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Common persistent errors (CPE) [ I ]

by proximity1 Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 02:40:25 PM EST

 Common persistent errors (CPE) [ I ]

      It isn't only in times of war, deep social division or economic upheaval that we ought to be on the look-out for common persistent errors in our everyday assumptions about politics, economics and other social phenomena.  There are always these factors at work--creating more or less havoc in our thinking, confusing us and misleading us into making sometimes catastrophic mistakes or supporting others bent on making them in our name.

Historicism [ I ]

   "Historicism" is the name coined by the Austrian-born philosopher, Karl Raiman Popper (1902-1994), to describe one--or rather a whole class of--such error.  He offers a detailed look at what he calls historicism (not to be confused with "historism") in two major works: "The Open Society and Its Enemies" (in two volumes) and "The Poverty of Historicism" (both published by Taylor & Francis's Routledge division).

  In this and subsequent diaries I want to present the main features of Popper's views on historicism and use his examples as an introductory guide--while trying to avoid the heavy use of citations from his books--to try and illustrate examples of some mischief currently in practice and due to this common persistent error in reasoning, "historicism".  It is the sort of error which is so multiform in its occurrence, so appealing, so seductive and subtle, that it has been the source of mistakes by some of the most brilliant minds in history starting, most notably, with Plato and continuing uninterrupted down to the present.

   The fundamental errors which led and continue to lead the Bush administration and in particular that group commonly referred to as "neo conservatives" within it to make such costly errors as the invasion and occupation of Iraq and  the "War on Terrorism", to mention only two, are, I'll try and show, prime examples of historicism at work today.

   Once you have a well-founded understanding of what historicism is and what its signature features are, you'll have little or no trouble recognizing examples of it around you.  

   There is ample information on the life and writing of Karl Popper easily available from Internet sites.  Those who prefer to do so can skip my discussion and simply read Popper's two works mentioned above for themselves and get a far fuller and better exposition than I'll be able to offer here.  I assume, however, that most people reading this won't do that; and so as an alternative to leaving many with no more than a few book references, I regard it as important enough to take some time and put forth in a number of diary entries some of the most important elements of historicism, so powerful is it in its light-shedding effect.


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This sounds great.  I look forward to hearing and learning about this, and thank you in advance for taking the time to prepare these upcoming diaries.
by wchurchill on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:11:34 PM EST
Ditto.  I am thrilled you are introducing Popper like this, and am totally looking forward to your posts.

Although I have only read small extracts of Popper in the original, his theory of falsifiability has influenced my thinking about all sorts of "truth", from the scientific to the moral.  In kcurie's discussion about myths, I wanted to suggest girding such myths based on falsifiability.  I understand, however, that you will be focusing on historicism, so I don't know how much you will be looking at falsifiability.

In any case, looking forward to the discussion.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 08:39:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I definitely share the conviction that Bushism is a new form of historicism which derives its entire strength from the notion of "unrelenting progress toward democracy cum free market."

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 01:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish this series were introduced earlier... I have to write an essay on the role of historical perspective in human reasoning (with emphasis on policy-makers), and need sources to cite (for credibility). Oh, well. Still would love to read diaries on this subject!

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey
by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:45:11 AM EST
 Now I'm worried !

 One thing I'm finding is that there are markedly more and, well, I have to say it, more careful and thoughtful replies to a diary entry placed here than when the same thing is placed at the DailyKos.

  So, now I've got these expectations to live up to--from people who are by all indications a lot sharper than I am.

  Usually, I prefer that people not be kind and gentle to me in debate; well, go easy on me folks.  I have more to learn from you than you have from moi.

  I'll try and write up a next instalment and post it soon. (Doesn't "installment" have two "l"s ?  Sheesh!)

  thank you.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 03:28:05 PM EST
So, now I've got these expectations to live up to--from people who are by all indications a lot sharper than I am.

You have nothing to fear on that score from me!

By the way, another reason I really like idea is that although I am very new to the blog world, I find European Tribune to be uniquely rich in really intelligent people who can have a conversation on tough and controversial topics without descending into personal attacks and ego-tripping.  As such, I was hoping to post some pieces myself -- actually, texts written by one author in particular -- that I do not feel myself qualified to evaluate because they are beyond my field of expertise, but that I have long wanted to get a reality check on from people more informed and sharper than myself.

It doesn't look like you are just going to be quoting passages of Popper wholesale (more what I was envisioning for my own text), but rather discussing his thinking in detail.  Still, your approach seemed similar, so I took inspiration in that -- besides the fact that it's on Popper, of course.  (By the way, I am not at all an expert on Popper; I am just really attracted to his theory of falsifiability and the development of science.)

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:52:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
British "instalment"
American "installment"

On ET, it doesn't matter which spelling system you use, and I don't think anyone minds if you mix and match...

Looking forward to your... next bit!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 02:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Honest, I'm trying to complete the next installment; when it finally posts, you'll say, "All that time--for that?

  Yes, well, other things--readin' 'n writin' 'n stuff.  

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 06:15:44 AM EST
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