Popper's critique of the philosophical doctrines underlying totalitarian ideology is powerful. Yet, having the regimes of Hitler and Stalin in full view before him, he did not give full and balanced consideration to the range of effects these doctrines can have within actually existing ideologies and regimes. The ideas he correlates with totalitarianism can and do exist in benign forms or tempered by other ideas and by institutions. Moreover, the struggle with totalitarianism is only partly a struggle of philosophical ideas. Political argument and rhetoric appeal to feeling as well as intellect. This tends to be a blindspot of liberalism that often weakens it in the competition with its adversaries.Prejudice is what holds society together.
Eduard DegasSir Karl Popper's principal scholarly interests were never in the domain of political philosophy or the social sciences. Had not the rise of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism posed a mortal threat to liberal democracy, he would never have turned his professional attention to political philosophy and the social sciences.The Open Society and I ts Enemies and The Poverty of His toricism, books which Popper called his &dquo;war effort&dquo; (1974,91), present a brilliant and scathing critique of a set of philosophical doctrines underlying totalitarian ideologies. These books represent a defense of liberal-democracy against totalitarian doctrines, which he saw as seducing and misleading intellectuals on whose support liberal-democracy depended.Nevertheless, Popper never really joined the debate about problems of liberal democracy One reason for this is that, although he did not idealize liberal-democracy he did not consider its weaknesses to be all that troublesome. He did not think it should need a defense.' Like Sir Winston Churchill, he thought that, despite all its imperfections, liberal democracy was the best kind of regime we could hope for in an imperfect world. He also thought such regimes were best
Confused students researching papers not knowing where they are going. Articles, lectures, and books on exciting topics that turn out to be boring. Such familiar phenomena are symptoms of a widespread, largely unconscious methodological habit of focusing on topics rather than problems. This habit rests on views about knowledge that are deeply ingrained in commonsense knowledge and in the methodology of mainstream social science. Such views saturate the understanding of scientific inquiry assumed by most methods textbooks. This article criticizes the method of topics and contrasts it with the method of problems. The word "topic" suggests that there is some surface to cover, but not why covering it might be interesting. Interesting research is problem-driven. It begins with a sense that something is amiss with existing knowledge and requires explanation. Problem-driven research begins, not with collection of data or facts, or with clarification of concepts, but with identification of inconsistencies or gaps in existing knowledge. It seeks to solve problems through free invention and severe criticism of hypotheses.
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