesian philosophy of the century . . . The proper test is not that of finality, but of progress.' Now this is in itself certainly a perfectly reasonable and even plausible argument; but is it valid? The obvious objection against it is that while physics progresses, metaphysics does not. In physics, there is a 'proper test of progress', namely the test of experiment, of practice. We can say why modern physics is better than the physics of the seventeenth century. Modern physics stands up to a great number of practical tests which utterly defeat the older systems. And the obvious objection against speculative metaphysical systems is that the progress they claim seems to be just as imaginary as anything else about them. This objection is very old; it dates back to Bacon, Hume, and Kant. We read, for example, in Kant's Prolegomena [38], the following remarks concerning the alleged progress of metaphysics: 'Undoubtedly there are many who, like myself, have been unable to find that this science has progressed by so much as a finger-breadth in spite of so many beautiful things which have long been published on this subject. Admittedly, we may find an attempt to sharpen a definition, or to supply a lame proof with new crutches, and thus to patch up the crazy quilt of metaphysics, or to give it a new pattern; but this is not what the world needs. We are sick of metaphysical assertions. We want to have definite criteria by which we may distinguish dialectical fancies ... from truth.' Whitehead is probably aware of this classical and obvious objection; and it looks as if he remembers it when in the sentence following the one quoted last he writes: 'But the main objection dating from the sixteenth century and receiving final expression from Francis Bacon, is the uselessness of philosophic speculation.' Since it was the experimental and practical uselessness of philosophy to which Bacon objected, it looks as if Whitehead here had our point in mind. But he does not follow it up. He does not reply to the obvious objection that this practical uselessness destroys his point that speculative philosophy, like science, is justified by the progress it makes. Instead, he contents himself with switching over to an entirely different problem, namely, the well-known problem 'that there are no brute, self-contained matters of fact', and that all science must make use of thought, since it must generalize, and interpret, the facts. On this consideration he bases his defence of metaphysical systems: 'Thus the understanding of the immediate brute fact requires its metaphysical interpretation . . . ' Now this may be so, or it may not be so. But it is certainly an entirely different argument from the one he began with. 'The proper test is ... progress', in science as well as in philosophy: this is what we originally heard from Whitehead. But no answer to Kant's obvious objection is forthcoming. Instead, Whitehead's argument, once on the track of the problem of universality and generality, wanders off to such questions as the (Platonic) collectivist theory of morality [39]: 'Morality of outlook is inseparably conjoined with generality of outlook. The antithesis between the general good and the individual interest can be abolished only when the individual is such that its interest is the general good . . . '

Now this was a sample of rational argument. But rational arguments are rare indeed. Whitehead has learned from Hegel how to avoid Kant's criticism that speculative philosophy only supplies new crutches for lame proofs. This Hegelian method is simple enough. We can easily avoid crutches as long as we avoid proofs and arguments altogether. Hegelian philosophy does not argue; it decrees. It must be admitted that, as opposed to Hegel, Whitehead does not pretend to offer the final truth. He is not a dogmatic philosopher in the sense that he presents his philosophy as an indisputable dogma; he even emphasizes its imperfections. But like all Neo-Hegelians, he adopts the dogmatic method of laying down his philosophy without argument. We can take it or leave it. But we cannot discuss it. (We are indeed faced with 'brute facts'; not with Baconian brute facts of experience, but with the brute facts of a man's metaphysical inspiration.) In order to illustrate this 'method of take it or leave it', I shall quote just one passage from Process and Reality, but I must warn my readers that, although I have tried to select the passage fairly, they should not form an opinion without reading the book itself.

Its last part, entitled 'Final Interpretations', consists of two chapters, 'The Ideal Opposites' (where, for instance, 'Permanence and Flux' occurs, a well-known patch from Plato's system; we have dealt with it under the name 'Change and Rest'), and 'God and the World'. I quote from this latter chapter. The passage is introduced by the two sentences: 'The final summary can only be expressed in terms of a group of antitheses, whose apparent self-contradiction depends on neglect of the diverse categories of existence. In each antithesis there is a shift of meaning which converts the opposition into a contrast.' This is the introduction. It prepares us for an 'apparent contradiction', and tells us that this 'depends' on some neglect. This seems to indicate that by avoiding that neglect we may avoid the contradiction. But how this is to be achieved, or what is, more precisely, in the author's mind, we are not told. We have just to take it or leave it. Now I quote the first two of the announced 'antitheses' or 'apparent self-contradictions' which are also stated without a shadow of argument: 'It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent as that the World is permanent and God fluent. — It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.' [40] Now I am not going to criticize these echoes of Greek philosophical fancies; we may indeed take it for granted that the one is just 'as true' as the other. But we have been promised an 'apparent self-contradiction'; and I should like to know where a self- contradiction appears here. For to me not even the appearance of a contradiction is apparent. A self-contradiction would be, for instance, the sentence: 'Plato is happy and Plato is not happy', and all the sentences of the same 'logical form' (that is to say, all sentences obtained from the foregoing by substituting a proper name for 'Plato' and a property word for 'happy'). But the following sentence is clearly not a contradiction: 'It is as true to say that Plato is happy to-day as it is to say that he is unhappy to-day' (for since Plato is dead, the one is indeed 'as true' as the other); and no other sentence of the same or a similar form can be called self-contradictory, even if it happens to be false. This is only to indicate why I am at a loss as to this purely logical aspect of the matter, the 'apparent self-contradictions'. And I feel that way about the whole book. I just do not understand what its author wished it to convey. Very likely, this is my fault and not his. I do not belong to the number of the elect, and I fear that many others are in the same position. This is just why I claim that the method of the book is irrational. It divides mankind into two parts, a small number of the elect, and the large number of the lost. But lost as I am, I can only say that, as I see it, Neo-Hegelianism no longer looks like that old crazy quilt with a few new patches, so vividly described by Kant; rather it looks now like a bundle of a few old patches which have been torn from it.

I leave it to the careful student of Whitehead's book to decide whether it has stood up to its own 'proper test', whether it shows progress as compared with the metaphysical systems of whose stagnation Kant complained; provided he can find the criteria by which to judge such progress. And I will leave it to the same student to judge the appropriateness of concluding these remarks with another of Kant's comments upon metaphysics [41]: 'Concerning metaphysics in general, and the views I have expressed on their value, I admit that my formulations may here or there have been insufficiently conditional and cautious. Yet I do not wish to hide the fact that I can only look with repugnance and even with something like hate upon the puffed-up pretentiousness of all these volumes filled with wisdom, such as are fashionable nowadays. For I am fully satisfied that the wrong way has been chosen; that the accepted methods must endlessly increase these follies and blunders; and that even the complete annihilation of all these fanciful achievements could not possibly be as harmful as this fictitious science with its accursed fertility.'

The second example of contemporary irrationalism with which I intend to deal here is A. J. Toynbee's A Study of History. I wish to make it clear that I consider this a most remarkable and interesting book, and that I have chosen it because of its superiority to all other contemporary irrationalist and historicist works I know of. I am not competent to judge Toynbee's merits as a historian. But as opposed to other contemporary historicist and irrationalist philosophers, he has much to say that is most stimulating and challenging; I at least have found him so, and I owe to him many valuable suggestions. I do not accuse him of irrationalism in his own field of historical research. For where it is a question of comparing evidence in favour of or against a certain historical interpretation, he uses unhesitatingly a fundamentally rational method of argument. I have in mind, for instance, his comparative study of the authenticity of the Gospels as historical records, with its negative results [42]; although I am not able to judge his evidence, the rationality of the method is beyond question, and this is the more admirable as Toynbee's general sympathies with Christian orthodoxy might have made it hard for him to defend a view which, to say the least, is unorthodox [43]. I also agree with many of the political tendencies expressed in his work, and most emphatically with his attack upon modern nationalism, and the tribalist and 'archaist', i.e. culturally reactionary tendencies, which are connected with it.

The reason why, in spite of all this, I single out Toynbee's monumental historicist work in order to charge it with irrationality, is that only when we see the effects of this poison in a work of such merit do we fully appreciate its danger.

What I must describe as Toynbee's irrationalism expresses itself in various ways. One of them is that he yields to a widespread and dangerous fashion of our time. I mean the fashion of not taking arguments seriously, and at their face value, at least tentatively, but of seeing in them nothing but a way in which deeper irrational motives and tendencies express themselves. It is the attitude of socio-analysis, criticized in the last chapter; the attitude of looking at once for the unconscious motives and determinants in the social habitat of the thinker, instead of first examining the validity of the argument itself.

This attitude may be justified to a certain extent, as I have tried to show in the two previous chapters; and this is especially so in the case of an author who does not offer any arguments, or whose arguments are obviously not worth looking into. But if no attempt is made to take serious arguments seriously, then I believe that we are justified in making the charge of irrationalism; and we are even justified in retaliating, by adopting the same attitude towards the procedure. Thus I think that we have every right to make the socio-analytical diagnosis that Toynbee's neglect to take serious arguments seriously is representative of a twentieth- century intellectualism which expresses its disillusionment, or even despair, of reason, and of a rational solution of our social problems, by an escape into a religious mysticism [44].

As an example of the refusal to take serious arguments seriously, I select Toynbee's treatment of Marx. My reasons for this selection are the following. First, it is a topic which is familiar to myself as well as to the reader of this book. Secondly, it is a topic on which I agree with Toynbee in most of its practical aspects. His main judgements on Marx's political and historical influence are very similar to results at which I have arrived by more pedestrian methods; and it is indeed one of the topics whose treatment shows his great historical intuition. Thus I shall hardly be suspected of being an apologist for Marx if I defend Marx's rationality against Toynbee. For this is the point on which I disagree: Toynbee treats Marx (as he treats everybody) not as a rational being, a man who offers arguments for what he teaches. Indeed, the treatment of Marx, and of his theories, only exemplifies the general impression conveyed by Toynbee's work that arguments are an unimportant mode of speech, and that the history of mankind is a history of emotions, passions, religions, irrational philosophies, and perhaps of art and poetry; but that it has nothing whatever to do with the history of human reason or of human science. (Names like Galileo and Newton, Harvey and Pasteur, do not play any part in the first six volumes [45] of Toynbee's historicist study of the life- cycle of civilizations.)

Regarding the points of similarity between Toynbee's and my general views of Marx, I may remind the reader of my allusions, in chapter 1, to the analogy between the chosen people and the chosen class; and in various other places, I have commented critically upon Marx's doctrines of historical necessity, and especially of the inevitability of the social revolution. These ideas are linked together by Toynbee with his usual brilliance: 'The distinctively Jewish ... inspiration of Marxism', he writes [46], 'is the apocalyptic vision of a violent revolution which is inevitable because it is the decree ... of God himself, and which is to invert the present roles of Proletariat and Dominant Minority in ... a reversal of roles which is to carry the Chosen People, at one bound, from the lowest to the highest place in the Kingdom of This World. Marx has taken the Goddess "Historical Necessity" in place of Yahweh for his omnipotent deity, and the internal proletariat of the modern Western World in place of Jewry; and his Messianic Kingdom is conceived as a Dictatorship of the Proletariat. But the salient features of the traditional Jewish apocalypse protrude through this threadbare disguise, and it is actually the pre-Rabbinical Maccabaean Judaism that our philosopher-impresario is presenting in modern Western costume Now there is certainly not much in this brilliantly phrased passage with which I do not agree, as long as it is intended as nothing more than an interesting analogy. But if it is intended as a serious analysis (or part of it) of Marxism, then I must protest; Marx, after all, wrote Capital, studied laissez-faire capitalism, and made serious and most important contributions to social science, even if much of them has been superseded. And, indeed, Toynbee's passage is intended as a serious analysis; he believes that his analogies and allegories contribute to a serious appreciation of Marx; for in an Annex to this passage (from which I have quoted only an important part) he treats, under the title [47] 'Marxism, Socialism, and Christianity', what he considers to be likely objections of a Marxist to this 'account of the Marxian Philosophy'. This Annex itself is also undoubtedly intended as a serious discussion of Marxism, as can be seen by the fact that its first paragraph commences with the words 'The advocates of Marxism will perhaps protest that ...' and the second with the words: 'In attempting to reply to a Marxian protest on such lines as these . . . ' But if we look more closely into this discussion, then we find that none of the rational arguments or claims of Marxism is even mentioned, let alone examined. Of Marx's theories and of the question whether they are true or false we do not hear a word. The one additional problem raised in the Annex is again one of historical origin; for the Marxist opponent envisaged by Toynbee does not protest, as any Marxist in his senses would, that it is Marx's claim to have based an old idea, socialism, upon a new, namely a rational and scientific, basis; instead, he 'protests' (I am quoting Toynbee) 'that in a rather summary account of Marxian Philosophy ... we have made a show of analysing this into a Hegelian and a Jewish and a Christian constituent element without having said a word about the most characteristic . . . part of Marx's message . . . Socialism, the Marxian will tell us, is the essence of the Marxian way of life; it is an original element in the Marxian system which cannot be traced to a Hegelian or a Christian or a Jewish or any other pre-Marxian source'. This is the protest put by Toynbee into the mouth of a Marxist, although any Marxist, even if he has read nothing but the Manifesto, must know that Marx himself as early as in 1847 distinguished about seven or eight different 'pre-Marxian sources' of socialism, and among them also those which he labelled 'Clerical' or 'Christian' socialism, and that he never dreamt of having discovered socialism, but only claimed that he had made it rational; or, as Engels expresses it, that he had developed socialism from a Utopian idea into a science [48]. But Toynbee neglects all that. 'In attempting', he writes, 'to reply to a Marxian protest on such lines as these, we shall readily admit the humaneness and constructiveness of the ideal for which socialism stands, as well as the importance of the part which this ideal plays in the Marxian "ideology"; but we shall find ourselves unable to accept the Marxian contention that Socialism is Marx's original discovery. We shall have to point out, on our part, that there is a Christian socialism which was practised as well as preached before the Marxian Socialism was ever heard of; and, when our turn comes for taking the offensive, we shall . . . maintain that the Marxian Socialism is derived from the Christian tradition . . . ' Now I would certainly never deny this derivation, and it is quite clear that every Marxist could admit it without sacrificing the tiniest bit of his creed; for the Marxist creed is not that Marx was the inventor of a humane and constructive ideal but that he was the scientist who by purely rational means showed that socialism will come, and in what way it will come.

How, I ask, can it be explained that Toynbee discusses Marxism on lines which have nothing whatever to do with its rational claims? The only explanation I can see is that the Marxist claim to rationality has no meaning whatever for Toynbee. He is interested only in the question of how it originated as a religion. Now I should be the last to deny its religious character. But the method of treating philosophies or religions entirely from the point of view of their historical origin and environment, an attitude described in the previous chapters as historism (and to be distinguished from historicism), is, to say the least, very one-sided; and how much this method is liable to produce irrationalism can be seen from Toynbee's neglect of, if not contempt for, that important realm of human life which we have here described as rational.

In an assessment of Marx's influence, Toynbee arrives at the conclusion [49] that 'the verdict of History may turn out to be that a re- awakening of the Christian social conscience has been the one great positive achievement of Karl Marx'. Against this assessment, I have certainly not much to say; perhaps the reader will remember that I too have emphasized [50] Marx's moral influence upon Christianity. I do not think that, as a final appraisal, Toynbee takes sufficiently into account the great moral idea that the exploited should emancipate themselves, instead of waiting for acts of charity on the part of the exploiters; but this, of course, is just a difference of opinion, and I would not dream of contesting Toynbee's right to his own opinion, which I consider very fair. But I should like to draw attention to the phrase 'the verdict of history may turn out', with its implied historicist moral theory, and even moral futurism [51]. For I hold that we cannot and must not evade deciding in such matters for ourselves; and that if we are not able to pass a verdict, neither will history.

So much about Toynbee's treatment of Marx. Concerning the more general problem of his historism or historical relativism, it may be said that he is well aware of it, although he does not formulate it as a general principle of the historical determination of all thought, but only as a restricted principle applicable to historical thought; for he explains [52] that he takes 'as the starting point ... the axiom that all historical thought is inevitably relative to the particular circumstances of the thinker's own time and place. This is a law of Human Nature from which no human genius can be exempt.' The analogy of this historism with the sociology of knowledge is rather obvious; for 'the thinker's own time and place' is clearly nothing but the description of what may be called his 'historical habitat', by analogy with the 'social habitat' described by the sociology of knowledge. The difference, if any, is that Toynbee confines his 'law of Human Nature' to historical thought, which seems to me a slightly strange and perhaps even unintentional restriction; for it is somewhat improbable that there should be a 'law of Human Nature from which no human genius can be exempt' holding not for thought in general but only for historical thought.

