Jarvie and Agassi papers

Some more  helpful resources, Joe Agassi on “institutional individualism” possibly the best take on Popper’s methodological individualism, modified to take full account of the role of institutions. Warning, this is a very big file!

A recent paper by Agassi and Jarvie Towards a General Sociology of Science.

And Ian Jarvie’s very helpful comments on The Poverty of Historicism.

This is my summary of The Poverty.

Jarvie on Popper’s contribution to the human sciences, including a list of 19 major problems that Popper progressed in The Open Society. A wonderful paper!

His conclusion.

“How do these case studies in his social science work illuminate Popper’s ideas?  They show that the four signature ideas mentioned at the beginning are all of a piece.  Methodological individualism, situational logic, analysing the unintended consequences of action, and the rationality principle come together as a package and throw light on one another.  Methodological individualism is the methodological proposal that we explain by using typified individuals, their aims, and their situations (Athenian aristocrat, scientists, Utopian engineers), exploring how their situation constrains them, and how unintended consequences of actions always require on-going self-critical re-assessment if action is to remain rational.  Critical feedback about consequences can affect means, but it can also affect aims.  Plato, however, was not a typical individual.  How does Popper’s socio-analysis of Plato sit with his emphasis on the typical?  The answer is clear: even when it is the actions of a particular individual, including the actions of thinking and writing,  that is to be explained, the explanation proceeds by typifying the individual – by age, by sex, by class, by education, by ideas, and modelling his reaction to his situation as though he were typical.  The rationality principle amounts to the methodological proposal to give a rational explanation wherever possible – to the limit of our intellectual resources.  At that limit we may declare some features of the problem inexplicable.  Were we to declare them irrational, that would amount to the same thing.  Popper sums up better than I can:”

“The ‘world’ is not rational, but it is the task of science to rationalise it.  ‘Society’ is not rational, but it is the task of the social engineer to rationalise it.  (This does not mean, of course, that he should ‘direct’ it, or that centralised or collectivist ‘planning’ is desirable.)  Ordinary language is not rational, but it is our task to rationalise it, or at least to keep up its standards of clarity.  The attitude here characterized could be described as ‘pragmatic rationalism’.  This pragmatic rationalism is related to an uncritical rationalism and to irrationalism in a similar way as critical rationalism is related to these two.  For an uncritical rationalism may argue that the world is rational and that the task of science is to discover this rationality, while an irrationalist may insist that the world, being fundamentally irrational, should be experienced and exhausted by our emotions and passions (or by our intellectual intuition) rather than by scientific methods.  As opposed to this, pragmatic rationalism may recognise that the world is not rational, but demand that we submit or subject it to reason, as far as possible.  Using Carnap’s words (Der Logische Aufbau, etc., 1928, p. vi) one could describe what I call ‘pragmatic rationalism’ as ‘the attitude which strives for clarity everywhere but recognises the never fully understandable or rational entanglement of the events of life’.  (OS&IE (1945), II, p. 337, n. 19).”

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