[hist-analytic] Popper, Historicism, etc.

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Sep 12 12:31:22 EDT 2010

Popper has an extreme view of Plato and Aristotle. I tend to be sympathetic but I think he takes an extreme view, possibly influenced by his book (The Open Society and Its Enemies) being written so closely to WWII. Popper procedure involves linking totalitarianism or collectivism to historicism, which I won't explain here, and then linking this to a contract view. 

Rawls takes a contract view but dispenses with the elements that would be necessary to forge an alliance with historicism by making the original position a "representational" device. This is not a new idea, but I don't want to dwell on this. What I do want to suggest is that the way Popper has worked out his view historicism and essentialism are linked, thus connecting his nominalism with anti-historicism. However, Popper's nominalism is a must for his theory of the individual (cum Hayek et al) and thus nominalism becomes associated in his mind with anti-historicism and anti-collectivism. What I am moving towards is a bit different. 

I acknowledge that in some sense Popper's anti-collectivism is correct and that, moreover, his view connecting individualism with "protectionism" (oddly little mention of Locke) has some merit. But, unlike, Popper I believe that what is fundamental to his nominalism is related to his deductive nomological account of explanation. This, in turn, feeds his anti-historicism. My present intention, subject to emendation, is to affirm a form of essentialism (in his sense) and reject the deductive nomological model; therefore, allowing a form of historicism some consistency with individualism. How? I do this mainly by considering the role of temporal considerations in attempting to arrive at historical explanation via the deductive nomological model. What is crucial, here, is not so much the nominalism, as the idea of the "present." It is the "present" that complicates the case for historicism, not so much essentialism. In other words, I substitute for invidividualism (but in only Popper's sense) the notion of the present. Understanding the role of the temporality of the present leads me to a different typology of laws in science and history. I reject physicalism on historicist grounds. This is admittedly, for some, a bit provocative, but it allows me to accumulate the strengths of individualism while not subscribing to nominalism. Now, strangely enough, there are aspects of sociobiology that support my position; that is, there is some support here for embracing some form of "essentialism" while, based on evolutionary considerations, backing an historicist point of view. I'm taking another look at Van Fraasen's The Scientific Image. His discussion of causation is wonderful. I can't comment since I'm working on this now. But much neglected is the role of probability in the treatment of the transitivity of causation, essential, I believe to an acceptable historicist account. This leads, ultimately, to a rejection of social contract theory in either the representational or historical form, in my opinion. 


STeve Bayne 
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