With the undeniable but rather trivial kernel of truth contained in such a historism or sociologism I have dealt in the last two chapters, and I need not repeat what I have said there. But as regards criticism, it may be worth while to point out that Toynbee 's sentence, if freed from its restriction to historical thought, could hardly be considered an 'axiom' since it would be paradoxical. (It would be another [53] form of the paradox of the liar; for if no genius is exempt from expressing the fashions of his social habitat then this contention itself may be merely an expression of the fashion of its author's social habitat, i.e. of the relativistic fashion of our own day.) This remark has not only a formal-logical significance. For it indicates that historism or historio-analysis can be applied to historism itself, and this is indeed a permissible way of dealing with an idea after it has been criticized by way of rational argument. Since historism has been so criticized, I may now risk a historio-analytical diagnosis, and say that historism is a typical though slightly obsolescent product of our time; or more precisely, of the typical backwardness of the social sciences of our time. It is the typical reaction to interventionism and to a period of rationalization and industrial co-operation; a period which, perhaps more than any other in history, demands the practical application of rational methods to social problems. A social science which cannot quite meet these demands is therefore inclined to defend itself by producing elaborate attacks upon the applicability of science to such problems. Summing up my historio-analytical diagnosis, I venture to suggest that Toynbee's historism is an apologetic anti-rationalism, born out of despair of reason, and trying to escape into the past, as well as into prophecy of the future [54]. If anything then historism must be understood as an historical product.

This diagnosis is corroborated by many features of Toynbee's work. An example is his stress upon the superiority of other-worldliness over action which will influence the course of this world. So he speaks, for instance, of Mohammed's 'tragic worldly success', saying that the opportunity which offered itself to the prophet of taking action in this world was 'a challenge to which his spirit failed to rise. In accepting ... he was renouncing the sublime role of the nobly-honoured prophet and contenting himself with the commonplace role of the magnificently successful statesman.' (In other words, Mohammed succumbed to a temptation which Jesus resisted.) Ignatius Loyola, accordingly, wins Toynbee's approval for turning from a soldier into a saint [55]. One may ask, however, whether this saint did not become a successful statesman too? (But if it is a question of Jesuitism, then, it seems, all is different: this form of statesmanship is sufficiently otherworldly.) In order to avoid misunderstandings, I wish to make it clear that I myself would rate many saints higher than most, or very nearly all, statesmen I know of, for I am generally not impressed by political success. I quote this passage only as a corroboration of my historio-analytical diagnosis: that this historism of a modern historical prophet is a philosophy of escape.  

Toynbee's anti-rationalism is prominent in many other places. For instance, in an attack upon the rationalistic conception of tolerance he uses categories like 'nobleness' as opposed to 'lowness' instead of arguments. The passage deals with the opposition between the merely 'negative' avoidance of violence, on rational grounds, and the true non- violence of other-worldliness, hinting that these two are instances of 'meanings ... which are ... positively antithetical to one another' [56]. Here is the passage I have in mind: 'At its lowest the practice of Non- Violence may express nothing more noble and more constructive than a cynical disillusionment with . . . violence . . . previously practised ad nauseam . . . A notorious example of Non- Violence of this unedifying kind is the religious tolerance in the Western World from the seventeenth century . . . down to our day.' It is difficult to resist the temptation to retaliate by asking — ^using Toynbee's own terminology — whether this edifying attack upon Western democratic religious tolerance expresses anything more noble or more constructive than a cynical disillusionment with reason; whether it is not a notorious example of that anti-rationalism which has been, and unfortunately still is, fashionable in our Western World, and which has been practised ad nauseam, especially from the time of Hegel, down to our day?

Of course, my historio-analysis of Toynbee is not a serious criticism. It is only an unkind way of retaliating, of paying historism back in its own coin. My fundamental criticism is on very different lines, and I should certainly be sorry if by dabbling in historism I were to become responsible for making this cheap method more fashionable than it is already.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I feel no hostility towards religious mysticism (only towards a militant anti-rationalist intellectualism) and I should be the first to fight any attempt to oppress it. It is not I who advocate religious intolerance. But I claim that faith in reason, or rationalism, or humanitarianism, or humanism, has the same right as any other creed to contribute to an improvement of human affairs, and especially to the control of international crime and the establishment of peace. 'The humanist', Toynbee writes [57], 'purposely concentrates all his attention and effort upon . . . bringing human affairs under human control. Yet ... the unity of mankind can never be established in fact except within a framework of the unity of the superhuman whole of which Humanity is a part . . .; and our Modern Western school of humanists have been peculiar, as well as perverse, in planning to reach Heaven by raising a titanic Tower of Babel on terrestrial foundations Toynbee's contention, if I understand him rightly, is that there is no chance for the humanist to bring international affairs under the control of human reason. Appealing to the authority of Bergson— [58], he claims that only allegiance to a superhuman whole can save us, and that there is no way for human reason, no 'terrestrial road', as he puts it, by which tribal nationalism can be superseded. Now I do not mind the characterization of the humanist's faith in reason as 'terrestrial', since I believe that it is indeed a principle of rationalist politics that we cannot make heaven on earth [59]. But humanism is, after all, a faith which has proved itself in deeds, and which has proved itself as well, perhaps, as any other creed. And although I think, with most humanists, that Christianity, by teaching the fatherhood of God, may make a great contribution to establishing the brotherhood of man, I also think that those who undermine man's faith in reason are unlikely to contribute much to this end.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:25 am


25: Has History any Meaning?


In approaching the end of this book, I wish again to remind the reader that these chapters were not intended as anything like a full history of historicism; they are merely scattered marginal notes to such a history, and rather personal notes to boot. That they form, besides, a kind of critical introduction to the philosophy of society and of politics, is closely connected with this character of theirs, for historicism is a social and political and moral (or, shall I say, immoral) philosophy, and it has been as such most influential since the beginning of our civilization. It is therefore hardly possible to comment on its history without discussing the fundamental problems of society, of politics, and of morals. But such a discussion, whether it admits it or not, must always contain a strong personal element. This does not mean that much in this book is purely a matter of opinion; in the few cases where I am explaining my personal proposals or decisions in moral and political matters, I have always made the personal character of the proposal or decision clear. It rather means that the selection of the subject matter treated is a matter of personal choice to a much greater extent than it would be, say, in a scientific treatise.

In a way, however, this difference is a matter of degree. Even a science is not merely a 'body of facts'. It is, at the very least, a collection, and as such it is dependent upon the collector's interests, upon a point of view. In science, this point of view is usually determined by a scientific theory; that is to say, we select from the infinite variety of facts, and from the infinite variety of aspects of facts, those facts and those aspects which are interesting because they are connected with some more or less preconceived scientific theory. A certain school of philosophers of scientific method [1] have concluded from considerations such as these that science always argues in a circle, and 'that we find ourselves chasing our own tails', as Eddington puts it, since we can only get out of our factual experience what we have ourselves put into it, in the form of our theories. But this is not a tenable argument. Although it is, in general, quite true that we select only facts which have a bearing upon some preconceived theory, it is not true that we select only such facts as confirm the theory and, as it were, repeat it; the method of science is rather to look out for facts which may refute the theory. This is what we call testing a theory — to see whether we cannot find a flaw in it. But although the facts are collected with an eye upon the theory, and will confirm it as long as the theory stands up to these tests, they are more than merely a kind of empty repetition of a preconceived theory. They confirm the theory only if they are the results of unsuccessful attempts to overthrow its predictions, and therefore a telling testimony in its favour. So it is, I hold, the possibility of overthrowing it, or its falsifiability, that constitutes the possibility of testing it, and therefore the scientific character of a theory; and the fact that all tests of a theory are attempted falsifications of predictions derived with its help, furnishes the clue to scientific method [2]. This view of scientific method is corroborated by the history of science, which shows that scientific theories are often overthrown by experiments, and that the overthrow of theories is indeed the vehicle of scientific progress. The contention that science is circular cannot be upheld.

But one element of this contention remains true; namely, that all scientific descriptions of facts are highly selective, that they always depend upon theories. The situation can be best described by comparison with a searchlight (the 'searchlight theory of science', as I usually call it in contradistinction to the 'bucket theory of the mind' [3]). What the searchlight makes visible will depend upon its position, upon our way of directing it, and upon its intensity, colour, etc.; although it will, of course, also depend very largely upon the things illuminated by it. Similarly, a scientific description will depend, largely, upon our point of view, our interests, which are as a rule connected with the theory or hypothesis we wish to test; although it will also depend upon the facts described. Indeed, the theory or hypothesis could be described as the crystallization of a point of view. For if we attempt to formulate our point of view, then this formulation will, as a rule, be what one sometimes calls a working hypothesis; that is to say, a provisional assumption whose function is to help us to select, and to order, the facts. But we should be clear that there cannot be any theory or hypothesis which is not, in this sense, a working hypothesis, and does not remain one. For no theory is final, and every theory helps us to select and order facts. This selective character of all description makes it in a certain sense 'relative'; but only in the sense that we would offer not this but another description, if our point of view were different. It may also affect our belief m the truth of the description; but it does not affect the question of the truth or falsity of the description; truth is not 'relative' in this sense [4].

The reason why all description is selective is, roughly speaking, the infinite wealth and variety of the possible aspects of the facts of our world. In order to describe this infinite wealth, we have at our disposal only a finite number of finite series of words. Thus we may describe as long as we like: our description will always be incomplete, a mere selection, and a small one at that, of the facts which present themselves for description. This shows that it is not only impossible to avoid a selective point of view, but also wholly undesirable to attempt to do so; for if we could do so, we should get not a more 'objective' description, but only a mere heap of entirely unconnected statements. But, of course, a point of view is inevitable; and the naive attempt to avoid it can only lead to self-deception, and to the uncritical application of an unconscious point of view [5]. All this is true, most emphatically, in the case of historical description, with its 'infinite subject matter', as Schopenhauer [6] calls it. Thus in history no less than in science, we cannot avoid a point of view; and the belief that we can must lead to self-deception and to lack of critical care. This does not mean, of course, that we are permitted to falsify anything, or to take matters of truth lightly. Any particular historical description of facts will be simply true or false, however difficult it may be to decide upon its truth or falsity.

So far, the position of history is analogous to that of the natural sciences, for example, that of physics. But if we compare the part played by a 'point of view' in history with that played by a 'point of view' in physics, then we find a great difference. In physics, as we have seen, the 'point of view' is usually presented by a physical theory which can be tested by searching for new facts. In history, the matter is not quite so simple.


Let us first consider a little more closely the role of the theories in a natural science such as physics. Here, theories have several connected tasks. They help to unify science, and they help to explain as well as to predict events. Regarding explanation and prediction, I may perhaps quote from one of my own publications [7]: 'To give a causal explanation of a certain event means to derive deductively a statement (it will be called a prognosis) which describes that event, using as premises of the deduction some universal laws together with certain singular or specific sentences which we may call initial conditions. For example, we can say that we have given a causal explanation of the breaking of a certain thread if we find that this thread was capable of carrying one pound only, and that a weight of two pounds was put on it. If we analyse this causal explanation, then we find that two different constituents are involved in it. (1) We assume some hypotheses of the character of universal laws of nature; in our case, perhaps: "Whenever a certain thread undergoes a tension exceeding a certain maximum tension which is characteristic for that particular thread, then it will break." (2) We assume some specific statements (the initial conditions) pertaining to the particular event in question; in our case, we may have the two statements: "For this thread, the characteristic maximum tension at which it is liable to break is equal to a one-pound weight" and "The weight put on this thread was a two- pound weight." Thus we have two different kinds of statements which together yield a complete causal explanation, viz.: (1) universal statements of the character of natural laws, and (2) specific statements pertaining to the special case in question, the initial conditions. Now from the universal laws (1), we can deduce with the help of the initial conditions (2) the following specific statement (3): "This thread will break." This conclusion (3) we may also call a specific prognosis. — The initial conditions (or more precisely, the situation described by them) are usually spoken of as the cause of the event in question, and the prognosis (or rather, the event described by the prognosis) as the effect: for example, we say that the putting of a weight of two pounds on a thread capable of carrying one pound only was the cause of the breaking of the thread.'

From this analysis of causal explanation, we can see several things. One is that we can never speak of cause and effect in an absolute way, but that an event is a cause of another event, which is its effect, relative to some universal law. However, these universal laws are very often so trivial (as in our own example) that as a rule we take them for granted, instead of making conscious use of them. A second point is that the use of a theory for the purpose of predicting some specific event is just another aspect of its use for the purpose of explaining such an event. And since we test a theory by comparing the events predicted with those actually observed, our analysis also shows how theories can be tested. Whether we use a theory for the purpose of explanation, or prediction, or of testing, depends on our interest, and on what propositions we take as given or assumed.

Thus in the case of the so-called theoretical or generalizing sciences (such as physics, biology, sociology, etc.) we are predominantly interested in the universal laws or hypotheses. We wish to know whether they are true, and since we can never directly make sure of their truth, we adopt the method of eliminating the false ones. Our interest in the specific events, for example in experiments which are described by the initial conditions and prognoses, is somewhat limited; we are interested in them mainly as means to certain ends, means by which we can test the universal laws, which latter are considered as interesting in themselves, and as unifying our knowledge.

In the case of applied sciences, our interest is different. The engineer who uses physics in order to build a bridge is predominantly interested in a prognosis: whether or not a bridge of a certain kind described (by the initial conditions) will carry a certain load. For him, the universal laws are means to an end and taken for granted.

Accordingly, pure and applied generalizing sciences are respectively interested in testing universal hypotheses, and in predicting specific events. But there is a further interest, that in explaining a specific or particular event. If we wish to explain such an event, for example, a certain road accident, then we usually tacitly assume a host of rather trivial universal laws (such as that a bone breaks under a certain strain, or that any motor-car colliding in a certain way with any human body will exert a strain sufficient to break a bone, etc.), and are interested, predominantly, in the initial conditions or in the cause which, together with these trivial universal laws, would explain the event in question. We then usually assume certain initial conditions hypothetically, and attempt to find some further evidence in order to find out whether or not these hypothetically assumed initial conditions are true; that is to say, we test these specific hypotheses by deriving from them (with the help of some other and usually equally trivial universal laws) new predictions which can be confronted with observable facts.

Very rarely do we find ourselves in the position of having to worry about the universal laws involved in such an explanation. It happens only when we observe some new or strange kind of event, such as an unexpected chemical reaction. If such an event gives rise to the framing and testing of new hypotheses, then it is interesting mainly from the point of view of some generalizing science. But as a rule, if we are interested in specific events and their explanation, we take for granted all the many universal laws which we need.

Now the sciences which have this interest in specific events and in their explanation may, in contradistinction to the generalizing sciences, be called the historical sciences.

This view of history makes it clear why so many students of history and its method insist that it is the particular event that interests them, and not any so-called universal historical laws. For from our point of view, there can be no historical laws. Generalization belongs simply to a different line of interest, sharply to be distinguished from that interest in specific events and their causal explanation which is the business of history. Those who are interested in laws must turn to the generalizing sciences (for example, to sociology). Our view also makes it clear why history has so often been described as 'the events of the past as they actually did happen'. This description brings out quite well the specific interest of the student of history, as opposed to a student of a generalizing science, even though we shall have to raise certain objections against it. And our view explains why, in history, we are confronted, much more than in the generalizing sciences, with the problems of its 'infinite subject matter'. For the theories or universal laws of generalizing science introduce unity as well as a 'point of view'; they create, for every generalizing science, its problems, and its centres of interest as well as of research, of logical construction, and of presentation. But in history we have no such unifying theories; or, rather, the host of trivial universal laws we use are taken for granted; they are practically without interest, and totally unable to bring order into the subject matter. If we explain, for example, the first division of Poland in 1772 by pointing out that it could not possibly resist the combined power of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, then we are tacitly using some trivial universal law such as: 'If of two armies which are about equally well armed and led, one has a tremendous superiority in men, then the other never wins.' (Whether we say here 'never' or 'hardly ever' does not make, for our purposes, as much difference as it does for the Captain of H.M.S. Pinafore.) Such a law might be described as a law of the sociology of military power; but it is too trivial ever to raise a serious problem for the students of sociology, or to arouse their attention. Or if we explain Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon by his ambition and energy, say, then we are using some very trivial psychological generalizations which would hardly ever arouse the attention of a psychologist. (As a matter of fact, most historical explanation makes tacit use, not so much of trivial sociological and psychological laws, but of what I have called, in chapter 14, the logic of the situation', that is to say, besides the initial conditions describing personal interests, aims, and other situational factors, such as the information available to the person concerned, it tacitly assumes, as a kind of first approximation, the trivial general law that sane persons as a rule act more or less rationally.)


We see, therefore, that those universal laws which historical explanation uses provide no selective and unifying principle, no 'point of view' for history. In a very limited sense such a point of view may be provided by confining history to a history of something; examples are the history of power politics, or of economic relations, or of technology, or of mathematics. But as a rule, we need further selective principles, points of view which are at the same time centres of interest. Some of these are provided by preconceived ideas which in some way resemble universal laws, such as the idea that what is important for history is the character of the 'Great Men', or the 'national character', or moral ideas, or economic conditions, etc. Now it is important to see that many 'historical theories' (they might perhaps be better described as 'quasi-theories') are in their character vastly different from scientific theories. For in history (including the historical natural sciences such as historical geology) the facts at our disposal are often severely limited and cannot be repeated or implemented at our will. And they have been collected in accordance with a preconceived point of view; the so-called 'sources' of history record only such facts as appeared sufficiently interesting to record, so that the sources will often contain only such facts as fit in with preconceived theory. And if no further facts are available, it will often not be possible to test this theory or any other subsequent theory. Such untestable historical theories can then rightly be charged with being circular in the sense in which this charge has been unjustly brought against scientific theories. I shall call such historical theories, in contradistinction to scientific theories, 'general interpretations'.

