The Popper, Kirk, and Lloyd Controversy Revisited the Traps of the "Historiography of Legitimacy"

By Lazu, Robert | Philosophy Today, May 2013 | Go to article overview

The Popper, Kirk, and Lloyd Controversy Revisited the Traps of the "Historiography of Legitimacy"


Lazu, Robert, Philosophy Today


"Back to the Pre-Socratics" was the title of a lecture that Karl Popper gave in London to the members of the Aristotelian Society on Octo-ber 13, 1958.' On that particular occasion, al-though he declared that he would speak only "as an amateur, as a lover of the beautiful story of the Pre-Socratics,"2 he put forth a few inter-pretations to which Geoffrey Stephen Kirk and Geoffrey Lloyd, Cambridge University ex-perts on Greek classical culture, reacted quite strongly.

It was especially the concept of "science" applied by the Austrian author to the Pre-Socratics that led to a powerful and lasting controversy. Paying special attention to the nu-ances involved in Popper's interpretation, Donald Wiebe has underlined the fact that in Popper's view, the Pre-Socratics "are therefore not the founders of modern science but rather the founders of modern scientific rationality."3 Consequently, as we shall see, what Popper maintained in his discussion of Pre-Socratic philosophy was a type of rationality that in fact lay at the origin of the occidental world, "the only civilization which is based upon sci-ence."4

As Claudiu Mesaro§ has observed, Karl Popper sees in the Ionian school of thought a source of all questions and acquisitions of modern contemporary science.5 Indeed, in The Myth of the Framework (the source of Claudiu Mesaro§'s statement), 6 Popper's vision of the history of European science was based on the so-called "Greek miracle,"7 an event suppos-edly generated by the Pre-Socratics' rational reflections: "But what of the original Greek miracle-the rise of Greek poetry, art, philoso-phy, and science; the real origin of Western ra-tionalism?"8 Making use of similar rhetorical questions, Karl Popper concluded without any hesitation whatsoever that "our ideas of free-dom, of democracy, of toleration, and also the ideas of knowledge, of science, of rationality, can all be traced back to these beginnings."9 Obviously, in accordance with his personal perspective of critical rationalism, the idea of rationality seemed to him "the most funda-mental" idea. 10 However, he was not referring to a particular type of rationality, but to the "critical rationality" which contributed to the advancement of knowledge by means of a movement that would ensure checking previ-ous theories constantly-since only theories that can be "falsified" are truly scientific theo-ries.

The essay "Back to the Pre-Socratics" should thus be placed next to essays verifying the Greek origins of occidental rationalism. Popper's hermeneutical approach proves that the statement attributed to Henri Poincaré, i.e., "the scale creates the phenomenon,'"1 is actu-ally correct (in a flash of inspiration, Professor Christopher Buck called it the "Scalar bias"); 12 to be sure, since it is a premise that cannot be avoided by any critical interpretation, it can be verified in Popper's article too. In his endeavor to elucidate the significance of certain Pre-So-cratic fragments, he starts out by postulating that they were the representatives of a "simple straightforward rationality.'"* Its decisive ele-ment "is the critical attitude which, as I shall try to show, was first developed in the Ionian School.'"4 In Popper's opinion, this critical at-titude is common to almost all of Thales's suc-cessors.

For example, Anaximander, his brilliant follower, reached the conclusion that the shape of the earth is spherical rather than cylindrical precisely because he had taken over his prede-cessor's opinions in a critical manner, rejecting them and arguing in favor of a superior hypothesis:

Thus it was a speculative and critical argument, the abstract critical discussion of Thales's theory, which almost led him to the true theory of the shape of the earth; and it was observational experi-ence which led him astray. 15

Following the same path, that is, taking over critically their predecessors' working hypoth-eses, most thinkers of ancient Greece contrib-uted to the perpetuity of certain remarkable hy-potheses, a fact that may account for the emergence of many theories of the modern pe-riod. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Popper, Kirk, and Lloyd Controversy Revisited the Traps of the "Historiography of Legitimacy"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.