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Point of Wonder

A.D. Nuttall, 5 December 1991

Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 202 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 812382 5
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... a permanent, necessary form to reality. He wrote, in a way which still seems bizarre to me, as if Karl Popper had never existed, had never argued in The Poverty of Historicism that the most spectacular version of essentialism in modern times was the Marxian theory of the necessary form of history. Dollimore instead assumes that everyone knows that the ...

The Punishment of Margaret Mead

Marilyn Strathern, 5 May 1983

Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth 
by Derek Freeman.
Harvard, 379 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 674 54830 2
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... fully open to testing against the relevant empirical evidence’. The book is dedicated to Karl Popper. Mead’s account can be tested: by showing her to have failed the test, Freeman demonstrates testability itself. He can put anthropology back among the sciences. There is an uneasy homology between these two aspects of Freeman’s work. He ...

Baffled Traveller

Jonathan Rée: Hegel, 30 November 2000

Hegel: An Intellectual Biography 
by Horst Althaus, translated by Michael Tarsh.
Polity, 292 pp., £45, May 2000, 0 7456 1781 6
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Hegel: Biographie 
by Jacques D'Hondt.
Calmann-Lévy, 424 pp., frs 150, October 1998, 2 7021 2919 6
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... it is tempting to think, should help us pin the great wriggler down. The first life of Hegel, by Karl Rosenkranz, was published in 1844. Hegel had been dead for 13 years and his intellectual legacy was a matter of dispute between ‘Right’ and ‘Left’, or, as Rosenkranz put it, between romantisch and hypermodern – between ‘aristocratic English ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... Wittgenstein’s Poker, an account of the events leading up to the clash between Wittgenstein and Karl Popper at a meeting of the Moral Sciences Club in Cambridge in 1946. It’s fascinating but as with all accounts of philosophy I can never get my mind round the questions at issue – Popper the general, Wittgenstein ...

Out of the Cage

Tom Nairn: Popping the bubble of American supremacy, 24 June 2004

After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order 
by Emmanuel Todd, translated by C. Jon Delogu.
Constable, 288 pp., £8.99, July 2004, 1 84529 058 5
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Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power 
by George Soros.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 297 84906 9
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... substantial basis for his convictions, rooted in earlier travails and a passionate conviction that Karl Popper had been right, in his view of science and philosophy as well as in the theories of The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945). A little later, I and many others were convoked to a seminar at which Ernest Gellner, Soros and ...

The Game of Death

A.D. Nuttall, 11 June 1992

... to our nature and to our spectacular biological success (so far). I think the cleverest thing Sir Karl Popper ever said was his remark that our hypotheses ‘die in our stead’. The human race has found a way, if not to abolish, then to defer and diminish the Darwinian treadmill of death. We send our hypotheses ahead, an expendable army, and watch them ...

Mr Lukacs changes trains

Edward Timms, 19 February 1987

Georg Lukacs: Selected Correspondence 1902-1920 
translated by Judith Marcus and Zoltan Tar.
Columbia, 318 pp., $25, September 1986, 9780231059688
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... complete self-commitment. Lukacs’s conversion, on this view, is analogous to that of the young Karl Marx: the theorist of alienation converted to Communism under the pressure of political events. And this conversion has been assigned exemplary significance. ‘After Marx,’ Löwy suggests, ‘Lukacs is probably the most important traditional intellectual ...

Ruthless and Truthless

Ferdinand Mount: Rotten Government, 6 May 2021

The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism 
by Peter Oborne.
Simon and Schuster, 192 pp., £12.99, February 2021, 978 1 3985 0100 3
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Political Advice: Past, Present and Future 
edited by Colin Kidd and Jacqueline Rose.
I.B. Tauris, 240 pp., £21.99, February 2021, 978 1 83860 120 1
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... the EU as we like to boast (or lament).The idea of the ‘noble lie’ has an ancient parentage. Karl Popper points out in The Open Society that it won’t do to pretend that Plato was merely talking about ‘a bold invention’ – to quote Francis Cornford’s formulation – or a ‘necessary myth’, as it is also sometimes translated. The word ...

From the Other Side

David Drew, 18 July 1985

... at the University of Leipzig, then in the Russian Zone and recently re-constituted as the Karl-Marx University. The following summer he and his family arrived in what had already been established as the German Democratic Republic. In his inaugural address at the university he spoke of the charts and the skills required in order to navigate ‘the ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn, 19 October 1995

Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... Marianne Weber’s circle preserved the memory of Max (Elias gave a paper at her ‘salon’). Karl Jaspers and Karl Löwith were beginning to work through the Weberian legacy, and Heidelberg was home also to a young American called Talcott Parsons, who later presented his own straitjacketed, functionalist version of ...

Can Marxism be rescued?

Alan Ryan, 17 September 1987

An Introduction to Karl Marx 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 521 32922 1
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Making sense of Marx 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 556 pp., £32.50, May 1985, 0 521 22896 4
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Analytical Marxism 
edited by John Roemer.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 521 30025 8
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... intrinsically unprogressive, concerned only to rationalise existing understandings of the world. Karl Popper’s violent assault on Hegel and Marx was one more contribution to mutual animosity. Popper’s philosophy of science is in fact Kantian, not empiricist or positivist: but this has always mattered much more to ...

Cave’s Plato

A.D. Nuttall, 7 July 1988

In Defence of Rhetoric 
by Brian Vickers.
Oxford, 508 pp., £40, February 1988, 0 19 812837 1
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Recognitions: A Study in Poetics 
by Terence Cave.
Oxford, 530 pp., £40, March 1988, 0 19 815849 1
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... Plato (as philosopher, not rhetorician) here murmurs: ‘I told you so.’ Vickers shares Sir Karl Popper’s well-known distaste for the ‘lordly lie’ by which the inhabitants of Plato’s Republic are persuaded to cooperate with the eugenic policies of the élite. He objects, that is, both to the end and to the means. But the means ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... told Salmagundi:In 1933 Mr [H.A.L.] Fisher, the Warden of New College, asked me to write a book on Karl Marx for the Home University Library. I said: ‘What is the audience for the book?’ He said: ‘Squash professionals.’ I had never read a line of Marx ...One sees the famous charm at work. But not even a line, by 1933, even after St ...

Stone’s Socrates

Alan Ryan, 27 October 1988

The Trial of Socrates 
by I.F. Stone.
Cape, 282 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 224 02591 0
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... with Dick Crossman’s Thirties Plato Today, where Plato appears as the first fascist, or with Karl Popper’s postwar assault, The Open Society and its Enemies, which accuses Plato of racism, totalitarianism, and a fair cross-section of the sins of Hegel and Marx. Where Stone is unusual is in making Socrates as big a villain as his disciple ...

Someone Else, Somewhere Else

Peter Clarke, 13 November 1997

Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals 
edited by Niall Ferguson.
Picador, 548 pp., £20, April 1997, 9780330351324
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... allows contingency a crucial role. While building on the insights of predecessors like Bury, Popper or W.B. Gallie, Ferguson reformulates the essential arguments with a characteristically late 20th-century appeal to chaos theory in reconciling causation and contingency. ‘Chaos – stochastic behaviour in deterministic systems – means unpredictable ...

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