Interpretations are important since they represent a point of view. But we have seen that a point of view is always inevitable, and that, in history, a theory which can be tested and which is therefore of scientific character can only rarely be obtained. Thus we must not think that a general interpretation can be confirmed by its agreement even with all our records; for we must remember its circularity, as well as the fact that there will always be a number of other (and perhaps incompatible) interpretations that agree with the same records, and that we can rarely obtain new data able to serve as do crucial experiments in physics [8]. Historians often do not see any other interpretation which fits the facts as well as their own does; but if we consider that even in the field of physics, with its larger and more reliable stock of facts, new crucial experiments are needed again and again because the old ones are all in keeping with both of two competing and incompatible theories (consider the eclipse-experiment which is needed for deciding between Newton's and Einstein's theories of gravitation), then we shall give up the naive belief that any definite set of historical records can ever be interpreted in one way only.

But this does not mean, of course, that all interpretations are of equal merit. First, there are always interpretations which are not really in keeping with the accepted records; secondly, there are some which need a number of more or less plausible auxiliary hypotheses if they are to escape falsification by the records; next, there are some that are unable to connect a number of facts which another interpretation can connect, and in so far 'explain'. There may accordingly be a considerable amount of progress even within the field of historical interpretation. Furthermore, there may be all kinds of intermediate stages between more or less universal 'points of view' and those specific or singular historical hypotheses mentioned above, which in the explanation of historical events play the role of hypothetical initial conditions rather than of universal laws. Often enough, these can be tested fairly well and are therefore comparable to scientific theories. But some of these specific hypotheses closely resemble those universal quasi-theories which I have called interpretations, and may accordingly be classed with these, as 'specific interpretations'. For the evidence in favour of such a specific interpretation is often enough just as circular in character as the evidence in favour of some universal 'point of view'. For example, our only authority may give us just that information regarding certain events which fits with his own specific interpretation. Most specific interpretations of these facts we may attempt will then be circular in the sense that they must fit in with that interpretation which was used in the original selection of facts. If, however, we can give to such material an interpretation which radically deviates from that adopted by our authority (and this is certainly so, for example, in our interpretation of Plato's work), then the character of our interpretation may perhaps take on some semblance to that of a scientific hypothesis. But fundamentally, it is necessary to keep in mind the fact that it is a very dubious argument in favour of a certain interpretation that it can be easily applied, and that it explains all we know; for only if we can look out for counter examples can we test a theory. (This point is nearly always overlooked by the admirers of the various 'unveiling philosophies', especially by the psycho-, socio-, and historio-analysts; they are often seduced by the ease with which their theories can be applied everywhere.)

I said before that interpretations may be incompatible; but as long as we consider them merely as crystallizations of points of view, then they are not. For example, the interpretation that man steadily progresses (towards the open society or some other aim) is incompatible with the interpretation that he steadily slips back or retrogresses. But the 'point of view' of one who looks on human history as a history of progress is not necessarily incompatible with that of one who looks on it as a history of retrogression; that is to say, we could write a history of human progress towards freedom (containing, for example, the story of the fight against slavery) and another history of human retrogression and oppression (containing perhaps such things as the impact of the white race upon the coloured races); and these two histories need not be in conflict; rather, they may be complementary to each other, as would be two views of the same landscape seen from two different points. This consideration is of considerable importance. For since each generation has its own troubles and problems, and therefore its own interests and its own point of view, it follows that each generation has a right to look upon and re-interpret history in its own way, which is complementary to that of previous generations. After all, we study history because we are interested in it [9], and perhaps because we wish to learn something about our own problems. But history can serve neither of these two purposes if, under the influence of an inapplicable idea of objectivity, we hesitate to present historical problems from our point of view. And we should not think that our point of view, if consciously and critically applied to the problem, will be inferior to that of a writer who naively believes that he does not interpret, and that he has reached a level of objectivity permitting him to present 'the events of the past as they actually did happen'. (This is why I believe that even such admittedly personal comments as can be found in this book are justified, since they are in keeping with historical method.) The main thing is to be conscious of one's point of view, and critical, that is to say, to avoid, as far as this is possible, unconscious and therefore uncritical bias in the presentation of the facts. In every other respect, the interpretation must speak for itself; and its merits will be its fertility, its ability to elucidate the facts of history, as well as its topical interest, its ability to elucidate the problems of the day.

To sum up, there can be no history of 'the past as it actually did happen'; there can only be historical interpretations, and none of them final; and every generation has a right to frame its own. But not only has it a right to frame its own interpretations, it also has a kind of obligation to do so; for there is indeed a pressing need to be answered. We want to know how our troubles are related to the past, and we want to see the line along which we may progress towards the solution of what we feel, and what we choose, to be our main tasks. It is this need which, if not answered by rational and fair means, produces historicist interpretations. Under its pressure the historicist substitutes for a rational question: 'What are we to choose as our most urgent problems, how did they arise, and along what roads may we proceed to solve them?' the irrational and apparently factual question: 'Which way are we going? What, in essence, is the part that history has destined us to play?'

But am I justified in refusing to the historicist the right to interpret history in his own way? Have I not just proclaimed that anybody has such a right? My answer to this question is that historicist interpretations are of a peculiar kind. Those interpretations which are needed, and justified, and one or other of which we are bound to adopt, can, I have said, be compared to a searchlight. We let it play upon our past, and we hope to illuminate the present by its reflection. As opposed to this, the historicist interpretation may be compared to a searchlight which we direct upon ourselves. It makes it difficult if not impossible to see anything of our surroundings, and it paralyses our actions. To translate this metaphor, the historicist does not recognize that it is we who select and order the facts of history, but he believes that 'history itself, or the 'history of mankind', determines, by its inherent laws, ourselves, our problems, our future, and even our point of view. Instead of recognizing that historical interpretation should answer a need arising out of the practical problems and decisions which face us, the historicist believes that in our desire for historical interpretation, there expresses itself the profound intuition that by contemplating history we may discover the secret, the essence of human destiny. Historicism is out to find The Path on which mankind is destined to walk; it is out to discover The Clue to History (as J. Macmurray calls it), or The Meaning of History.


But is there such a clue? Is there a meaning in history?

I do not wish to enter here into the problem of the meaning of 'meaning'; I take it for granted that most people know with sufficient clarity what they mean when they speak of the 'meaning of history' or of the 'meaning or purpose of life' [10]. And in this sense, in the sense in which the question of the meaning of history is asked, I answer: History has no meaning.

In order to give reasons for this opinion, I must first say something about that 'history' which people have in mind when they ask whether it has meaning. So far, I have myself spoken about 'history' as if it did not need any explanation. That is no longer possible; for I wish to make it clear that 'history' in the sense in which most people speak of it simply does not exist, and this is at least one reason why I say that it has no meaning.

How do most people come to use the term 'history'? (I mean 'history' in the sense in which we say of a book that it is about the history of Europe — not in the sense in which we say that it is a history of Europe.) They learn about it in school and at the University. They read books about it. They see what is treated in the books under the name 'history of the world' or 'the history of mankind', and they get used to looking upon it as a more or less definite series of facts. And these facts constitute, they believe, the history of mankind.

But we have already seen that the realm of facts is infinitely rich, and that there must be selection. According to our interests, we could, for instance, write about the history of art; or of language; or of feeding habits; or of typhus fever (see Zinsser's Rats, Lice, and History). Certainly, none of these is the history of mankind (nor all of them taken together). What people have in mind when they speak of the history of mankind is, rather, the history of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and so on, down to our own day. In other words: They speak about the history of mankind, but what they mean, and what they have learned about in school, is the history of political power.

There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including, it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as its heroes.

But is there really no such thing as a universal history in the sense of a concrete history of mankind? There can be none. This must be the reply of every humanitarian, I believe, and especially that of every Christian. A concrete history of mankind, if there were any, would have to be the history of all men. It would have to be the history of all human hopes, struggles, and sufferings. For there is no one man more important than any other. Clearly, this concrete history cannot be written. We must make abstractions, we must neglect, select. But with this we arrive at the many histories; and among them, at that history of international crime and mass murder which has been advertised as the history of mankind.

But why has just the history of power been selected, and not, for example, that of religion, or of poetry? There are several reasons. One is that power affects us all, and poetry only a few. Another is that men are inclined to worship power. But there can be no doubt that the worship of power is one of the worst kinds of human idolatries, a relic of the time of the cage, of human servitude. The worship of power is born of fear, an emotion which is rightly despised. A third reason why power politics has been made the core of 'history' is that those in power wanted to be worshipped and could enforce their wishes. Many historians wrote under the supervision of the emperors, the generals and the dictators.

I know that these views will meet with the strongest opposition from many sides, including some apologists for Christianity; for although there is hardly anything in the New Testament to support this doctrine, it is often considered a part of the Christian dogma that God reveals Himself in history; that history has meaning; and that its meaning is the purpose of God. Historicism is thus held to be a necessary element of religion. But I do not admit this. I contend that this view is pure idolatry and superstition, not only from the point of view of a rationalist or humanist but from the Christian point of view itself.

What is behind this theistic historicism? With Hegel, it looks upon history — political history — as a stage, or rather, as a kind of lengthy Shakespearian play; and the audience conceive either the 'great historical personalities', or mankind in the abstract, as the heroes of the play. Then they ask, 'Who has written this play?' And they think that they give a pious answer when they reply, 'God'. But they are mistaken. Their answer is pure blasphemy, for the play was (and they know it) written not by God, but, under the supervision of generals and dictators, by the professors of history.

I do not deny that it is as justifiable to interpret history from a Christian point of view as it is to interpret it from any other point of view; and it should certainly be emphasized, for example, how much of our Western aims and ends, humanitarianism, freedom, equality, we owe to the influence of Christianity. But at the same time, the only rational as well as the only Christian attitude even towards the history of freedom is that we are ourselves responsible for it, in the same sense in which we are responsible for what we make of our lives, and that only our conscience can judge us and not our worldly success. The theory that God reveals Himself and His judgement in history is indistinguishable from the theory that worldly success is the ultimate judge and justification of our actions; it comes to the same thing as the doctrine that history will judge, that is to say, that future might is right; it is the same as what I have called 'moral futurism' [11]. To maintain that God reveals Himself in what is usually called 'history', in the history of international crime and of mass murder, is indeed blasphemy; for what really happens within the realm of human lives is hardly ever touched upon by this cruel and at the same time childish affair. The life of the forgotten, of the unknown individual man; his sorrows and his joys, his suffering and death, this is the real content of human experience down the ages. If that could be told by history, then I should certainly not say that it is blasphemy to see the finger of God in it. But such a history does not and cannot exist; and all the history which exists, our history of the Great and the Powerful, is at best a shallow comedy; it is the opera buffa played by the powers behind reality (comparable to Homer's opera buffa of the Olympian powers behind the scene of human struggles). It is what one of our worst instincts, the idolatrous worship of power, of success, has led us to believe to be real. And in this not even man-made, but man-faked 'history', some Christians dare to see the hand of God! They dare to understand and to know what He wills when they impute to Him their petty historical interpretations! 'On the contrary', says K. Barth, the theologian, in his Credo, 'we have to begin with the admission . . . that all that we think we know when we say "God" does not reach or comprehend Him but always one of our self-conceived and self-made idols, whether it is "spirit" or "nature", "fate" or "idea" . . . ' [12] (It is in keeping with this attitude that Barth characterizes the 'Neo-Protestant doctrine of the revelation of God in history' as 'inadmissible' and as an encroachment upon 'the kingly office of Christ'.) But it is, from the Christian point of view, not only arrogance that underlies such attempts; it is, more specifically, an anti- Christian attitude. For Christianity teaches, if anything, that worldly success is not decisive. Christ 'suffered under Pontius Pilate'. I am quoting Barth again: 'How does Pontius Pilate get into the Credo? The simple answer can at once be given: it is a matter of date.' Thus the man who was successful, who represented the historical power of that time, plays here the purely technical role of indicating when these events happened. And what were these events? They had nothing to do with power-political success, with 'history'. They were not even the story of an unsuccessful non-violent nationalist revolution (a la Gandhi) of the Jewish people against the Roman conquerors. The events were nothing but the sufferings of a man. Barth insists that the word 'suffers' refers to the whole of the life of Christ and not only to His death; he says [13]: 'Jesus suffers. Therefore He does not conquer. He does not triumph. He has no success ... He achieved nothing except ... His crucifixion. The same could be said of His relationship to His people and to His disciples.' My intention in quoting Barth is to show that it is not only my 'rationalist' or 'humanist' point of view from which the worship of historical success appears as incompatible with the spirit of Christianity. What matters to Christianity is not the historical deeds of the powerful Roman conquerers but (to use a phrase of Kierkegaard's [14]) 'what a few fishermen have given the world'. And yet all theistic interpretation of history attempts to see in history as it is recorded, i.e. in the history of power, and in historical success, the manifestation of God's will.

To this attack upon the 'doctrine of the revelation of God in history', it will probably be replied that it is success. His success after His death, by which Christ's unsuccessful life on earth was finally revealed to mankind as the greatest spiritual victory; that it was the success, the fruits of His teaching which proved it and justified it, and by which the prophecy 'The last shall be first and the first last' has been verified. In other words, that it was the historical success of the Christian Church through which the will of God manifested itself. But this is a most dangerous line of defence. Its implication that the worldly success of the Church is an argument in favour of Christianity clearly reveals lack of faith. The early Christians had no worldly encouragement of this kind. (They believed that conscience must judge power [15], and not the other way round.) Those who hold that the history of the success of Christian teaching reveals the will of God should ask themselves whether this success was really a success of the spirit of Christianity; and whether this spirit did not triumph at the time when the Church was persecuted, rather than at the time when the Church was triumphant. Which Church incorporated this spirit more purely, that of the martyrs, or the victorious Church of the Inquisition?

There seem to be many who would admit much of this, insisting as they do that the message of Christianity is to the meek, but who still believe that this message is one of historicism. An outstanding representative of this view is J. Macmurray, who, in The Clue to History, finds the essence of Christian teaching in historical prophecy, and who sees in its founder the discoverer of a dialectical law of 'human nature'. Macmurray holds [16] that, according to this law, political history must inevitably bring forth 'the socialist commonwealth of the world. The fundamental law of human nature cannot be broken ... It is the meek who will inherit the earth.' But this historicism, with its substitution of certainty for hope, must lead to a moral futurism. 'The Law cannot be broken.' So we can be sure, on psychological grounds, that whatever we do will lead to the same result; that even fascism must, in the end, lead to that commonwealth; so that the final outcome does not depend upon our moral decision, and that there is no need to worry over our responsibilities. If we are told that we can be certain, on scientific grounds, that 'the last will be first and the first last', what else is this but the substitution of historical prophecy for conscience? Does not this theory come dangerously close (certainly against the intentions of its author) to the admonition: 'Be wise, and take to heart what the founder of Christianity tells you, for he was a great psychologist of human nature and a great prophet of history. Climb in time upon the band-waggon of the meek; for according to the inexorable scientific laws of human nature, this is the surest way to come out on top!' Such a clue to history implies the worship of success; it implies that the meek will be justified because they will be on the winning side. It translates Marxism, and especially what I have described as Marx's historicist moral theory, into the language of a psychology of human nature, and of religious prophecy. It is an interpretation which, by implication, sees the greatest achievement of Christianity in the fact that its founder was a forerunner of Hegel — a superior one, admittedly.

My insistence that success should not be worshipped, that it cannot be our judge, and that we should not be dazzled by it, and in particular, my attempts to show that in this attitude I concur with what I believe to be the true teaching of Christianity, should not be misunderstood. They are not intended to support the attitude of ' other-worldliness' which I have criticized in the last chapter [17]. Whether Christianity is other-worldly, I do not know, but it certainly teaches that the only way to prove one's faith is by rendering practical (and worldly) help to those who need it. And it is certainly possible to combine an attitude of the utmost reserve and even of contempt towards worldly success in the sense of power, glory, and wealth, with the attempt to do one's best in this world, and to further the ends one has decided to adopt with the clear purpose of making them succeed; not for the sake of success or of one's justification by history, but for their own sake.

A forceful support of some of these views, and especially of the incompatibility of historicism and Christianity, can be found in Kierkegaard's criticism of Hegel. Although Kierkegaard never freed himself entirely from the Hegelian tradition in which he was educated [18], there was hardly anybody who recognized more clearly what Hegelian historicism meant. 'There were', Kierkegaard wrote [19], 'philosophers who tried, before Hegel, to explain ... history. And providence could only smile when it saw these attempts. But providence did not laugh outright, for there was a human, honest sincerity about them. But Hegel — ! Here I need Homer's language. How did the gods roar with laughter! Such a horrid little professor who has simply seen through the necessity of anything and everything there is, and who now plays the whole affair on his barrel-organ: listen, ye gods of Olympus!' And Kierkegaard continues, referring to the attack [20] by the atheist Schopenhauer upon the Christian apologist Hegel: 'Reading Schopenhauer has given me more pleasure than I can express. What he says is perfectly true; and then — it serves the Germans right — he is as rude as only a German can be.' But Kierkegaard's own expressions are nearly as blunt as Schopenhauer's; for Kierkegaard goes on to say that Hegelianism, which he calls 'this brilliant spirit of putridity', is the 'most repugnant of all forms of looseness'; and he speaks of its 'mildew of pomposity', its 'intellectual voluptuousness', and its 'infamous splendour of corruption'.

