November 25, 2011
KARL POPPER, EXPERIENCE and COSMOPOLITANISM
Malachi Haim Hacohen, Karl Popper, The Formative years, 1902-1945: Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2000) (" 'Experiences can motivate a decision, and hence an acceptance or a rejection of a statement, but a basic statement cannot be justified by them - no more than by thumping the table.' " "Popper used jury trials to demonstrate his point. Courts present juries with a case and a question formulated according to legal rules. Guided by procedures, the jury reaches a verdict, 'a true statement of fact.' No doubt convictions motive the decision to accept a particular story as 'fact,' but convictions do not justify the decision. Indeed, the verdict may be wrong. In contrast, judges justify their judgment. They determine punishment by 'deducing' the judgment from the laws. Scientific parallels are close. Basic statements can no more be justified by scientists' convictions than a jury's verdict. Questions posed to, and decisions reached by, both juries and scientists represent application of a system, legal or theoretical, not unadulterated facts, or experience. Only 'arbitrary' acceptance of a basic statement makes further application of the system - one that can be justified - possible. Theory informs all action and decision. Decision can not be justified." Id. at 246. "The historian has the right, however, to interrogate Popper's claim to have overcome the conditions of an 'assimilated Jew.' In an open society, those declining to belong to any nationality might be recognized as Weltburger. Popper did not live in such a society. From childhood to death, his closest friends were assimilated Jews. He grew up in an assimilated Jewish family. Progressive Viennese circles were essential to his intellectual formulation and Central European networks to his intellectual growth. Both were preponderantly Jewish, His cosmopolitanism emerged from Jewish marginality and reflected the assimilated Jews' dilemmas. Anti-Semitism drove him to exile. He retained a special relationship to Jewish nationality, condemning it, yet feeling responsible for it. Using the category of 'assimilated Jew' to describe and analyze Popper, I neither follow in 'the Fuhrer's steps nor deny cosmopolitanism's emergence, demise, and constraints. To do so simply recognizes that Central Europe set limits to cosmopolitanism. I hope with Popper for a world where such limits will no longer exists." Id. at 308-309.).