WHY DID THE PHILOSOPHERS OF SCIENCE ONLY PARTLY SUCCEED?
(cross posted for archival purposes)
Did you ever read a novel, which you felt passionate about, and thought that the story was enthralling and insightful, then returned years later to re-read it thinking it was ok, but childish? You wonder what you were thinking?
The story didn’t change, you did.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the problems of ethics and politics and found my way to Instrumentalism, Operationalism, and Intuitionism as means of placing higher constraints on our theories (and arguments) such that we are unable to engage in deception and self-deception.
So when I read almost all philosophers, popper included, I have the same reaction to their ‘allegorical’ imaginary arguments, that others would have to even weaker allegorical religious or platonist arguments.
Now, in many cases, you can convey the same relationships (understanding) through supernatural, platonist, abstract imaginary, and operational terms. But the difference in correspondence between your terms and reality is narrowest at the operational end of that spectrum, and widest at the supernatural end.
Popper is one of the best philosophers of the past century. Certainly one who had the most impact upon me. But he had the most impact on me because I am predisposed to think scientifically, and in the manner that he sought to convince us.
Only a minority of us are predisposed to think as such. For those who are not so predisposed, they fail to grasp Popper’s arguments. And unlike other philosophers (Smith and Hume for example) Popper failed to sufficiently articulate his ideas such that one not be predisposed to agree with them. And the evidence confirms this.
The reverse test is also telling: if one cannot articulate poppers ideas operationally, then one merely agrees with them allegorically, but does not understand them operationally. Now, I can articulate CR/CP operationally, but I’m less certain about falsificationary ideas, and I’m less sure about verisimilitude.
If we put popper’s work into the context of ethics and politics, he is in the same position as Taleb, Hayek, and the rest: the moral prohibition on government, is to make small tests and measure the results, rather than large risk-inducing, fragility-creating irreversible programs. However, it is in the interests of the redistributionists, if not all rent-seekers, to do precisely that.
Telling us what NOT to do, is very different from telling us WHAT to do. And this is the problem with taking the philosophy of science, which pursues absolute, most parsimonious theories, in pursue of absolute truth, regardless of time and cost, and applying it to human affairs whose purpose is to outwit the dark forces of time and ignorance at the lowest possible current cost.
Human cooperation requires solutions to the problem of institutions that facilitate our cooperation in ever expanding ways, most quickly, at the lowest cost. To tell us what we should not do, is not very useful in telling us what we should do. But they cannot tell us what we should do, because they failed to solve the problem of the social science. And they failed to solve that problem, because the dramatic increase in the legitimacy of science due to its successes encouraged philosophers to copy the methods and assumptions of science, which does not equilibrate in reaction to investigation, and apply those methods to human cooperation which does equilibrate in reaction to investigation.
As such, Popper remains, largely a moral philosopher. He tells us what not to do. His recommendations are simple enough to apply to the problem of science, which does NOT require complex coordination in real time, and incentives needed to construct a voluntary organization of production. But it is not explanatory enough, that he could provide a solution to the problem of
I suspect that he maintained the error of classical liberalism: “Us and We where there is neither.” Once we abandon that fallacy, politics and ethics are no longer an impossible equation to solve, they are solvable entirely. Because one can calculate means of cooperation, but one cannot calculate ends of cooperation.
So, this is why I have a different perspective from you. To move from A to B is one thing. To move from B to C is another. Popper brings us to B. But in light of the fact that the problem is to bring us to C, he fails, like all other philosophers of his era failed. And we continue to bear the problem of that failure.
I hope that adds some clarity to my position.