And, indeed, our intellectual as well as our ethical education is corrupt. It is perverted by the admiration of brilliance, of the way things are said, which takes the place of a critical appreciation of the things that are said (and the things that are done). It is perverted by the romantic idea of the splendour of the stage of History on which we are the actors. We are educated to act with an eye to the gallery.

The whole problem of educating man to a sane appreciation of his own importance relative to that of other individuals is thoroughly muddled by these ethics of fame and fate, by a morality which perpetuates an educational system that is still based upon the classics with their romantic view of the history of power and their romantic tribal morality which goes back to Heraclitus; a system whose ultimate basis is the worship of power. Instead of a sober combination of individualism and altruism (to use these labels again [21]) — that is to say, instead of a position like 'What really matters are human individuals, but I do not take this to mean that it is I who matter very much' — a romantic combination of egoism and collectivism is taken for granted. That is to say, the importance of the self, of its emotional life and its 'self-expression', is romantically exaggerated; and with it, the tension between the 'personality' and the group, the collective. This takes the place of the other individuals, the other men, but does not admit of reasonable personal relations. 'Dominate or submit' is, by implication, the device of this attitude; either be a Great Man, a Hero wrestling with fate and earning fame ('the greater the fall, the greater the fame', says Heraclitus), or belong to 'the masses' and submit yourself to leadership and sacrifice yourself to the higher cause of your collective. There is a neurotic, an hysterical element in this exaggerated stress on the importance of the tension between the self and the collective, and I do not doubt that this hysteria, this reaction to the strain of civilization, is the secret of the strong emotional appeal of the ethics of hero-worship, of the ethics of domination and submission [22].

At the bottom of all this there is a real difficulty. While it is fairly clear (as we have seen in chapters 9 and 24) that the politician should limit himself to fighting against evils, instead of fighting for 'positive' or 'higher' values, such as happiness, etc., the teacher, in principle, is in a different position. Although he should not impose his scale of 'higher' values upon his pupils, he certainly should try to stimulate their interest in these values. He should care for the souls of his pupils. (When Socrates told his friends to care for their souls, he cared for them.) Thus there is certainly something like a romantic or aesthetic element in education, such as should not enter politics. But though this is true in principle, it is hardly applicable to our educational system. For it presupposes a relation of friendship between teacher and pupil, a relation which, as emphasized in chapter 24, each party must be free to end. (Socrates chose his companions, and they him.) The very number of pupils makes all this impossible in our schools. Accordingly, attempts to impose higher values not only become unsuccessful, but it must be insisted that they lead to harm — to something much more concrete and public than the ideals aimed at. And the principle that those who are entrusted to us must, before anything else, not be harmed, should be recognized to be just as fundamental for education as it is for medicine. 'Do no harm' (and, therefore, 'give the young what they most urgently need, in order to become independent of us, and to be able to choose for themselves') would be a very worthy aim for our educational system, and one whose realization is somewhat remote, even though it sounds modest. Instead, 'higher' aims are the fashion, aims which are typically romantic and indeed nonsensical, such as 'the full development of the personality'.

It is under the influence of such romantic ideas that individualism is still identified with egoism, as it was by Plato, and altruism with collectivism (i.e. with the substitution of group egoism for the individualist egoism). But this bars the way even to a clear formulation of the main problem, the problem of how to obtain a sane appreciation of one's own importance in relation to other individuals. Since it is felt, and rightly so, that we have to aim at something beyond our own selves, something to which we can devote ourselves, and for which we may make sacrifices, it is concluded that this must be the collective, with its 'historical mission'. Thus we are told to make sacrifices, and, at the same time, assured that we shall make an excellent bargain by doing so. We shall make sacrifices, it is said, but we shall thereby obtain honour and fame. We shall become 'leading actors', heroes on the Stage of History; for a small risk we shall gain great rewards. This is the dubious morality of a period in which only a tiny minority counted, and in which nobody cared for the common people. It is the morality of those who, being political or intellectual aristocrats, have a chance of getting into the textbooks of history. It cannot possibly be the morality of those who favour justice and equalitarianism; for historical fame cannot be just, and it can be attained only by a very few. The countless number of men who are just as worthy, or worthier, will always be forgotten.

It should perhaps be admitted that the Heraclitean ethics, the doctrine that the higher reward is that which only posterity can offer, may in some way perhaps be slightly superior to an ethical doctrine which teaches us to look out for reward now. But it is not what we need. We need an ethics which defies success and reward. And such an ethics need not be invented. It is not new. It has been taught by Christianity, at least in its beginnings. It is, again, taught by the industrial as well as by the scientific co-operation of our own day. The romantic historicist morality of fame, fortunately, seems to be on the decline. The Unknown Soldier shows it. We are beginning to realize that sacrifice may mean just as much, or even more, when it is made anonymously. Our ethical education must follow suit. We must be taught to do our work; to make our sacrifice for the sake of this work, and not for praise or the avoidance of blame. (The fact that we all need some encouragement, hope, praise, and even blame, is another matter altogether.) We must find our justification in our work, in what we are doing ourselves, and not in a fictitious 'meaning of history'.

History has no meaning, I contend. But this contention does not imply that all we can do about it is to look aghast at the history of political power, or that we must look on it as a cruel joke. For we can interpret it, with an eye to those problems of power politics whose solution we choose to attempt in our time. We can interpret the history of power politics from the point of view of our fight for the open society, for a rule of reason, for justice, freedom, equality, and for the control of international crime. Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it; and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning.

It is the problem of nature and convention which we meet here again [23]. Neither nature nor history can tell us what we ought to do. Facts, whether those of nature or those of history, cannot make the decision for us, they cannot determine the ends we are going to choose. It is we who introduce purpose and meaning into nature and into history. Men are not equal; but we can decide to fight for equal rights. Human institutions such as the state are not rational, but we can decide to fight to make them more rational. We ourselves and our ordinary language are, on the whole, emotional rather than rational; but we can try to become a little more rational, and we can train ourselves to use our language as an instrument not of self-expression (as our romantic educationists would say) but of rational communication [24]. History itself — I mean the history of power politics, of course, not the nonexistent story of the development of mankind — has no end nor meaning, but we can decide to give it both. We can make it our fight for the open society and against its enemies (who, when in a corner, always protest their humanitarian sentiments, in accordance with Pareto's advice); and we can interpret it accordingly. Ultimately, we may say the same about the 'meaning of life'. It is up to us to decide what shall be our purpose in life, to determine our ends [25].

This dualism of facts and decisions [26] is, I believe, fundamental. Facts as such have no meaning; they can gain it only through our decisions. Historicism is only one of many attempts to get over this dualism; it is born of fear, for it shrinks from realizing that we bear the ultimate responsibility even for the standards we choose. But such an attempt seems to me to represent precisely what is usually described as superstition. For it assumes that we can reap where we have not sown; it tries to persuade us that if we merely fall into step with history everything will and must go right, and that no fundamental decision on our part is required; it tries to shift our responsibility on to history, and thereby on to the play of demoniac powers beyond ourselves; it tries to base our actions upon the hidden intentions of these powers, which can be revealed to us only in mystical inspirations and intuitions; and it thus puts our actions and ourselves on the moral level of a man who, inspired by horoscopes and dreams, chooses his lucky number in a lottery [27]. Like gambling, historicism is born of our despair in the rationality and responsibility of our actions. It is a debased hope and a debased faith, an attempt to replace the hope and the faith that springs from our moral enthusiasm and the contempt for success by a certainty that springs from a pseudo-science; a pseudoscience of the stars, or of 'human nature', or of historical destiny.

Historicism, I assert, is not only rationally untenable, it is also in conflict with any religion that teaches the importance of conscience. For such a religion must agree with the rationalist attitude towards history in its emphasis on our supreme responsibility for our actions, and for their repercussions upon the course of history. True, we need hope; to act, to live without hope goes beyond our strength. But we do not need more, and we must not be given more. We do not need certainty. Religion, in particular, should not be a substitute for dreams and wish-fulfilment; it should resemble neither the holding of a ticket in a lottery, nor the holding of a policy in an insurance company. The historicist element in religion is an element of idolatry, of superstition.

This emphasis upon the dualism of facts and decisions determines also our attitude towards such ideas as 'progress'. If we think that history progresses, or that we are bound to progress, then we commit the same mistake as those who believe that history has a meaning that can be discovered in it and need not be given to it. For to progress is to move towards some kind of end, towards an end which exists for us as human beings.

'History' cannot do that; only we, the human individuals, can do it; we can do it by defending and strengthening those democratic institutions upon which freedom, and with it progress, depends. And we shall do it much better as we become more fully aware of the fact that progress rests with us, with our watchfulness, with our efforts, with the clarity of our conception of our ends, and with the realism [28] of their choice.

Instead of posing as prophets we must become the makers of our fate. We must learn to do things as well as we can, and to look out for our mistakes. And when we have dropped the idea that the history of power will be our judge, when we have given up worrying whether or not history will justify us, then one day perhaps we may succeed in getting power under control. In this way we may even justify history, in our turn. It badly needs a justification.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:52 am

Part 1 of 18


General Remarks.

The text of the book is self-contained and may be read without these Notes. However, a considerable amount of material which is likely to interest all readers of the book will be found here, as well as some references and controversies which may not be of general interest. Readers who wish to consult the Notes for the sake of this material may find it convenient first to read without interruption through the text of a chapter, and then to turn to the Notes.

I wish to apologize for the perhaps excessive number of cross-references which have been included for the benefit of those readers who take a special interest in one or other of the side issues touched upon (such as Plato's preoccupation with racialism, or the Socratic Problem). Knowing that war conditions would make it impossible for me to read the proofs, I decided to refer not to pages but to note numbers. Accordingly, references to the text have been indicated by notes such as: 'cp. text to note 24 to chapter 3', etc. War conditions also restricted library facilities, making it impossible for me to obtain a number of books, some recent and some not, which would have been consulted in normal circumstances.

* Notes which make use of material which was not available to me when writing the manuscript for the first edition of this book (and other notes which I wish to characterize as having been added to the book since 1943) are enclosed by asterisks; not all new additions to the notes have, however, been so marked.*

Note to Introduction

For Kant's motto, see note 41 to chapter 24, and text.

The terms 'open society' and 'closed society' were first used, to my knowledge, by Henri Bergson, in Two Sources of Morality and Religion (Engl, ed., 1935). In spite of a considerable difference (due to a fundamentally different approach to nearly every problem of philosophy) between Bergson's way of using these terms and mine, there is a certain similarity also, which I wish to acknowledge. (Cp. Bergson's characterization of the closed society, op. cit., p. 229, as 'human society fresh from the hands of nature'.) The main difference, however, is this. My terms indicate, as it were, a rationalist distinction; the closed society is characterized by the belief in magical taboos, while the open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence (after discussion). Bergson, on the other hand, has a kind of religious distinction in mind. This explains why he can look upon his open society as the product of a mystical intuition, while I suggest (in chapters 10 and 24) that mysticism may be interpreted as an expression of the longing for the lost unity of the closed society, and therefore as a reaction against the rationalism of the open society. From the way my term 'The Open Society' is used in chapter 10, it may be seen that there is some resemblance to Graham Wallas' term 'The Great Society'; but my term may cover a 'small society' too, as it were, like that of Periclean Athens, while it is perhaps conceivable that a 'Great Society' may be arrested and thereby closed. There is also, perhaps, a similarity between my 'open society' and the term used by Walter Lippmann as the title of his most admirable book. The Good Society (1937). See also note 59 (2) to chapter 10 and notes 29, 32, and 58 to chapter 24, and text.

Notes to Volume I

Notes to Chapter One

For Pericles' motto, see note 31 to chapter 10, and text. Plato's motto is discussed in some detail in notes 33 and 34 to chapter 6, and text.

1. I use the term 'collectivism' only for a doctrine which emphasizes the significance of some collective or group, for instance, 'the state' (or a certain state; or a nation; or a class) as against that of the individual. The problem of collectivism versus individualism is explained more fully in chapter 6, below; see especially notes 26 to 28 to that chapter, and text. — Concerning 'tribalism', cp. chapter 10, and especially note 38 to that chapter (list of Pythagorean tribal taboos).

2. This means that the interpretation does not convey any empirical information, as shown in my The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

3. One of the features which the doctrines of the chosen people, the chosen race, and the chosen class have in common is that they originated, and became important, as reactions against some kind of oppression. The doctrine of the chosen people became important at the time of the foundation of the Jewish church, i.e. during the Babylonian captivity; Count Gobineau's theory of the Aryan master race was a reaction of the aristocratic emigrant to the claim that the French Revolution had successfully expelled the Teutonic masters. Marx's prophecy of the victory of the proletariat is his reply to one of the most sinister periods of oppression and exploitation in modern history. Compare with these matters chapter 10, especially note 39, and chapter 17, especially notes 13-15, and text.

* One of the briefest and best summaries of the historicist creed can be found in the radically historicist pamphlet which is quoted more fully at the end of note 12 to chapter 9, entitled Christians in the Class Struggle, by Gilbert Cope, Foreword by the Bishop of Bradford. ('Magnificat' Publication No. 1, Published by the Council of Clergy and Ministers for Common Ownership, 1942, 28, Maypole Lane, Birmingham 14.) Here we read, on pp. 5-6: 'Common to all these views is a certain quality of "inevitability plus freedom". Biological evolution, the class conflict succession, the action of the Holy Spirit — all three are characterized by a definite motion towards an end. That motion may be hindered or deflected for a time by deliberate human action, but its gathering momentum cannot be dissipated, and though the final stage is but dimly apprehended, it is 'possible to know enough about the process to help forward or to delay the inevitable flow. In other words, the natural laws of what we observe to be "progress" are sufficiently... understood by men so that they can... either... make efforts to arrest or divert the main stream — efforts which may seem to be successful for a time, but which are in fact foredoomed to failure.'*

4. Hegel said that, in his Logic, he had preserved the whole of Heraclitus' teaching. He also said that he owed everything to Plato. *It may be worth mentioning that Ferdinand von Lassalle, one of the founders of the German social democratic movement (and, like Marx, a Hegelian), wrote two volumes on Heraclitus.*

Notes to Chapter Two

1. The question 'What is the world made of?' is more or less generally accepted as the fundamental problem of the early Ionian philosophers. If we assume that they viewed the world as an edifice, the question of the ground-plan of the world would be complementary to that of its building material. And indeed, we hear that Thales was not only interested in the stuff the world is made of, but also in descriptive astronomy and geography, and that Anaximander was the first to draw up a ground-plan, i.e. a map of the earth. Some further remarks on the Ionian school (and especially on Anaximander as predecessor of Heraclitus) will be found in chapter 10; cp. notes 38-40 to that chapter, especially note 39.

* According to R. Eisler, Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt , p. 693, Homer's feeling of destiny ('moira') can be traced back to oriental astral mysticism which deifies time, space, and fate. According to the same author (Revue de Synthese Historique, 41, app., p. 16 f), Hesiod's father was a native of Asia Minor, and the sources of his idea of the Golden Age, and the metals in man, are oriental. (Cp. on this question Eisler 's forthcoming posthumous study of Plato, Oxford 1950.) Eisler also shows (Jesus Basileus, vol. II, 618 f) that the idea of the world as a totality of things ('cosmos') goes back to Babylonian political theory. The idea of the world as an edifice (a house or tent) is treated in his Weltenmantel.'

2. See Diels, Die Vorsokratiker, 5th edition, 1934 (abbreviated here as 'D5'), fragment 124; cp. also D5, vol. II, p. 423, lines 21 f (The interpolated negation seems to me methodologically as unsound as the attempt of certain authors to discredit the fragment altogether; apart from this, I follow Rustow's emendation.) For the two other quotations in this paragraph, see Plato, Cratylus, 40 Id, 402a/b.

My interpretation of the teaching of Heraclitus is perhaps different from that commonly assumed at present, for instance from that of Burnet. Those who may feel doubtful whether it is at all tenable are referred to my notes, especially the present note and notes 6, 7, and 11, in which I am dealing with Heraclitus' natural philosophy, having confined my text to a presentation of the historicist aspect of Heraclitus' teaching and to his social philosophy. I further refer them to the evidence of chapters 4 to 9, and especially of chapter 10, in whose light Heraclitus' philosophy, as I see it, appears as a somewhat typical reaction to the social revolution which he witnessed. Cp. also the notes 39 and 59 to that chapter (and text), and the general criticism of Burnet's and Taylor's methods in note 56.

As indicated in the text, I hold (with many others, for instance, with Zeller and Grote) that the doctrine of universal flux is the central doctrine of Heraclitus. As opposed to this, Burnet holds that this 'is hardly the central point in the system' of Heraclitus (cp. Early Greek Philosophy, 2nd ed., 163). But a close inspection of his arguments (158 f) leaves me quite unconvinced that Heraclitus' fundamental discovery was the abstract metaphysical doctrine 'that wisdom is not the knowledge of many things, but the perception of the underlying unity of warring opposites', as Burnet puts it. The unity of opposites is certainly an important part of Heraclitus' teaching, but it can be derived (as far as such things can be derived; cp. note 11 to this chapter, and the corresponding text) from the more concrete and intuitively understandable theory of flux; and the same can be said of Heraclitus' doctrine of the fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter).

