[lit-ideas] Re: Popper and Impopper

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2013 13:03:46 +0100 (BST)

There is a high moral seriousness in Popper's work in so far as his work bears 
on moral, social and political philosophy; one of his passages runs that 
humankind has created many new worlds, including the world of art and the world 
of music and the world of science, but the most important of these new worlds 
is the world of morals and of ethical demands. 

OTOH, he thought many of our ethical mistakes arise from a misguided moralism 
(as opposed to our individual foibles and shortcomings in living up to our 
standards) - particularly in the field of political and social philosophy where 
misguided moralism can lead us by the nose into all kinds of dangerous and 
ethically wrong commitments. 

He thought it very difficult to write on moral philosophy without merely giving 
off "hot air" and that the most important kind of moral discussion typically 
concerns not generalities of moral philosophy but practical moral problems. 
OTOH, his own philosophical arguments for indeterminism, rationality based on 
critical discussion, and the 'objective' or World 3 status of 'knowledge', are 
in defence of humans as having sufficient freedom and intelligence to be moral 

Some might say his own moral views clouded some of his philosophical judgments 
to a point where these are misguided - his view that Hegel was an insipid 
charlatan meant he was unable to give Hegel a  more charitable reading than as 
a historicist precursor of Fascism; his view that Marx was an essentially moral 
man devoted to enlarging human freedom meant he was far too charitable in his 
reading of Marxist philosophy; he quite seriously dismisses Heidegger's 
philosophy because Heide is someone who should be simply blackballed for his 
ethical failings. Another strand of criticism, well conveyed by Bryan Magee, is 
that in some practical political matters Popper could be blinded by morals - 
for example, in Popper's belief that the Britain ought to militarily resist the 
Argentinian occupation of the Falklands - though others might say Popper was 
not blinded but merely had views on responding to the acts of military 
dictatorships that were formed in the
 crucible of the rise of Nazism and Communism and the resulting World War - (to 
use the demotic) that force is "the only language they understand".

He is capable of combining high moral seriousness with impopper humour: not 
many philosophers would devote a footnote entirely to the following: fn.8 to 
"The Autonomy of Sociology" - "I wish to apologize to the Kantians for 
mentioning them in the same breath as the Hegelians". 



On Monday, 21 October 2013, 8:49, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
“Popper is not usually regarded as contributor to moral philosophy, although 
someone compiled a lexicon of technical philosophical terms with an entry 
"Popper, (verb):- As in 'To philosophise in a tone of high moral seriousness, 
the converse of which is Impopper'."
Rafe Champion, 'A Guide to The Open Society and its Enemies (The Popular 

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