Josef Popper-Lynkeus (yō´zĕf pôp´ər-lün´kāŏŏs), 1838–1921, Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and inventor. His unpopular views kept him from any academic position, so he worked at various jobs until his inventions (the most notable being a device that improved the working capacity of engine boilers) gave him financial security. Popper-Lynkeus placed his highest value on the life of the individual and defended its worth against such abstractions as the good of the state or church—religion he considered a social bane—or the advancement of art or science; he held that society had a duty to secure each individual against want, regardless of his talents or qualifications. He was the first to suggest the possibility of transmitting electric power, and he also anticipated several of Sigmund Freud's insights about dreams. Rarely translated or read later, his books were widely popular early in the 20th cent.
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Popper-Lynkeus, Josef (1838–1921)
Josef Popper-Lynkeus was an Austrian inventor, social reformer, and philosopher. Now almost completely forgotten, Popper enjoyed great fame in the early years of the twentieth century and on several topics his writings are far from dated.
Life and Works
Popper grew up in the ghetto of the small Bohemian town of Kolin. At the age of sixteen he began his studies in mathematics and physics at the German Polytechnikum in Prague. Four years later he moved to Vienna, where he attended lectures first at the Imperial Polytechnikum and later at the University of Vienna. In spite of his acknowledged brilliance, Popper was not able to secure a teaching position, partly because he was Jewish and partly because of his radical opinions on religious and social questions. For some time he had a minor clerical job with the National Railways in southern Hungary. Returning to Vienna, he earned his living as a private tutor and as the owner of a scientific-technical literary agency. He attended scientific conferences and lectures, taking notes in longhand. These he wrote up, making ten to twelve carbon copies which he sold to the city's newspapers. In his autobiography, Popper recalls that during those years his income barely equaled that of the lowest-paid unskilled laborer. Popper's extreme poverty came to an end at the age of thirty with his invention of the so-called Kesseleinlagen —a device that significantly improved the working capacity of engine boilers. Although this, as well as several other of Popper's inventions, became generally used, he did not acquire wealth and it was not until he was almost sixty that he could retire from active participation in the production and selling of his various appliances in order to devote himself to literary pursuits.
During the last twenty years of his life, when Popper's books on social and philosophical questions had a very wide circulation, he became the center of what amounted almost to a cult. Popper's books give the impression of a man of transparent honesty and uncompromising hostility to every kind of humbug, especially of the kind that infested German public life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but they do not, according to those who knew him, convey an adequate idea of his character and personal impact. His friends and admirers included Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Ostwald, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, Hermann Bahr, Stefan Zweig, Philipp Frank, and Richard von Mises. Mach referred to him as a "genius of freethinking"; Einstein, who visited Popper when a young man, spoke of him as a "saintly and prophetic person"; and all who met Popper were impressed by his deep serenity, warmth, and unusual and genuine kindness.
Popper was not a scientist of the first rank, but several of his publications dealing with problems in physics are favorably mentioned in standard histories of the subject. He was the first person to suggest the possibility of transmitting electric power, he was a pioneer in aerodynamics, and he was one of the first to see the full implications of the work of Robert Mayer. Popper's treatise "Über die Quelle und den Betrag der durch Luftballons geleisteten Arbeit" (On the sources and the amount of the work done by balloons; Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1875) led to correspondence with Robert Mayer, who requested Popper to review the second edition of his Die Mechanik der Wärme (Mechanics of Heat, 1874). Popper's article, published under the title "Über J. R. Mayer's Mechanik der Wärme" in the periodical Das Ausland (1876), did not confine itself to a discussion of Mayer's conservation principle but also contained a statement of a phenomenalistic philosophy of physics. In its "sharpness and fresh originality," according to Philipp Frank, "it equals the best that is found in Mach's works." In this essay there are also some remarkably perceptive criticisms of the common view that the law of entropy implies the "heat-death" of the universe. In his later work, Physikalische Grundsätze der elektrischen Kraftübertragung (Physical principles of the transmission of electricity; Vienna, 1884), Popper emphasized the analogies between different forms of energy and suggested that every type of energy be regarded as a product of two factors, one of which can be regarded as a kind of quantity and the other as a "difference of level." This idea was subsequently employed in the "energetics" of Georg Ferdinand Helm and Ostwald, both of whom made due acknowledgment to Popper.