Those who suggest, with Burnet, that the doctrine of universal flux was not new, but anticipated by the earlier Ionians, are, I feel, unconscious witnesses to Heraclitus' originality; for they fail now, after 2,400 years, to grasp his main point. They do not see the difference between a flux or circulation within a vessel or an edifice or a cosmic framework, i.e. within a totality of things (part of the Heraclitean theory can indeed be understood in this way, but only that part of it which is not very original; see below), and a universal flux which embraces everything, even the vessel, the framework itself (cp. Lucian in D5 I, p. 190) and which is described by Heraclitus' denial of the existence of any fixed thing whatever. (In a way, Anaximander had made a beginning by dissolving the framework, but there was still a long way from this to the theory of universal flux. Cp. also note 15 (4) to chapter 3.)

The doctrine of universal flux forces Heraclitus to attempt an explanation of the apparent stability of the things in this world, and of other typical regularities. This attempt leads him to the development of subsidiary theories, especially to his doctrine of fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter) and of natural laws (cp. note 6). It is in this explanation of the apparent stability of the world that he makes much use of the theories of his predecessors by developing their theory of rarefaction and condensation, together with their doctrine of the revolution of the heavens, into a general theory of the circulation of matter, and of periodicity. But this part of his teaching, I hold, is not central to it, but subsidiary. It is, so to speak, apologetic, for it attempts to reconcile the new and revolutionary doctrine of flux with common experience as well as with the teaching of his predecessors. I believe, therefore, that he is not a mechanical materialist who teaches something like the conservation and circulation of matter and of energy; this view seems to me to be excluded by his magical attitude towards laws as well as by his theory of the unity of opposites which emphasizes his mysticism.

My contention that the universal flux is the central theory of Heraclitus is, I believe, corroborated by Plato. The overwhelming majority of his explicit references to Heraclitus (Crat, 401d, 402a/b, 411, 437ff , 440; Theaet, 153c/d, 160d, 177c, 179d f , 182a ff , 183a ff., cp. dlso Symp., 207d, Phil., 43a; cp. also Aristotle's Metaphysics, 987a33, 1010al3, 1078b 13) witness to the tremendous impression made by this central doctrine upon the thinkers of that period. These straightforward and clear testimonies are much stronger than the admittedly interesting passage which does not mention Heraclitus' name (Soph., 242d f., quoted already, in connection with Heraclitus, by Ueberweg and Zeller), on which Burnet attempts to base his interpretation. (His other witness, Philo Judaeus, cannot count much as against the evidence of Plato and Aristotle.) But even this passage agrees completely with our interpretation. (With regard to Burnet's somewhat wavering judgement concerning the value of this passage, cp. note 56(7) to chapter 10.) Heraclitus' discovery that the world is not the totality of things but of events or facts is not at all trivial; this can be perhaps gauged by the fact that Wittgenstein has found it necessary to reaffirm it quite recently: 'The world is the totality of facts, not of things.' (Cp. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921/22, sentence 1.1; italics mine.)

To sum up. I consider the doctrine of universal flux as fundamental, and as emerging from the realm of Heraclitus' social experiences. All other doctrines of his are in a way subsidiary to it. The doctrine of fire (cp. Aristotle's Metaphysics, 984a7, 1067a2; also 989a2, 996a9, 5; Physics, 205a3) I consider to be his central doctrine in the field of natural philosophy; it is an attempt to reconcile the doctrine of flux with our experience of stable things, a link with the older theories of circulation, and it leads to a theory of laws. And the doctrine of the unity of opposites I consider as something less central and more abstract, as a forerunner of a kind of logical or methodological theory (as such it inspired Aristotle to formulate his law of contradiction), and as linked to his mysticism.

3. W. Nestle, Die Vorsokratiker (1905), 35.

4. In order to facilitate the identification of the fragments quoted, I give the numbers of Bywater's edition (adopted, in his English translation of the fragments, by Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy), and also the numbers of Diels' 5th edition.

Of the eight passages quoted in the present paragraph, (1) and (2) are from the fragments B 114 (= Bywater, and Burnet), D5 121 (= Diels, 5th edition). The others are from the fragments: (3) B 111, D5 29; cp. Plato's Republic, 586a/b... (4): B 111, D5 104... (5): B 112, D5 39 (cp. D5, vol. I, p. 65, Bias, 1)... (6): B 5, D5 17... (7): B 110, D5 33... (8): B 100, D5 44.

5. The three passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments: (1) and (2): cp. B 41, D5 91; for (1) cp. also note 2 to this chapter; (3): D5 74.

6. The two passages are B 21, D5 31; and B 22, D5 90.

7. For Heraclitus' 'measures' (or laws, or periods), see B 20, 21, 23, 29; D5 30, 31, 94. (D 31 brings 'measure' and 'law' (logos) together.)

The five passages quoted later in this paragraph are from the fragments: (1): D5, vol. I, p. 141, line 10. (Cp. Diog. Laert., IX, 7.)... (2): B 29, D5 94 (cp. note 2 to chapter 5)... (3): B 34, D5 100... (4): B 20, D5 30... (5): B 26, D5 66.

(1) The idea of law is correlative to that of change or flux, since only laws or regularities within the flux can explain the apparent stability of the world. The most typical regularities within the changing world known to man are the natural periods: the day, the moon-month, and the year (the seasons). Heraclitus' theory of law is, I believe, logically intermediate between the comparatively modem views of 'causal laws' (held by Leucippus and especially by Democritus) and Anaximander's dark powers of fate. Heraclitus' laws are still 'magical', i.e. he has not yet distinguished between abstract causal regularities and laws enforced, like taboos, by sanctions (with this, cp. chapter 5, note 2). It appears that his theory of fate was connected with a theory of a 'Great Year' or 'Great Cycle' of 18,000 or 36,000 ordinary years. (Cp. for instance J. Adam's edition of The Republic of Plato, vol. II, 303.) I certainly do not think that this theory is an indication that Heraclitus did not really believe in a universal flux, but only in various circulations which always re-established the stability of the framework; but I think it possible that he had difficulties in conceiving a law of change, and even of fate, other than one involving a certain amount of periodicity. (Cp. also note 6 to chapter 3.)

(2) Fire plays a central role in Heraclitus' philosophy of nature. (There may be some Persian influence here.) The flame is the obvious symbol of a flux or process which appears in many respects as a thing. It thus explains the experience of stable things, and reconciles this experience with the doctrine of flux. This idea can easily be extended to living bodies which are like flames, only burning more slowly. Heraclitus teaches that all things are in flux, all are like fire; their flux has only different 'measures' or laws of motion. The 'bowl' or 'trough' in which the fire burns will be in a much slower flux than the fire, but it will be in flux nevertheless. It changes, it has its fate and its laws, it must be burned into by the fire, and consumed, even if it takes a longer time before its fate is fulfilled. Thus, 'in its advance, the fire will judge and convict everything' (B 26, D5 66).

Accordingly, the fire is the symbol and the explanation of the apparent rest of things in spite of their real state of flux. But it is also a symbol of the transmutation of matter from one stage (fuel) into another. It thus provides the link between Heraclitus' intuitive theory of nature and the theories of rarefaction and condensation, etc., of his predecessors. But its flaring up and dying down, in accordance with the measure of fuel provided, is also an instance of a law. If this is combined with some form of periodicity, then it can be used to explain the regularities of natural periods, such as days or years. (This trend of thought renders it unlikely that Burnet is right in disbelieving the traditional reports of Heraclitus' belief in a periodical conflagration, which was probably connected with his Great Year; cp. Aristotle, Physics, 205a3 with D5 66.)

8. The thirteen passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments.

(1): B 10, D5 123... (2): B 11, D5 93... (3): B 16, D5 40... (4): B 94, D5 73... (5): B 95, D5 89... with (4) and (5), cp. Plato's Republic, 476c f , and 520c... (6): B 6, D5 19... (7): B 3, D5 34... (8): B 19, D5 41... (9): B 92, D5 2... (10): B 91a, D5 113... (11): B 59, D5 10... (12): B 65, D5 32... (13):B28, D5 64.

9. More consistent than most moral historicists, Heraclitus is also an ethical and juridical positivist (for this term, cp. chapter 5): 'All things are, to the gods, fair and good and right; men, however, have taken up some things as wrong, and some as right' (D5 102, B 61; see passage (8) in note 11.) That he was the first juridical positivist is attested by Plato (Theaet, 177c/d). On moral and juridical positivism in general, cp. chapter 5 (text to notes 14-18) and chapter 22.

10. The two passages quoted in this paragraph are: (1): B 44, D5 53... (2): B 62, D5 80.

11. The nine passages quoted in this paragraph are: (1): B 39, D5 126... (2): B 104, D5 111... (3): B 78, D5 88... (4): B 45, D5 51... (5): D5 8... (6): B 69, D5 60... (7): B 50, D5 59... (8): B 61, D5 102 (cp. note 9)... (9): B 57, D5 58. (Cp. Aristotle, Physics, 185b20.)

Flux or change must be the transition from one stage or property or position to another. In so far as flux presupposes something that changes, this something must remain identically the same, even though it assumes an opposite stage or property or position. This links the theory of flux to that of the unity of opposites (cp. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1005b25, 1024a24 and 34, 1062a32, 1063a25) as well as the doctrine of the oneness of all things; they are all only different phases or appearances of the one changing something (of fire).

Whether 'the path that leads up' and 'the path that leads down' were originally conceived as an ordinary path leading first up a mountain, and later down again (or perhaps: leading up from the point of view of the man who is down, and down from that of the man who is up), and whether this metaphor was only later applied to the processes of circulation, to the path that leads up from earth through water (perhaps liquid fuel in a bowl?) to the fire, and down again from the fire through the water (rain?) to earth; or whether Heraclitus' path up and down was originally applied by him to this process of circulation of matter; all this can of course not be decided. (But I think that the first alternative is more likely in view of the great number of similar ideas in Heraclitus' fragments: cp. the text.)

12. The four passages are: (1): B 102, D5 24... (2): B 101, D5 25 (a closer version which more or less preserves Heraclitus' pun is: 'Greater death wins greater destiny.' Cp. also Plato's Laws, 903 d/e; contrast With. Rep. 617 d/e)... (3): B 111, D5 29 (part of the continuation is quoted above; see passage (3) in note 4)... (4): B 113, D5 49.

13. It seems very probable (cp. Meyer's Gesch. d. Altertums, esp. vol. I) that such characteristic teachings as that of the chosen people originated in this period, which produced several other religions of salvation besides the Jewish.

14. Comte, who in France developed a historicist philosophy not very dissimilar from Hegel's Prussian version, tried, like Hegel, to stem the revolutionary tide. (Cp. F. A. von Hayek, The Counter-Revo lution of Science, Economica, N.S. vol. VIII, 1941, pp. 119 ff., 281 ff.) For Lassalle's interest in Heraclitus, see note 4 to chapter 1. — It is interesting to note, in this connection, the parallelism between the history of historicist and of evolutionary ideas. They originated in Greece with the semi-Heraclitean Empedocles (for Plato's version, see note 1 to chapter 11), and they were revived, in England as well as in France, in the time of the French Revolution.

Notes to Chapter Three

1. With this explanation of the term oligarchy, cp. also the end of notes 44 and 57 to chapter 8.

2. Cp. especially note 48 to chapter 10.

3. Cp. the end of chapter 7, esp. note 25, and chapter 10, esp. note 69.

4. Cp. Diogenes Laert., Ill, 1. — Concerning Plato's family connections, and especially the alleged descent of his father's family from Codrus, 'and even from the God Poseidon', see G. Grote, Plato and other Companions of Socrates (edn 1875), vol. I, 114. (See, however, the similar remark on Critias' family, i.e. on that of Plato's mother, in E. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, vol. V, 1922, p. 66.) Plato says of Codrus in the Symposium (208d): 'Do you suppose that Alcestis,... or Achilles,... or that your own Codrus would have sought death — in order to save the kingship for his children -- had they not expected to win that immortal memory of their virtue in which indeed we keep them?' Plato praises Critias' (i.e. his mother's) family in the early Charmides (157e ff.) and in the late Timaeus (20e), where the family is traced back to the Athenian ruler (archon-) Dropides, the friend of Solon.

5. The two autobiographical quotations which follow in this paragraph are from the Seventh Letter (325). Plato's authorship of the Letters has been questioned by some eminent scholars (perhaps without sufficient foundation; I think Field's treatment of this problem very convincing; cp. note 57 to chapter 10; on the other hand, even the Seventh Letter looks to me a little suspicious — it repeats too much what we know from the Apology, and says too much what the occasion requires). I have therefore taken care to base my interpretation of Platonism mainly on some of the most famous dialogues; it is, however, in general agreement with \hQ Letters. For the reader's convenience, a Hst of those Platonic dialogues which are frequently mentioned in the text may be given here, in what is their probable historical order; cp. note 56 (8) to chapter 10. Crito — Apology — Euthyphro; Protagoras — Meno — Gorgias; Cratylus — Menexenus — Phaedo; Republic; Parmenides — Theaetetus; Sophist — Statesman (or Politicus) — Philebus; Timaeus — Critias; Laws.

6. (1) That historical developments may have a cyclic character is nowhere very clearly stated by Plato. It is, however, alluded to in at least four dialogues, namely in the Phaedo, in the Republic, in the Statesman (or Politicus), and in the Laws. In all these places, Plato's theory may possibly allude to Heraclitus' Great Year (cp. note 6 to chapter 2). It may be, however, that the allusion is not to Heraclitus directly, but rather to Empedocles, whose theory (cp. also Aristotle, Met, 1000a25 f.) Plato considered as merely a 'milder' version of the Heraclitean theory of the unity of all flux. He expresses this in a famous passage of the Sophist (242e f.). According to this passage, and to Aristotle (De Gen. Corn , B, 6., 334a6), there is a historical cycle embracing a period in which love rules, and a period in which Heraclitus' strife rules; and Aristotle tells us that, according to Empedocles, the present period is 'now a period of the reign of Strife, as it was formerly one of Love'. This insistence that the flux of our own cosmic period is a kind of strife, and therefore bad, is in close accordance both with Plato's theories and with his experiences.

The length of the Great Year is, probably, the period of time after which all heavenly bodies return to the same positions relative to each other as were held by them at the moment from which the period is reckoned. (This would make it the smallest common multiple of the periods of the 'seven planets'.)

(2) The passage in the Phaedo mentioned under (1) alludes first to the Heraclitean theory of change leading from one state to its opposite state, or from one opposite to the other: 'that which becomes less must once have been greater...' (70e/71a). It then proceeds to indicate a cyclic law of development: 'Are there not two processes which are ever going on, from one extreme to its opposite, and back again...?' (loc. cit.). And a little later (72a/b) the argument is put like this: 'If the development were in a straight line only, and there were no compensation or cycle in nature,... then, in the end, all things would take on the same properties... and there would be no further development' It appears that the general tendency of the Phaedo is more optimistic (and shows more faith in man and in human reason) than that of the later dialogues, but there are no direct references to human historical development.

(3) Such references are, however, made in the Republic where, in Books VIII and IX, we find an elaborate description of historical decay treated here in chapter 4. This description is introduced by Plato's Story of the Fall of Man and of the Number, which will here be discussed more fully in chapters 5 and 8. J. Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato (1902, 1921), rightly calls this story 'the setting in which Plato's "Philosophy of History" is framed' (vol. II, 210). This story does not contain any explicit statement on the cyclic character of history, but it contains a few rather mysterious hints which, according to Aristotle's (and Adam's) interesting but uncertain interpretation, are possibly allusions to the Heraclitean Great Year, i.e. to the cyclic development. (Cp. note 6 to chapter 2, and Adam, op. cit, vol. II, 303; the remark on Empedocles made there, 303f., needs correction; see (1) in this note, above.)

(4) There is, furthermore, the myth in the Statesman (268e-274c). According to this myth, God himself steers the world for half a cycle of the great world period. When he lets go, then the world, which so far has moved forward, begins to roll back again. Thus we have two half-periods or half-cycles in the full cycle, a forward movement led by God constituting the good period without war or strife, and a backward movement when God abandons the world, which is a period of increasing disorganization and strife. It is, of course, the period in which we live. Ultimately, things will become so bad that God will take the wheel again, and reverse the motion, in order to save the world from utter destruction.

This myth shows great resemblances to Empedocles' myth mentioned in (1) above, and probably also to Heraclitus' Great Year. — Adam ( op. cit., vol. II, 296 f.) also points out the similarities with Hesiod's story. *One of the points which allude to Hesiod is the reference to a Golden Age of Cronos; and it is important to note that the men of this age are earth-born. This estabhshes a point of contact with the Myth of the Earth-bom, and of the metals in man, which plays a role in the Republic (414b ff. and 546e f); this role is discussed below in chapter 8. The Myth of the Earth-bom is also alluded to in the Symposium (191b); possibly the allusion is to the popular claim that the Athenians are 'like grasshoppers' — autochthonous (cp. notes 32 (l)e to chapter 4 and 1 1 (2) to chapter 8).*

When, however, later in the Statesman (302b ff.) the six forms of imperfect government are ordered according to their degree of imperfection, there is no indication any longer to be found of a cyclic theory of history. Rather, the six forms, which are all degenerate copies of the perfect or best state (Statesman, 293d/e; 297c; 303b), appear all as steps in the process of degeneration; i.e. both here and in the Republic Plato confines himself, when it comes to more concrete historical problems, to that part of the cycle which leads to decay.

