POPPER AND PERESTROYKA - <A HREF="node57.html#dobrosielski">Marian Dobrosielski (Warsaw)</A>

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POPPER AND PERESTROYKA - Marian Dobrosielski (Warsaw)

Editor's Note: Dr. Marian Dobrosielski is a retired Professor of Philosophy, former Polish Ambassador to England, former Director of the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs and former Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland. This note was received before the collapse of the Communist regime in Poland.

The views of Karl R. Popper, especially those on the philosophy of history and politics, are practically unknown (except to some specialists in sociology and philosophy) in the socialist countries. Popper was very often and still is even now sometimes criticized as an "enemy of socialism and marxism." In my short remarks I shall concentrate on the actual situation in Poland in this regard.

Popper's philosophy of science, his Logic of Scientific Discovery, his quite well known among Polish philosopher and students of philosophy. 'Already during his Vienna years, Popper, as is well-known, maintained good relations with Polish philosophers from the Lviv-Warsaw school, first of all with Alfred Tarski, but also with Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Maria Kokoszýnska and others. The philosopher of this school, which in many respects was close to logical positivism, have had an important impact on the development of Polish philosophy after the Second World War and on many Polish marxist philosophers.

Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery appeared in Polish in Poland in 1977; his Open Society and Its Enemies and Poverty of Historicism in 1988. There are several dissertations on Popper's philosophy, articles and reviews, very often one-sided, of some of his works. In the libraries of universities one can find practically all Popper's works and a lot of publications from all over the world about Popper. Despite this, his authentic views are practically unknown to the larger public and very often the criticism shows (as in so many other countries East and West) only a superficial knowledge and understanding, especially of his philosophy of history and politics. Having thoroughly studied Popper's main works, I reached the conclusion that his views concerning history and politics are of tremendous topicality and importance for the discussions going on now in Poland and other socialist countries concerning "new thinking," Perestroika, glasnost, democratization and humanization of the socialist systems.

I decided, therefore, to write a series of essays presenting Popper's views concerning the aforementioned topics. These essays put together will, I hope, form a consistent book. My main aim is not to write an "academic" book, with hundreds of footnotes, with attempts to show where Popper is right and where he is wrong, what is original and what is borrowed from others in his thought, etc. I try to show what is new and valuable in his philosophy of history and politics, what is important for the discussions and controversies in Poland and elsewhere on the "new political thinking and acting," the openness, "glasnost" of our social life, its democratization and humanization. Despite the fact that I do not share some of Popper's political views, I do not try to be polemical. On the contrary, I try first of all to present his views in a positive and objective, clear and simple way.

The title of the series of essays and of an eventual book I borrowed from Popper: "In Search of a Better World: Karl R. Popper's philosophy of history and politics." The title shows my main interest in the philosophy of Popper. I plan to write some 10 essays under the following titles:

1. Popper about himself and his philosophy (based mainly on his Unended Quest).

2. Popper's Apology of Rationalism (Critical Rationalism).

3. On Popper's philosophy of science.

4. The "3-Worlds theory" (Critical Realism).

5. Dualism of facts and standards (Critical Dualism).

6. "The poverty of historicism."

7. "'Open' and 'closed' societies.

8. False prophets: From Plato to Hegel.

9. Popper's critique of Marx and marxism.

10. The perception and reception of Popper's philosophy.

Six of these essays are ready (Nos. 1,2,3,5,6 and 7) and will be published in the Polish weekly, Kultura, the monthly Nowe Drogi (New Ways), organ of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party and other periodicals.

May I add that I consider myself a marxist and have always considered Marx and marxism (authentic marxism, not the dogmatic-stalinist one) to stand and fight for an "open philosophy," for an "open social system," and against all forms of dogmatism and irrationalism. I agree to a very high degree with Fred Eidlin's articles, i.a. "Isn't Popper the Best Marxist?" and "The Radical, Revolutionary Strain in Popper's Social and Political Theory."

Popper's criticism of marxism concerns what I would call the mechanistic, historicist, dogmatic, stalinist marxism, but not the authentic, humanistic, democratic marxism, which unfortunately has not been implemented until now anywhere.

I think that Popper's criticism of the historicism of Marx is one-sided, and based mostly on what Marx wrote in the Introduction to Das Kapital. One can find in the writings of Marx many instances where he comes out very strongly against different historicist views. But I do not intend to defend Marx. He doesn't need it. And no serious, authentic marxist would try to say that all the views of Marx are topical today. Marx wasn't and didn't want to be a prophet. He was a scholar, who has made tremendous contributions to social sciences, but also has made great mistakes, as almost all of his great contemporaries, scientists and philosophers.

One more remark. I don't think that Popper's views on the philosophy of science and the philosophy of politics are fully consistent. I have in mind his concept of "piecemeal social engineering." It does not follow from his philosophy of science, and I think that the experience of human history proves him wrong. "Piecemeal social engineering" might be good in a developed democratic society, but such a society could never have been developed without attempts to implement "utopian social engineering."

I wonder what Popper thinks of Perestroika, glasnost, "new thinking," the revolutionary, but rational and humanistic attempts to modernize and democratize all spheres of life in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. I think that these attempts are not contrary to Popper's basic philosophical view, that they are neither historicistic nor utopian. If Perestroika succeeds - and I think it will - then Popper will have to give up, or redefine his concepts of "utopian" and "piecemeal" social engineering.

Document: The Popper Newsletter (4) 1/2

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Fri Oct 13 08:28:42 BST 1995