[lit-ideas] What they said and didn't
- From: "Donal McEvoy" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "donalmcevoyuk" for DMARC)
- To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 2 May 2017 08:18:20 +0000 (UTC)
Twice this failed to make the original thread. Here's hoping..
JLS (recently, once) said that "Popper once said..." - when it seems to be the
case that Popper did not say what JLS said Popper said.
So why does JLS say "Popper once said...", which clearly implies Popper once
said it, when Popper did not?
The answer to this puzzle is not made clear by the JLS' long post below.
Instead JLS switches from what "Popper once said" to issues of interpretation
of what Popper has said - and this just confuses the issue raised by my post.
The point about what "Popper once said" might seem unimportant. But if I let it
go then it might be inferred that I, for one, accept JLS' contention that this
is what Popper once said. Moreover, this is not the first time JLS has
attributed words to Popper, as if Popper said them, when Popper did not say
them. In my view this is a very bad practice.
Here's a further suggestion (quite an old one): keep the fact of 'what was
said' separate and clear from comment as to its interpretation.
Now, from JLS, we get this:
It is said (this seems a saferwording, surely, than "Popper once said") that
Popper's concept of anopen society is 'epistemological,' rather than
political, as in Soros, ormoral, as in Bergson.>
"It is said". Who said it? Here we go again...
But there is another point. This whole way of talking is quite alien (I think)
to what Popper actually did say and did mean by what he said. The 'Open
Society' is not defended by Popper as a "concept" but as both an ideal and a
No society is fully or perfectly open, but some are much more 'open' than
others. Afaiunderstand it, Popper thinks this 'openness' of great importance
and even pivotal in understanding what political systems we should prefer. He
thinks the distinction between (more or less) open and closed societies has
much to contribute to understanding politics and history and society. It also
clear that Popper accepts that the more 'open society' comes at a price, one he
thinks worth paying but a price not acceptable to everyone.
It kind of follows that there is also a relative price to the degrees of
openness we seek, and even in a relatively open society there may be debate and
disagreement as to when the relative price is not worth paying for greater
'openness' (we might apply this, say, to surveillance of information to detect
crime and terrorism)
The 'Open Society' has a moral aspect, a political aspect, a historical aspect
and even important aspects that link it to the 'theory of knowledge' (and so
make it in that sense 'epistemological'): it has all these aspects and more.
But JLS' above way of talking - as if in Popper's view 'the open society' is
reducible as a "concept" to just one of these aspects [eg. 'epistemology'] -
strikes me as mistaken. I suggest it is certainly mistaken as interpretation of
Popper and what he says.
Here's an alternative interpretation: unlike many other philosophers, Popper
wrote 'The Open Society' with an intention to make a contribution to the
addressing of practical problems, by providing a framework within which to
better debate these problems and their solution.
Popper was some way beyond offering a mere "concept", as some philosophers are
wont to do. Indeed, if we follow the arguments he uses, he clearly allows his
opponents can take the words 'closed' and 'democracy' and define them
differently so that, on their definition, Popper advocates a closed and
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