* (5) Analogous remarks hold for the Laws. Something like a cyclic theory is sketched in Book III, 676b/c-677b, where Plato turns to a more detailed analysis of the beginning of one of the cycles; and in 67 8e and 679c, this beginning turns out to be a Golden Age, so that the further story again becomes one of deterioration. — It may be mentioned that Plato's doctrine, that the planets are gods, together with the doctrine that the gods influence human lives (and with his belief that cosmic forces are at work in history), played an important part in the astrological speculations of the neo-Platonists. All three doctrines can be found in the Laws (see, for example, 821b-d and 899b; 899d-905d; 677a ff.). Astrology, it should be realized, shares with historicism the belief in a determinate destiny which can be predicted; and it shares with some important versions of historicism (especially with Platonism and Marxism) the belief that, notwithstanding the possibility of predicting the future, we have some influence upon it, especially if we actually know what is coming.*

(6) Apart from these scanty allusions, there is hardly anything to indicate that Plato took the upward or forward part of the cycle seriously. But there are many remarks, apart from the elaborate description in the Republic and that quoted in (5), which show that he believed very seriously in the downward movement, in the decay of history. We must consider, especially, the Timaeus, and the Laws.

(7) In the Timaeus (42b f, 90e ff., and especially 9 Id f; cp. also the Ph a edrus, 248d f), Plato describes what may be called the origin of species by degeneration (cp. text to note 4 to chapter 4, and note 11 to chapter 11): men degenerate into women, and later into lower animals.

(8) In Book III of the Laws (cp. also Book IV, 713a ff.; see however the short allusion to a cycle mentioned above) we have a rather elaborate theory of historical decay, largely analogous to that in the Republic. See also the next chapter, especially notes 3, 6, 7, 27, 31, and 44.

7. A similar opinion of Plato's political aims is expressed by G. C. Field, Plato and His Contemporaries (1930), p. 91: 'The chief aim of Plato's philosophy may be regarded as the attempt to re-establish standards of thought and conduct for a civilization that seemed on the verge of dissolution.' See also note 3 to chapter 6, and text.

8. I follow the majority of the older and a good number of contemporary authorities (e.g. G. C. Field, F. M. Cornford, A. K. Rogers) in believing, against John Burnet and A. E. Taylor, that the theory of Forms or Ideas is nearly entirely Plato's, and not Socrates', in spite of the fact that Plato puts it into the mouth of Socrates as his main speaker. Though Plato's dialogues are our only first-rate source for Socrates' teaching, it is, I believe, possible to distinguish in them between 'Socratic', i.e. historically true, and 'Platonic' features of Plato's speaker 'Socrates'. The so-called Socratic Problem is discussed in chapters 6, 7, 8, and 10; cp. especially note 56 to chapter 10.

9. The term 'social engineering' seems to have been used first by Roscoe Pound, in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Law (1922, p. 99; *Bryan Magee tells me now that the Webbs used it almost certainly before 1922.*) He uses the term in the 'piecemeal' sense. In another sense it is used by M. Eastman, Mxrxwm; Is it Science? (1940). I read Eastman's book after the text of my own book was written; my term 'social engineering' is, accordingly, used without any intention of alluding to Eastman's terminology. As far as I can see, he advocates the approach which I criticize in chapter 9 under the name 'Utopian social engineering'; cp. note 1 to that chapter. — See also note 18 (3) to chapter 5. As the first social engineer one might describe the town-planner Hippodamus of Miletus. (Cp. Aristotle's Politics 1276b22, and R. Eisler, Jesus Basileus, II, p. 754.)

The term 'social technology' has been suggested to me by C. G. F. Simkin. — I wish to make it clear that in discussing problems of method, my main emphasis is upon gaining practical institutional experience. Cp. chapter 9, especially text to note 8 to that chapter. For a more detailed analysis of the problems of method connected with social engineering and social technology, see my The Poverty of Historicism (2nd edition, 1960), part III.

10. The quoted passage is from my The Poverty of Historicism, p. 65. The 'undesigned results of human actions' are more fully discussed below, in chapter 14, see especially note 11 and text.

11. I believe in a dualism of facts and decisions or demands (or of 'is' and 'ought'); in other words, I believe in the impossibility of reducing decisions or demands to facts, although they can, of course, be treated as facts. More on this point will be said in chapters 5 (text to notes 4-5), 22, and 24.

12 Evidence in support of this interpretation of Plato's theory of the best state will be supplied in the next three chapters; I may refer, in the meanwhile, to Statesman, 293 d/e; 297c; Laws, 713b/c; 739d/e; Timaeus, 22d ff., especially 25e and 26d.

13. Cp. Aristotle's famous report, partly quoted later in this chapter (see especially note 25 to this chapter, and the text).

14. This is shown in Grote's Plato, vol. Ill, note u on pp. 267 f.

15. The quotations are from the Timaeus, 50c/d and 51e-52b. The simile which describes the Forms or Ideas as the fathers, and Space as the mother, of the sensible things, is important and has far-reaching connections. Cp. also notes 17 and 19 to this chapter, and note 59 to chapter 10.

(1) It resembles Hesiod's myth of chaos, the yawning gap (space; receptacle) which corresponds to the mother, and the God Eros, who corresponds to the father or to the Ideas. Chaos is the origin, and the question of the causal explanation (chaos = cause) remains for a long time one of origin (arche-) or birth or generation.

(2) The mother or Space corresponds to the indefinite or boundless of Anaximander and of the Pythagoreans. The Idea, which is male, must therefore correspond to the definite (or limited) of the Pythagoreans. For the definite, as opposed to the boundless, the male, as opposed to the female, the light, as opposed to the dark, and the good, as opposed to the bad, all belong to the same side in the Pythagorean table of opposites. (Cp. Aristotle's Metaphysics, 986a22 f ) We also can therefore expect to see the Ideas associated with light and goodness. (Cp. end of note 32 to chapter 8.)

(3) The Ideas are boundaries or limits, they are definite, as opposed to indefinite Space, and impress or imprint (cp. note 17 (2) to this chapter) themselves like rubber-stamps, or better, like moulds, upon Space (which is not only space but at the same time Anaximander 's unformed matter — stuff without property), thus generating sensible things. *J. D. Mabbott has kindly drawn my attention to the fact that the Forms or Ideas, according to Plato, do not impress themselves upon Space but are, rather, impressed or imprinted upon it by the Demiurge. Traces of the theory that the Forms are 'causes both of being and of generation (or becoming)' can be found aheady in the Phaedo (100d), as Aristotle points out (in Metaphysics 1080a2).*

(4) In consequence of the act of generation, Space, i.e. the receptacle, begins to labour, so that all things are set in motion, in a Heraclitean or Empedoclean flux which is really universal in so far as the movement or flux extends even to the framework, i.e. (boundless) space itself. (For the late Heraclitean idea of the receptacle, cp. the Cratylus, 41 2d.)

(5) This description is also reminiscent of Parmenides' 'Way of Delusive Opinion', in which the world of experience and of flux is created by the mingling of two opposites, the light (or hot or fire) and the dark (or cold or earth). It is clear that Plato's Forms or Ideas would correspond to the former, and Space or what is boundless to the latter; especially if we consider that Plato's pure space is closely akin to indeterminate matter.

(6) The opposition between the determinate and indeterminate seems also to correspond, especially after the all-important discovery of the irrationality of the square root of two, to the opposition between the rational and the irrational. But since Parmenides identifies the rational with being, this would lead to an interpretation of Space or the irrational as non- being. In other words, the Pythagorean table of opposites is to be extended to cover rationality, as opposed to irrationality, and being, as opposed to non-being. (This agrees with Metaphysics, 1004b27, where Aristotle says that 'all the contraries are reducible to being and non-being'; 1072a31, where one side of the table — that of being — is described as the object of (rational) thought; and 1093b 13, where the powers of certain numbers — presumably in opposition to their roots — are added to this side. This would further explain Aristotle's remark in Metaphysics, 986b27; and it would perhaps not be necessary to assume, as F. M. Cornford does in his excellent article 'Parmenides' Two Ways', Class. Quart, XVII, 1933, p. 108, that Parmenides, fir. 8, 53/54, 'has been misinterpreted by Aristotle and Theophrastus' for if we expand the table of opposites in this way, Cornford's most convincing interpretation of the crucial passage of fir. 8 becomes compatible with Aristotle's remark.)

(7) Cornford has explained (op. cit, 100) that there are three 'ways' in Parmenides, the way of Truth, the way of Not-being, and the way of Seeming (or, if I may call it so, of delusive opinion). He shows (101) that they correspond to three regions discussed in the Republic, the perfectly real and rational world of the Ideas, the perfectly unreal, and the world of opinion (based on the perception of things in flux). He has also shown (102) that in the Sophist, Plato modifies his position. To this, some comments may be added from the point of view of the passages in the Timaeus to which this note is appended.

(8) The main difference between the Forms or Ideas of the Republic and those of the Timaeus is that in the former, the Forms (and also God; cp. Rep., 380d) are petri-fied, so to speak, while in the latter, they are deified. In the former, they bear a much closer resemblance to the Parmenidean One (cp. Adam's note to Rep., 380d28, 31), than in the latter. This development leads to the Laws, where the Ideas are largely replaced by souls. The decisive difference is that the Ideas become more and more the starting points of motion and causes of generation, or as the Timaeus puts it, fathers of the moving things. The greatest contrast is perhaps between the Phaedo, 79e: 'The soul is infinitely more like the unchangeable; even the most stupid person would not deny that' (cp. also Rep., 585c, 609b f), and the Laws, 895e/896a (cp. Phaedrus, 245c ff.): 'What is the definition of that which is named "soul"? Can we imagine any other definition than... "The motion that moves itself'?' The transition between these two positions is, perhaps, provided by the Sophist (which introduces the Form or Idea of motion itself) and by the Timaeus, 35a, which describes the 'divine and unchanging' Forms and the changing and corruptible bodies. This seems to explain why, in the Laws (cp. 894d/e), the motion of the soul is said to be 'first in origin and power' and why the soul is described (966e) as 'the most ancient and divine of all things whose motion is an ever-flowing source of real existence'. (Since, according to Plato, all living things have souls, it may be claimed that he admitted the presence of an at least partly formal principle in things; a point of view which is very close to Aristotelianism, especially in the presence of the primitive and widespread belief that all things are alive.) (Cp. also note 7 to chapter 4.)

(9) In this development of Plato's thought, a development whose driving force is to explain the world of flux with the help of the Ideas, i.e. to make the break between the world of reason and the world of opinion at least understandable, even though it cannot be bridged, the Sophist seems to play a decisive role. Apart fi"om making room, as Cornford mentions (op. cit, 102), for the plurality of Ideas, it presents them, in an argument against Plato's own earlier position (248a ff.): (a) as active causes, which may interact, for example, with mind; (b) as unchanging in spite of that, although there is now an Idea of motion in which all moving things participate and which is not at rest; (c) as capable of mingling with one another. It further introduces 'Not-being', identified in the Timaeus with Space (cp. Cornford, Plato's Theory of Knowledge , 1935, note to 247), and thus makes it possible for the Ideas to mingle with it (cp. also Philolaus, fr. 2, 3, 5, Diels^), and to produce the world of flux with its characteristic intermediate position between the being of Ideas and the not- being of Space or matter.

(10) Ultimately, I wish to defend my contention in the text that the Ideas are not only outside space, but also outside time, though they are in contact with the world at the beginning of time. This, I believe, makes it easier to understand how they act without being in motion; for all motion or flux is in space and time. Plato, I believe, assumes that time has a beginning. I think that this is the most direct interpretation of Laws, 721c: 'the race of man is twin-born with all time', considering the many indications that Plato believed man to be created as one of the first creatures. (In this point, I disagree slightly with Cornford, Plato's Cosmology , 1937, p. 145, and pp. 26 ff.)

(11) To sum up, the Ideas are earlier and better than their changing and decaying copies, and are themselves not in flux. (See also note 3 to chapter 4.)

16. Cp. note 4 to this chapter.

17. (1) The role of the gods in the Timaeus is similar to the one described in the text. Just as the Ideas stamp out things, so the gods form the bodies of men. Only the human soul is created by the Demiurge himself who also creates the world and the gods. (For another hint that the gods are patriarchs, see Laws, 713c/d.) Men, the weak, degenerate children of gods, are then liable to further degeneration; cp. note 6(7) to this chapter, and 37-41 to chapter 5.

(a) In an interesting passage of the Laws (681b; cp. also note 32 (1, a) to chapter 4) we find another allusion to the parallelism between the relation Idea — things and the relation parent — children. In this passage, the origin of law is explained by the influence of tradition, and more especially, by the transmission of a rigid order from the parents to the children; and the following remark is made: 'And they (the parents) would be sure to stamp upon their children, and upon their children's children, their own cast of mind.'

18. Cp. note 49, especially (3), to chapter 8.

19. Cp. Timaeus, 31a. The term which I have freely translated by 'superior thing which is their prototype' is a term frequently used by Aristotle with the meaning 'universal' or 'generic term'. It means a 'thing which is general' or 'surpassing' or 'embracing' and I suspect that it originally means 'embracing' or 'covering' in the sense in which a mould embraces or covers what it moulds.

20. Cp. Republic, 597c. See also 596a (and Adam's second note to 596a5): 'For we are in the habit, you will remember, of postulating a Form or Idea — one for each group of many particular things to which we apply the same name.'

21. There are innumerable passages in Plato; I mention only the Phaedo (e.g. 79a), the Republic, 544a, the Theaetetus (152d/e, 179d/e), the Timaeus (28b/c, 29c/d, 51d f). Aristotle mentions it in Metaphysics, 987a32; 999a25-999bl0; 1010a6-15; 1078b 15; see also notes 23 and 25 to this chapter.

22. Parmenides taught, as Burnet puts it (Early Greek Philosophy 2, 208), that 'what is... is finite, spherical, motionless, corporeal', i.e. that the world is a full globe, a whole without any parts, and that 'there is nothing beyond it'. I am quoting Burnet because (a) his description is excellent and (b) it destroys his own interpretation (E.G. P., 208-11) of what Parmenides calls the 'Opinion of the Mortals' (or the Way of Delusive Opinion). For Burnet dismisses there all the interpretations of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Simplicius, Gomperz, and Meyer, as 'anachronisms' or 'palpable anachronisms', etc. Now the interpretation dismissed by Burnet is practically the same as the one here proposed in the text; namely, that Parmenides believed in a world of reality behind this world of appearance. Such a dualism, which would allow Parmenides' description of the world of appearance to claim at least some kind of adequacy, is dismissed by Burnet as hopelessly anachronistic. I suggest, however, that if Parmenides had believed solely in his unmoving world, and not at all in the changing world, then he would have been really mad (as Empedocles hints). But in fact there is an indication of a similar dualism already in Xenophanes, fragm. 23-6, if confronted with fragm. 34 (esp. 'But all may have their fancy opinions'), so that we can hardly speak of an anachronism. — As indicated in note 15 (6-7), I follow Cornford's interpretation of Parmenides. (See also note 41 to chapter 10.)

23. Cp. Aristotle's Metaphysics, 1078b23; the next quotation is: op. cit, 1078bl9.

24. This valuable comparison is due to G. C. Field, Plato and His Contemporaries, 211.

25. The preceding quotation is from Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1078bl5; the next from cit., 987b7.

26. In Aristotle's analysis (in Metaphysics, 987a30-bl8) of the arguments which led to the theory of Ideas (cp. also note 56 (6) to chapter 10), we can distinguish the following steps: (a) Heraclitus' flux, (b) the impossibility of true knowledge of things in flux, (c) the influence of Socrates' ethical essences, (d) the Ideas as objects of true knowledge, (e) the influence of the Pythagoreans, (f) the 'mathematicals' as intermediate objects. — ((e) and (f) I have not mentioned in the text, where I have mentioned instead (g) the Parmenidean influence.)

It may be worth while to show how these steps can be identified in Plato's own work, where he expounds his theory; especially in the Phaedo and in the Republic, in the Theaetetus and in the Sophist, and in the Timaeus.

(1) In the Phaedo, we fmd indications of all the points up to and including (e). In 65a-66a, the steps (d) and (c) are prominent, with an allusion to (b). In 70e step (a), Heraclitus' theory appears, combined with an element of Pythagoreanism (e). This leads to 74a ff., and to a statement of step (d). 99-100 is an approach to (d) through (c), etc. For (a) to (d), cp. also the Cratylus, 439c ff.

