I have some problems in reading whether Popper was a proponent or a critic of what's called "historicism". Historicism means belief systems that believe in some kind of logic in historical and societal development that can be predicted by studying history and one's own time.


Historicism (also known as Historism) holds that there is an organic succession of developments, and that local conditions and peculiarities influence the results in a decisive way.


Now, for a modern scientific mind this sounds very irrational. How exactly could such predictions ever be possible? Then were proponents of historicism mad or religious? But particularly, did Popper "belong" to this school or was he criticizing it?

  • For Popper's critique, see Popper and historicism and ref to Popper's The Poverty of Historicism. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 23 '17 at 8:48
  • It was Hegel's peculiar type of unity and identity that made him so unique. It preserved, sublated and uplifted. The preservation of the finite-material was probably an influence from Aristotle. In Hegel's night of unity (the absolute), all cows were not black. This enabled him to comprehend more fully the wrecking ball of the material, say capitalism, on what was left of the feudal world. Only Diderot can match Hegel as an early observer of this phenomenon in my opinion. – Gordon Oct 23 '17 at 18:45
  • What both Popper and more recently Mario Bunge were really concerned about was this attempt to steer history (the freedom of man to direct history "change things") either as defense (fascism) or offense (Marxism) against the tide of ever more "rational" capitalism (now a global rationalism). You see such strategies deployed by the last of the feudal remnants, RC Church in Italy; Prussian elite in Germany, though by no means in the exact same way. The last great hope for old style Marxism was extinguished in Germany in 1919. – Gordon Oct 23 '17 at 19:36
  • To be charitable to Popper, he didn't want any more world wars, but I do think he treated Hegel unfairly. Hegel was a great philosopher, and Marx was at least an important philosopher. – Gordon Oct 23 '17 at 20:01

Yes, Popper was a harsh critic of Historicism as represented by Hegel and Marx with their "belief that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to certain principles or rules towards a determinate end (as for example in the dialectic of Hegel, which was adopted and implemented by Marx)."

For Popper's critique, see Popper and Historicism (from where the above quote was taken) and refer to Popper's The Poverty of Historicism (1957).

  • I've just read about historicism, but it seems like a very irrational belief. Were proponents of it stupid, mad, fundamentalist or religious? – mavavilj Oct 23 '17 at 9:09
  • Just look at who defended it ;) Poppers 'Open Society' also features attacks against Historicism. – Lukas Oct 23 '17 at 9:12
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    @mavavilj - with hindsight, we may agree that Hegel and Marx was sort of "fundamentalist", and thus they share a certain "religious" attitude regarding philosophy of history. But the idea that Social sciences can achieve a certain level of methodological maturity that can support qualitative and quantitative techniques of predication is not so wrong (see Economics). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 23 '17 at 9:27
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    Indeed. Historicism is obviously not completely wrong. Otherwise there would be point in learning history. – user20253 Oct 23 '17 at 10:51
  • @PeterJ However, I believe that even those things mentioned by Mauro ALLEGRANZA do huge assumptions as well as very, very coarse predictions. People are not particles. – mavavilj Oct 23 '17 at 12:26

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