[lit-ideas] Re: Popper and Impopper

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2013 09:33:17 -0400 (EDT)

I think the lexicon that has popper and impopper also has grice and  

A commentary on McEvoy and thanks to Omar K. for the quote  from the 
regular Popper (cfr. 'the regular Grice')

In a message dated  10/21/2013 8:03:54 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx starts  by using some of the words employed in the 
definition of 'popper' (adj.) --  antonym: 'impopper').
"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."
Where perhaps he should expand on 'important'. Someone once said that two  
words that should be avoided in polite conversation are 'relevant' and  
'important' -- I would add 'swing'.
McEvoy continues:

"OTOH, [Popper] thought many of our ethical  mistakes arise from a 
misguided moralism (as opposed to our individual foibles  and shortcomings in 
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."
Part of this is perhaps Popper's inability to focus on Hare. He would  
dismiss Hare as 'Oxonian'. But Hare, and for that matter, Nowell-Smith (another 
Oxonian moral philosopher) would NEVER use 'moralist'. A philosopher is not 
a  moralist, but a meta-ethical student. The philosopher is concerned with 
the  _language_ of ethics, not with moralising.

"[Popper] 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 
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 
 intelligence to be moral beings."
This is correct, and I would say neo-Kantian (as Popper is often seen).  
Similar arguments are offered by Grice who had to lecture proffesionally on 
Kant  for years (notably at UC/Berkeley) -- and focusing on freedom as a 
requirement  for the moral "I". 
McEvoy continues:
"Some might say [Popper's] own moral views clouded some of his  
philosophical judgments to a point where these are misguided"
McEvoy goes on to provide illustrations:
Illustration I:
"[Popper's] view that Hegel was an insipid charlatan meant he was unable to 
 give Hegel a  more charitable reading than as a historicist precursor of  
I would distinguish between Fascism, which I see as an Italian thing -- and 
 have Croce as a precursor, and Nazism, which I se as a German thing, and 
which  has Hegel and Nietzsche as precursors. On the other hand is 
neo-Elizabethianism,  which has Shakespeare as a precursor.
Illustration 2:
"[Popper's] view that Marx was an essentially moral man devoted to  
enlarging human freedom meant he was far too charitable in his reading of  
I think there is a lot of sympathy on Popper's part towards Marx giving  
that they shared a lot of background --both were European who emigrated to  
London, etc. I would not be surprised if they frequented the same pubs,  etc.
Illutration 3:
"[Popper] quite seriously dismisses Heidegger's philosophy because  Heide 
[sic] is someone who should be simply blackballed for his ethical  failings."
This seems to equivocate between Heidegger the writer and Heidegger the  
man. Similarly, when Beniamino Gigli was asked, "So you are a tenor". He would 
 respond: "I'm not a tenor; I'm a man -- who happens to have a tenor 
voice."  (Cfr. mutatis mutandis: "I'm not a philosopher, I'm a man" -- versus 
incongruous: "I'm not a man" (as said by a man), "I'm a philosopher"). But 
I can  see Popper's black-ballings.
McEvoy goes on to provide a quote from his favourite Popperian exegesis  
"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 
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 
and the resulting  World War - (to use the demotic) that force is "the only 
language they  understand"".
This was the time that Berkoff was writing "Sink the Belgrano!" -- an  
infamous popular play in the London of Popper and McEvoy.
McEvoy concludes his interesting post:

"[Popper] 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" -- which 
IMPLICATES, "and I wish to insult the  Hegelians in so doing".
Helm would perhaps note that while 'breath' belongs to 'speech', it is used 
 by Popper as applied to books. (This in connection with Helm's earlier  
mentioning of an author, in a passage as meant to refer to his forthcoming 
audio  version of the book, who said that "I shall be speaking a lot about this 
in the  future" -- in different, paused breaths, I would add).
(Popper must be using 'breath' metaphorically).
popper, adj. Exhibiting great moral seriousness; impopper, frivolous. 
grice, n. Conceptual intricacy. "His examination of Hume is distinguished  
by erudition and grice." Hence, griceful, adj. and griceless, adj. "An 
obvious  and griceless polemic." pl. grouse: A multiplicity of grice, 
into  great details, often in reply to an original grice note. 
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