In the Republic, it is of course especially Book VI that corresponds closely to Aristotle's report, (a) In the beginning of Book VI, 485a/b (cp. 527a/b), the Heraclitean flux is referred to (and contrasted with the unchanging world of Forms). Plato there speaks of 'a reality which exists for ever and is exempt from generation and degeneration '. (Cp. notes 2 (2) and 3 to chapter 4 and note 33 to chapter 8, and text.) The steps (b), (d) and especially if) play a rather obvious role in the famous Simile of the Line (Rep., 509c-511e; cp. Adam's notes, and his appendix I to Book VII); Socrates' ethical influence, i.e. step (c), is of course alluded to throughout the Republic. It plays an important role within the Simile of the Line and especially immediately before, i.e. in 508b ff, where the role of the good is emphasized; see in particular 508b/c: 'This is what I maintain regarding the offspring of the good. What the good has begotten in its own likeness is, in the intelligible world, related to reason (and its objects) in the same way as, in the visible world', that which is the offspring of the sun, 'is related to sight (and its objects).' Step (e) is implied in (/), but more fully developed in Book VII, in the famous Curriculum (cp. especially 523a-527c), which is largely based on the Simile of the Line in Book VI.

(2) In the Theaetetus, (a) and (b) are treated extensively; (c) is mentioned in 174b and 175c. In the Sophist, all the steps, including (g), are mentioned, only (e) and (J) being left out; see especially 247a (step (c)); 249c (step (b)); 253d/e (step (d)). In the Philebus, we find indications of all steps except perhaps (/); steps (a) to (d) are especially emphasized in 59a-c.

(3) In the Timaeus, all the steps mentioned by Aristotle are indicated, with the possible exception of (c), which is alluded to only indirectly in the introductory recapitulation of the contents of the Republic, and in 29d. Step (e) is, as it were, alluded to throughout, since 'Timaeus' is a 'western' philosopher and strongly influenced by Pythagoreanism. The other steps occur twice in a form almost completely parallel to Aristotle's account; first briefly in 28a-29d, and later, with more elaboration, in 48e-55c. Immediately after (a), i.e. a Heraclitean description (49a ff.; cp. Cornford, Plato's Cosmology, 178) of the world in flux, the argument (b) is raised (51c-e) that if we are right in distinguishing between reason (or true knowledge) and mere opinion, we must admit the existence of the unchangeable Forms; these are (in 51e f) introduced next in accordance with step (d). The Heraclitean flux then comes again (as labouring space), but this time it is explained, as a consequence of the act of generation. And as a next step (f) appears, in 53c. (I suppose that the 'lines and planes and solids' mentioned by Aristotle in Metaphysics, 992b 13, refer to 53c ff.)

(4) It seems that this parallelism between the Timaeus and Aristotle's report has not been sufficiently emphasized so far; at least, it is not used by G. C. Field in his excellent and convincing analysis of Aristotle's report (Plato and His Contemporaries, 202 ff.). But it would have strengthened Field's arguments (arguments, however, which hardly need strengthening, since they are practically conclusive) against Burnet's and Taylor's views that the Theory of Ideas is Socratic (cp. note 56 to chapter 10). For in the Timaeus, Plato does not put this theory into the mouth of Socrates, a fact which according to Burnet's and Taylor's principles should prove that it was not Socrates' theory. (They avoid this inference by claiming that 'Timaeus' is a Pythagorean, and that he develops not Plato's philosophy but his own. But Aristotle knew Plato personally for twenty years and should have been able to judge these matters; and he wrote his Metaphysics at a time when members of the Academy could have contradicted his presentation of Platonism.)

(5) Burnet writes, in Greek Philosophy, 1, 155 (cp. also p. xliv of his edition of the Phaedo, 1911): 'the theory of forms in the sense in which it is maintained in the Phaedo and Republic is wholly absent from what we may fairly regard the most distinctively Platonic of the dialogues, those, namely, in which Socrates is no longer the chief speaker. In that sense it is never even mentioned in any dialogue later than the Parmenides... with the single exception of the Timaeus (51c), where the speaker is a Pythagorean.' But if it is maintained in the Timaeus in the sense in which it is maintained in the Republic, then it is certainly so maintained in the Sophist, 257d/e; and in the Statesman, 269c/d; 286a; 297b/c, and c/d; 301a and e; 302e; and 303b; and in the Philebus, 15a f , and 59a-d; and in the Laws, 713b, 739d/e, 962c f, 963c ff., and, most important, 965c (c^. Philebus, 16d), 965d, and 966a; see also the next note. (Burnet believes in the genuineness of the Letters, especially the Seventh; but the theory of Ideas is maintained there in 342a ff.; see also note 56 (5, d) to chapter 10.)

27. Cp. Laws, 895d-e. I do not agree with England's note (in his edition of the Laws, vol. II, 472) that 'the word "essence" will not help us'. True, if we meant by 'essence' some important sensible part of the sensible thing (which might perhaps be purified and produced by some distillation), then 'essence' would be misleading. But the word 'essential' is widely used in a way which corresponds very well indeed with what we wish to express here; something opposed to the accidental or unimportant or changing empirical aspect of the thing, whether it is conceived as dwelling in that thing, or in a metaphysical world of Ideas.

I am using the term 'essentialism' in opposition to 'nominalism', in order to avoid, and to replace, the misleading traditional term 'realism', wherever it is opposed (not to 'idealism' but) to 'nominalism'. (See also note 26 ff. to chapter 11, and text, and especially note 38.)

On Plato's application of his essentialist method, for instance, as mentioned in the text, to the theory of the soul, see Laws, 895e f, quoted in note 15 (8) to this chapter, and chapter 5, especially note 23. See also, for instance, Meno, 86d/e, and Symposium, 199c/d.

28. On the theory of causal explanation, cp. my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, especially section 12, pp. 59 ff. See also note 6 to chapter 25, below.

29. The theory of language here indicated is that of Semantics, as developed especially by A. Tarski and R. Carnap. Cp. Carnap, Introduction to Semantics, 1942, and note 23 to chapter 8.

30. The theory that while the physical sciences are based on a methodological nominalism, the social sciences must adopt essentialist ('reahstic') methods, has been made clear to me by K. Polanyi (in 1925); he pointed out, at that time, that a reform of the methodology of the social sciences might conceivably be achieved by abandoning this theory. — The theory is held, to some extent, by most sociologists, especially by J. S. Mill (for instance. Logic, VI, ch. VI, 2; see also his historicist formulations, e.g. in VI, ch. X, 2, last paragraph: 'The fundamental problem... of the social science is to find the laws according to which any state of society produces the state which succeeds it...'), K. Marx (see below); M. Weber (cp., for example, his definitions in the beginning of Methodische Grundlagen der Soziologie, in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, I, and in Ges. Aufsaetze zur Wissenschaftslehre), G. Simmel, A. Vierkandt, R. M. Maclver, and many more. — The philosophical expression of all these tendencies is E. Husserl's 'Phaenomenology', a systematic revival of the methodological essentialism of Plato and Aristotle. (See also chapter 1 1. especially note 44.)

The opposite, the nominalist attitude in sociology, can be developed, I think, only as a technological theory of social institutions.

In this context, I may mention how I came to trace historicism back to Plato and Heraclitus. In analysing historicism, I found that it needs what I call now methodological essentialism; i.e. I saw that the typical arguments in favour of essentialism are bound up with historicism (cp. my The Poverty of Historicism). This led me to consider the history of essentialism. I was struck by the parallelism between Aristotle's report and the analysis which I had carried out originally without any reference to Platonism. In this way, I was reminded of the roles of both Heraclitus and Plato in this development.

31. R. H. S. Grossman's Plato To-day (1937) was the first book (apart from G. Grote's Plato) I have found to contain a political interpretation of Plato which is partly similar to my own. See also notes 2-3 to chapter 6, and text. * Since then I have found that similar views of Plato have been expressed by various authors. C. M. Bowra (Ancient Greek Literature, 1933) is perhaps the first; his brief but thorough criticism of Plato (pp. 186-90) is as fair as it is penetrating. The others are W. Fite ( The Platonic Legend, 1934); B. Farrington (Science and Politics in the Ancient World, 1939); A. D. Winspear (The Genesis of Plato's Thought, 1940); and H. Kelsen (Platonic Justice, 1933; now in What is Justice!, 1957, and Platonic Love, in The American Imago, vol. 3, 1942).*
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

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Part 2 of 18

Notes to Chapter Four

1. Cp. Republic, 608e. See also note 2 (2) to this chapter.

2. In the Laws, the soul — 'the most ancient and divine of all things in motion' (966e) — is described as the 'starting point of all motion' (895b). (1) With the Platonic theory, Aristotle contrasts his own, according to which the 'good' thing is not the starting point, but rather the end or aim of change since 'good' means a thing aimed at — the final cause of change. Thus he says of the Platonists, i.e. of 'those who believe in Forms', that they agree with Empedocles (they speak 'in the same way' as Empedocles) in so far as they 'do not speak as if anything came to pass for the sake of these' (i.e. of things which are 'good') 'but as if all movement started from them'. And he points out that 'good' means therefore to the Platonists not 'a cause qua good', i.e. an aim, but that 'it is only incidentally a good'. Cp. Metaphysics, 988a35 and b8 ff. and 1075a, 34/35. This criticism sounds as if Aristotle had sometimes held views similar to those of Speusippus, which is indeed Zeller's opinion; see note 11 to chapter 11.

(2) Concerning the movement towards corruption, mentioned in the text in this paragraph, and its general significance in the Platonic philosophy, we must keep in mind the general opposition between the world of unchanging things or Ideas, and the world of sensible things in flux. Plato often expresses this opposition as one between the world of unchanging things and the world of corruptible things, or between things that are ungenerated, and those that are generated and are doomed to degenerate, etc.; see, for instance. Republic, 485a/b, quoted in note 26(1) to chapter 3 and in text to note 33 to chapter Republic, 508d-e; 527a/b; and Republic, 546a, quoted in text to note 37 to chapter 5: 'All things that have been generated must degenerate' (or decay). That this problem of the generation and corruption of the world of things in flux was an important part of the Platonic School tradition is indicated by the fact that Aristotle devoted a separate treatise to this problem. Another interesting indication is the way in which Aristotle talked about these matters in the introduction to his Politics, contained in the concluding sentences of the Nicomachean Ethics (11 8 lb/1 5): 'We shall try to... find what it is that preserves or corrupts the cities...'

This passage is significant not only as a general formulation of what Aristotle considered the main problem of his Politics, but also because of its striking similarity to an important passage in the Laws, viz. 676a, and 676b/c quoted below in text to notes 6 and 25 to this chapter. (See also notes 1,3, and 24/25 to this chapter; see note 32 to chapter 8, and the passage from the Laws quoted in note 59 to chapter 8.)

3. This quotation is from the Statesman, 269d. (See also note 23 to this chapter.) For the hierarchy of motions, drr Laws, 893c-895b. For the theory that perfect things (divine 'natures'; cp. the next chapter) can only become less perfect when they change, see especially Republic, 380e-381c — in many ways (note the examples in 380e) a parallel passage to Laws, 1916.. The quotations from Aristotle are from the Metaphysics, 988b3, and from De Gen. et Corn , 335bl4. The last four quotations in this paragraph are from Plato's Laws, 904c f, and 797d. See also note 24 to this chapter, and text. (It is possible to interpret the remark about the evil objects as another allusion to a cyclic development, as discussed in note 6 to chapter 2, i.e. as an allusion to the belief that the trend of the development must reverse, and that things must begin to improve, once the world has reached the lowest depth of evilness.

* Since my interpretation of the Platonic theory of change and of the passages from the Laws has been challenged, I wish to add some further comments, especially on the two passages (1) Laws, 904c, f, and (2) 797d.

(1) The passage Laws, 904c, 'the less significant is the beginning decline in their level of rank' may be translated more literally 'the less significant is the beginning movement down in the level of rank'. It seems to me certain, from the context, that 'down the level of rank' is meant rather than 'as to level of rank', which clearly is also a possible translation. (My reason is not only the whole dramatic context, down from 904a, but also more especially the series 'kata... kata... kato- which, in a passage of gathering momentum, must colour the meaning of at least the second 'kata'. — Concerning the word I translate by 'level', this may, admittedly, mean not only 'plane' but also 'surface'; and the word I translate by 'rank' may mean 'space'; yet Bury's translation: 'the smaller the change of character, the less is the movement over surface in space' does not seem to me to yield much meaning in this context.)

(2) The continuation of this passage (Laws, 798) is most characteristic. It demands that 'the lawgiver must contrive, by whatever means at his disposal ['by hook or by crook', as Bury well translates], a method which ensures for his state that the whole soul of every one of its citizens will, from reverence and fear, resist any change of any of the things that are established of old'. (Plato includes, explicitly, things which other lawgivers consider 'mere matters of play' — such, as, for example, changes in the games of children.)

(3) In general, the main evidence for my interpretation of Plato's theory of change — apart from a great number of minor passages referred to in the various notes in this chapter and the preceding one — is of course found in the historical or evolutionary passages of all the dialogues which contain such passages, especially the Republic (the decline and fall of the state from its near-perfect or Golden Age in Books VIII and IX), the Statesman (the theory of the Golden Age and its decline), the Laws (the story of the primitive patriarchy and of the Dorian conquest, and the story of the decline and fall of the Persian Empire), the Timaeus (the story of evolution by degeneration, which occurs twice, and the story of the Golden Age of Athens, which is continued in the Critias).  

To this evidence Plato's frequent references to Hesiod must be added, and the undoubted fact that Plato's synthetic mind was not less keen than that of Empedocles (whose period of strife is the one ruling now; cp. Aristotle, De Gen. et Corn , 334a, b) in conceiving human affairs in a cosmic setting (Statesman, Timaeus).

(4) Ultimately, I may perhaps refer to general psychological considerations. On the one hand the fear of innovation (illustrated by many passages in the Laws, e.g. 758c/d) and, on the other hand, the idealization of the past (such as found in Hesiod or in the story of the lost paradise) are frequent and striking phenomena. It is perhaps not too far-fetched to connect the latter, or even both, with the idealization of one's childhood — one's home, one's parents, and with the nostalgic wish to return to these early stages of one's life, to one's origin. There are many passages in Plato in which he takes it for granted that the original state of affairs, or original nature, is a state of blessedness. I refer only to the speech of Aristophanes in the Symposium; here it is taken for granted that the urge and the suffering of passionate love is sufficiently explained if it is shown that it derives from this nostalgia, and similarly, that the feelings of sexual gratification can be explained as those of a gratified nostalgia. Thus Plato says of Eros (Symposium, 193d): 'He will restore us to our original nature (see also 191d) and heal us and make us happy and blessed.' The same thought underlies many remarks such as the following from the Philebus (16c): 'The men of old... were better than we are now, and... lived nearer to the gods... ' All this indicates the view that our unhappy and unblessed state is a consequence of the development which makes us different from our original nature — our Idea; and it further indicates that the development is one from a state of goodness and blessedness to a state where goodness and blessedness are being lost; but this means that the development is one of increasing corruption. Plato's theory of anamnesis -- the theory that all knowledge is re-cognition or re-collection of the knowledge we had in our pre-natal past is part of the same view: in the past there resides not only the good, the noble, and the beautiful, but also all wisdom. Even the ancient change or motion is better than secondary motion; for in the Laws the soul is said to be (895b) 'the starting point of all motions the first to arise in things at rest... the most ancient and potent motion', and (966c) 'the most ancient and divine of all things'. (Cp. note 15 (8) to chapter 3.)

As pointed out before (cp. especially note 6 to chapter 3), the doctrine of an historical and cosmic tendency towards decay appears to be combined, in Plato, with a doctrine of an historical and cosmic cycle. (The period of decay, probably, is a part of this cycle.)*

4. Cp. Timaeus, 91d-92b/c. See also note 6 (7) to chapter 3 and note 11 to chapter 11.

5. See the beginning of chapter 2 above, and note 6 (1) to chapter 3. It is not a mere accident that Plato mentions Hesiod's story of 'metals' when discussing his own theory of historical decay (Rep., 546e/547a, esp. notes 39 and 40 to chapter 5); he clearly wishes to indicate how well his theory fits in with, and explains, that of Hesiod.

6. The historical part of the Laws is in Books Three and Four (see note 6(5) and (8) to chapter 3). The two quotations in the text are from the beginning of this part, i.e. Laws, 676a. For the parallel passages mentioned, sqq Republic, 369b, f. ('The birth of a city...') and 545d ('How will our city be changed...').

It is often said that the Laws (and the Statesman) are less hostile towards democracy than the Republic, and it must be admitted that Plato's general tone is in fact less hostile (this is perhaps due to the increasing inner strength of democracy; see chapter 10 and the beginning of chapter 11). But the only practical concession made to democracy in the Laws is that political officers are to be elected, by the members of the ruling (i.e. the military) class; and since all important changes in the laws of the state are forbidden anyway (cp., for instance, the quotations in note 3 of this chapter), this does not mean very much. The fundamental tendency remains pro-Spartan, and this tendency was, as can be seen from Aristotle's Politics, 11, 6, 17 (1265b), compatible with a so-called 'mixed' constitution. In fact, Plato in the Laws is, if anything, more hostile towards the spirit of democracy, i.e. towards the idea of the freedom of the individual, than he is in the Republic; cp. especially the text to notes 32 and 33 to chapter 6 (i.e. Laws, 739c, ff., and 942a, f ) and to notes 19-22 to chapter 8 (i.e. Laws, 903c-909a). — See also next note.

7. It seems likely that it was largely this difficulty of explaining the first change (or the Fall of Man) that led Plato to transform his theory of Ideas, as mentioned in note 15 (8) to chapter 3; viz., to transform the Ideas into causes and active powers, capable of mingling with some of the other Ideas (cp. Sophist, 252e, ff.), and of rejecting the remaining ones (Sophist, 223c), and thus to transform them into something like gods, as opposed to the Republic which (cp. 380d) petrifies even the gods into unmoving and unmoved Parmenidean beings. An important turning point is, apparently, the Sophist, 248e-249c (note especially that here the Idea of motion is not at rest). The transformation seems to solve at the same time the difficulty of the so-called 'third man'; for if the Forms are, as in the Timaeus, fathers, then there is no 'third man' necessary to explain their similarity to their offspring.

Regarding the relation of the Republic to the Statesman and to the Laws, I think that Plato's attempt in the two latter dialogues to trace the origin of human society further and further back is likewise connected with the difficulties inherent in the problem of the first change. That it is difficult to conceive of a change overtaking a perfect city is clearly stated in Republic, 546a; Plato's attempt in the Republic to solve it will be discussed in the next chapter (cp. text to notes 37-40 to chapter 5). In the Statesman, Plato adopts the theory of a cosmic catastrophe which leads to the change from the (Empedoclean) half-circle of love to the present period, the half-circle of strife. This idea seems to have been dropped in the Timaeus, in order to be replaced by a theory (retained in the Laws) of more limited catastrophes, such as floods, which may destroy civilizations, but apparently do not affect the course of the universe. (It is possible that this solution of the problem was suggested to Plato by the fact that in 373-372 B.C., the ancient city of Helice was destroyed by earthquake and flood.) The earliest form of society, removed in the Republic only by one single step from the still existing Spartan state, is thrust back to a more and more distant past. Although Plato continues to believe that the first settlement must be the best city, he now discusses societies prior to the first settlement, i.e. nomad societies, 'hill shepherds'. (Cp. especially note 32 to this chapter.)

8. The quotation is from Marx-Engels, The Communist Manifesto; cp. A Handbook of Marxism (edited by E. Burns, 1935), 22.

9. The quotation is from Adam's comments on Book VIII of the Republic; see his edition, vol. II, 198, note to 544a3.

10. Cp. Republic, 544c.

11. (1) As opposed to my contention that Plato, like many modern sociologists since Comte, tries to outline the typical stages of social development, most critics take Plato's story merely as a somewhat dramatic presentation of a purely logical classification of constitutions. But this not only contradicts what Plato says (cp. Adam's note to Rep., 544c 19, op. cit, vol. II, 199), but it is also against the whole spirit of Plato's logic, according to which the essence of a thing is to be understood by its original nature, i.e. by its historical origin. And we must not forget that he uses the same word, 'genus', to mean a class in the logical sense and a race in the biological sense. The logical 'genus' is still identical with the 'race', in the sense of 'offspring of the same parent'. (With this, cp. notes 15-20 to chapter 3, and text, as well as notes 23-24 to chapter 5, and text, where the equation nature = origin = race is discussed.) Accordingly, there is every reason for taking what Plato says at its face value; for even if Adam were right when he says (loc. cit.) that Plato intends to give a 'logical order', this order would for him be at the same time that of a typical historical development. Adam's remark (loc. cit.) that the order 'is primarily determined by psychological and not by historical considerations' turns, I believe, against him. For he himself points out (for instance, op. cit, vol. II, 195, note to 543a, ff.) that Plato 'retains throughout... the analogy between the Soul and the City'. According to Plato's political theory of the soul (which will be discussed in the next chapter), the psychological history must run parallel to the social history, and the alleged opposition between psychological and historical considerations disappears, turning into another argument in favour of our interpretation.

(2) Exactly the same reply could be made if somebody should argue that Plato's order of the constitution is, fundamentally, not a logical but an ethical one; for the ethical order (and the aesthetic order as well) is, in Plato's philosophy, indistinguishable from the historical order. In this connection, it may be remarked that this historicist view provides Plato with a theoretical background for Socrates' eudemonism, i.e. for the theory that goodness and happiness are identical. This theory is developed, in the Republic (cp. especially 580b), in the form of the doctrine that goodness and happiness, or badness and unhappiness, are proportional; and so they must be, if the degree of the goodness as well as of the happiness of a man is to be measured by the degree in which he resembles our original blessed nature — the perfect Idea of man. (The fact that Plato's theory leads, in this point, to a theoretical justification of an apparently paradoxical Socratic doctrine may well have helped Plato to convince himself that he was only expounding the true Socratic creed; see text to notes 56/57 to chapter 10.)

(3) Rousseau took over Plato's classification of institutions (Social Contract, Book II, ch. VII, Book III, ch. Ill ff., cp. also ch. X). It seems however that he was not directly influenced by Plato when he revived the Platonic Idea of a primitive society (cp., however, notes 1 to chapter 6 and 14 to chapter 9); but a direct product of the Platonic Renaissance in Italy was Sanazzaro's most influential Arcadia, with its revival of Plato's idea of a blessed primitive society of Greek (Dorian) hill shepherds. (For this idea of Plato's, cp. text to note 32 to this chapter.) Thus Romanticism (cp. also chapter 9) is historically indeed an offspring of Platonism.

(4) How far the modem historicism of Comte and Mill, and of Hegel and Marx, is influenced by the theistic historicism of Giambattista Vico's New Science (1725) is very hard to say: Vico himself was undoubtedly influenced by Plato, as well as by St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei and Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy. Like Plato (cp. ch. 5), Vico identified the 'nature' of a thing with its 'origin' (cp. Opere, Ferrari's second edn, 1852-4, vol. V, p. 99); and he believed that all nations must pass through the same course of development, according to one universal law. His 'nations' (like Hegel's) may thus be said to be one of the links between Plato's 'Cities' and Toynbee's 'Civilizations'.

12. Cp. Republic, 549c/d; the next quotations are op. cit., 550d-e, and later, op. cit., 551a/b.

13. Cp. op. cit., 556e. (This passage should be compared with Thucydides, III, 82-4, quoted in chapter 10, text to note 12.) The next quotation is op. cit., 557a.

14. For Pericles' democratic programme, see text to note 31, chapter 10, note 17 to chapter 6, and note 34 to chapter 10.

15. Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato, vol. II, 240, note to 559d22. (The italics in the second quotation are mine.) Adam admits that 'the picture is doubtless somewhat exaggerated'; but he leaves little doubt that he thinks it is, fundamentally, true 'for all time'.

16. Adam, loc. cit.

17. This quotation is from Republic, 560d (for this and the next quotation, cp. Lindsay's translation); the next two quotations are from the same work, 563 a-b, and d. (See also Adam's note to 563d25.) It is significant that Plato appeals here to the institution of private property, severely attacked in other parts of the Republic, as if it were an unchallenged principle of justice. It seems that when the property bought is a slave, an appeal to the lawful right of the buyer is adequate.

Another attack upon democracy is that 'it tramples under foot' the educational principle that 'no one can grow up to be a good man unless his earliest years were given to noble games'. (Rep., 558b; see Lindsay's translation; cp. note 68 to chapter 10.) See also the attacks upon equalitarianism quoted in note 14 to chapter 6.

* For Socrates' attitude towards his young companions see most of the earlier dialogues, but also the Phaedo, where Socrates' 'pleasant, kind, and respectful manner in which he listened to the young man's criticism' is described. For Plato's contrasting attitude, see text to notes 19-21 to chapter 7; see also the excellent lectures by H. Cherniss, The Riddle of the Early Academy (1945), especially pp. 70 and 79 (on the Parmenides 135c-d), and cp. notes 18- 21 to chapter 7, and text.

18. Slavery (see the preceding note) and the Athenian movement against it will be further discussed in chapters 5 (notes 13 and text), 10, and 11; see also note 29 to the present chapter. Like Plato, Aristotle (e.g. in Pol, 1313b11, 1319b20; and in his Constitution of Athens, 59, 5) testifies to Athens' liberality towards slaves; and so does the Pseudo- Xenophon (cp. his Const, of Athens, I, 10 f.)

19. Cp. Republic, 577a, f.; see Adam's notes to 577a5 and b12 (op. cit., vol. II, 332 f.). See now also the Addendum III (Reply to a Critic), especially pp. 330 f.

20. Republic, 566e; cp. note 63 to chapter 10.

21. Cp. Statesman (Politicus), 301c/d. Although Plato distinguishes six types of debased states, he does not introduce any new terms; the names 'monarchy' (or 'kingship') and 'aristocracy' are used in the Republic (445d) of the best state itself, and not of the relatively best forms of debased states, as in the Statesman.

22. Cp. Republic, 544d.

23. Cp. Statesman, 297c/d: 'If the government I have mentioned is the only true original, then the others' (which are 'only copies of this'; cp. 297b/c) 'must use its laws, and write them down; this is the only way in which they can be preserved'. (Cp. note 3 to this chapter, and note 18 to chapter 7.) 'And any violation of the laws should be punished with death, and the most severe punishments; and this is very just and good, although, of course, only the second best thing.' (For the origin of the laws, cp. note 32 (1, a) to this chapter, and note 17 (2) to chapter 3.) And in 300e/301a, f , we read: 'The nearest approach of these lower forms of government to the true government... is to follow these written laws and customs... When the rich rule and imitate the true Form, then the government is called aristocracy; and when they do not heed the (ancient) laws oligarchy,' etc. It is important to note that not lawfulness or lawlessness in the abstract, but the preservation of the ancient institutions of the original or perfect state is the criterion of the classification. (This is in contrast to Aristotle's Politics, 1292a, where the main distinction is whether or not 'the law is supreme', or, for instance, the mob.)

24. The passage. Laws, 709e-714a, contains several allusions to Statesman; for instance, 710d-e, which introduces, following Herodotus III, 80-82, the number of rulers as the principle of classification; the enumerations of the forms of government in 712c and d; and 713b, ff., i.e. the myth of the perfect state in the day of Cronos, 'of which the best of our present states are imitations'. In view of these allusions, I little doubt that Plato intended his theory of the fitness of tyranny for Utopian experiments to be understood as a kind of continuation of the story of the Statesman (and thus also of the Republic). — The quotations in this paragraph are from the Laws, 709e, and 710c/d; the 'remark from the Laws quoted above' is 797d, quoted in the text to note 3, in this chapter. (I agree with E. B. England's note to this passage, in his edition of The Laws of Plato, 1921, vol. II, 258, that it is Plato's principle that 'change is detrimental to the power... of anything', and therefore also to the power of evil; but I do not agree with him 'that change from bad', viz., to good, is too self- evident to be mentioned as an exception; it is not self-evident from the point of view of Plato's doctrine of the evil nature of change. See also next note.)

25. Cp. Laws, 676b/c (cp. 676a quoted in the text to note 6). In spite of Plato's doctrine that 'change is detrimental' (cp. the end of the last note), E. B. England interprets these passages on change and revolution by giving them an optimistic or progressive meaning. He suggests that the object of Plato's search is what 'we might call "the secret of political vitality'". (Cp. op. cit., vol. I, 344.) And he interprets this passage on the search for the true cause of (detrimental) change as dealing with a search for 'the cause and nature of the true development of a state, i.e. of its progress towards perfection '. (Italics his; cp. vol. I, 345.) This interpretation cannot be correct, for the passage in question is an introduction to a story of political decline; but it shows how much the tendency to idealize Plato and to represent him as a progressivist blinds even such an excellent critic to his own finding, namely, that Plato believed change to be detrimental.

26. Cp. Republic, 545d (see also the parallel passage 465b). The next quotation is from the Laws, 683e. (Adam in his edition of the Republic, vol. II, 203, note to 545d21, refers to this passage in the Laws.) England, in his edition of the Laws, vol. I, 360 f, note to 683e5, mentions Republic, 609a, but neither 545d nor 465b, and supposes that the reference is 'to a previous discussion, or one recorded in a lost dialogue'. I do not see why Plato should not be alluding to the Republic, by using the fiction that some of its topics have been discussed by the present interlocutors. As Cornford says, in Plato's last group of dialogues there is 'no motive to keep up the illusion that the conversations had really taken place'; and he is also right when he says that Plato 'was not the slave of his own fictions'. (Cp. Cornford, Plato 's Cosmology, pp. 5 and 4.) Plato's law of revolutions was rediscovered, without reference to Plato, by V. Pareto; cp. his Treatise on General Sociology, §§ 2054, 2057, 2058. (At the end of § 2055, there is also a theory of arresting history.) Rousseau also rediscovered the law. (Social Contract, Book III, ch. X.)

27. (1) It may be worth noting that the intentionally non-historical traits of the best state, especially the rule of the philosophers, are not mentioned by Plato in the summary at the beginning of the Timaeus, and that in Book VIII of the Republic he assumes that the rulers of the best state are not versed in Pythagorean number-mysticism; cp. Republic, 546c/d, where the rulers are said to be ignorant of these matters. (Cp. also the remark, Rep., 543d/544a, according to which the best state of Book VIII can still be surpassed, namely, as Adam says, by the city of Books V-VII — the ideal city in heaven.)

In his book, Plato 's Cosmology, pp. 6 ff, Cornford reconstructs the outlines and contents of Plato's unfinished trilogy, Timaeus — Critias — Hermocrates, and shows how they are related to the historical parts of the Laws (Book III). This reconstruction is, I think, a valuable corroboration of my theory that Plato's view of the world was fundamentally historical, and that his interest in 'how it generated' (and how it decays) is linked with his theory of Ideas, and indeed based on it. But if that is so, then there is no reason why we should assume that the later books of the Republic 'started from the question how it' (i.e. the city) 'might be realized in the future and sketched its possible decline through lower forms of politics' (Cornford, op. cit, 6; italics mine); instead we should look upon the Books VIII and IX of the Republic, in view of their close parallelism with the Third Book of the Laws, as a simplified historical sketch of the actual decline of the ideal city of the past, and as an explanation of the origin of the existing states, analogous to the greater task set by Plato for himself in the Timaeus, in the unfinished trilogy, and in the Laws.

(2) In connection with my remark, later in the paragraph, that Plato 'certainly knew that he did not possess the necessary data', see for instance Laws, 683d, and England's note to 683d2.

(3) To my remark, further down in the paragraph, that Plato recognized the Cretan and Spartan societies as petrified or arrested forms (and to the remark in the next paragraph that Plato's best state is not only a class state but a caste state) the following may be added. (Cp. also note 20 to this chapter, and 24 to chapter 10.)

In Laws, 797d (in the introduction to the 'important pronouncement', as England calls it, quoted in the text to note 3 to this chapter), Plato makes it perfectly clear that his Cretan and Spartan interlocutors are aware of the 'arrested' character of their social institutions; Clenias, the Cretan interlocutor, emphasizes that he is anxious to listen to any defence of the archaic character of a state. A little later (799a), and in the same context, a direct reference is made to the Egyptian method of arresting the development of institutions; surely a clear indication that Plato recognized a tendency in Crete and Sparta parallel to that of Egypt, namely, to arrest all social change.

In this context, a passage in the Timaeus (see especially 24a-b) seems important. In this passage, Plato tries to show (a) that a class division very similar to that of the Republic was established in Athens at a very ancient period of its pre-historical development, and (b) that these institutions were closely akin to the caste system of Egypt (whose arrested caste institutions he assumes to have derived from his ancient Athenian state). Thus Plato himself acknowledges by implication that the ideal ancient and perfect state of the Republic is a caste state. It is interesting that Crantor, first commentator on the Timaeus, reports, only two generations after Plato, that Plato had been accused of deserting the Athenian tradition, and of becoming a disciple of the Egyptians. (Cp. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Germ, ed., II, 476.) Crantor alludes perhaps to Isocrates' Busiris, 8, quoted in note 3 to chapter 13.

For the problem of the castes in the Republic, see furthermore notes 3 1 and 32 (I, d) to this chapter, note 40 to chapter 6, and notes 11-14 to chapter 8. A. E. Taylor, Plato: The Man and His Work, p. 269 f , forcefully denounces the view that Plato favoured a caste state.

28. Cp. Republic, 416a. The problem is considered more fully in this chapter, text to note 35. (For the problem of caste, mentioned in the next paragraph, see notes 27 (3) and 31 to this chapter.)

29. For Plato's advice against legislating for the common people with their 'vulgar market quarrels', etc., see Republic, 425b-427a/b; especially 425d-e and 427a. These passages, of course, attack Athenian democracy, and all 'piecemeal' legislation in the sense of chapter 9. *That this is so is also seen by Cornford, The Republic of Plato (1941); for he writes, in a note to a passage in which Plato recommends Utopian engineering (it is Republic 500d, f., the recommendation of 'canvas-cleaning' and of a romantic radicalism; cp. note 12 to chapter 9, and text): 'Contrast the piecemeal tinkering at reform satirized at 425e...'. Cornford does not seem to like piecemeal reforms, and he seems to prefer Plato's methods; but his and my interpretation of Plato's intentions seem to coincide.*
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