Popper's first work dealing with religious and social questions was published in Leipzig on May 30, 1878, the hundredth anniversary of Voltaire's death. It was titled Das Recht zu Leben und die Pflicht zu Sterben, sozial-philosophische Betrachtungen, anknüpfend an die Bedeutung Voltaires für die neuere Zeit (The right to live and the duty to die, social-philosophical reflections in connection with Voltaire's significance for our times). This work contains most of the ideas that Popper was to develop in later writings—a defense of the value of the individual in opposition to the national policies of all existing states, proposals for various social welfare measures totally at variance with the prevailing laissez-faire philosophy, recommendations for drastic reforms of the criminal law and judicial procedures, and reflections about the baleful influence of religion and metaphysics, accompanied by suggested methods for their elimination from the human scene. Both here and in a later more detailed study, Voltaire, eine Charakteranalyse (Voltaire—a character analysis; Vienna, 1905), Popper went out of his way to rebut the charges of German nationalists and romantics about Voltaire's disruptive (zersetzende ) influence on morals and society, praising Voltaire for his great honesty, humanity, and courage, which, in Popper's opinion, were not matched by any of his German detractors.
In 1899 Popper published, under the pseudonym of Lynkeus (Lynkeus was the helmsman of the Argonauts, famous for his keen sight), a two-volume book titled Phantasien eines Realisten (Fantasies of a realist), which consisted of eighty sketches in the form of short stories or dialogues, most of them centering on some controversial philosophical or social topic. One story, "Gährende Kraft eines Geheimnisses" (The fermenting power of a secret), is set in fifteenth-century Florence and deals with the incestuous relations between a mother and her adolescent son, both of whom were burned at the stake. The Phantasien was banned in Vienna, and clerical members of the Austrian parliament demanded a criminal prosecution of the author. Since the book was published in Dresden and the German authorities took no action, it remained in circulation and went into no fewer than twenty-one editions. Philosophically of more interest than "Gährende Kraft eines Geheimnisses" are various sketches illustrating the influence of religion on human life, including an imaginary conversation between David Hume, Denis Diderot, Baron d'Holbach, and other outstanding figures of the French Enlightenment. One of the stories, "Träumen wie Wachen" (Dreaming like waking), independently arrived at several of the key doctrines of Freud's theory about dreams. Like Freud, Popper insisted that there is a continuity between waking thought and dream content and that dreams cannot be dismissed as "nonsense." Freud did not read Popper's story until after the first edition of The Interpretation of Dreams had been published, but later he repeatedly complimented Popper on his insights.
Of Popper's other books, three deserve special mention. Über Religion (Vienna, 1924), which was written in 1905 but could not be published before the overthrow of the monarchy with its clerical censorship, contains the fullest statement of Popper's criticism of religion and metaphysics. Das Individuum und die Bewertung menschlicher Existenzen (The individual and the evaluation of human lives; Dresden, 1910) is the most complete statement of Popper's individualistic ethics and his objections to the many theorists from G. W. F. Hegel to Friedrich Nietzsche whose writings bristle with contempt for the common man.
Popper himself regarded Die allgemeine Nährpflicht (Vienna, 1912) as his most important work. It develops in detail the system which, in Popper's words, should replace "our dreadful economic conditions" by such as are "good and moral." Society, according to Popper, has the duty to secure every individual against want, irrespective of his talents and qualifications. He classifies goods and services into "necessities" and "luxuries," the former including food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, and basic education. To ensure for every human being a "guaranteed subsistence-minimum," Popper proposes a term of labor service in the Nährarmee (Nourishment army). Utilizing an elaborate analysis of agricultural and industrial conditions in Germany at the beginning of the century, he calculates that twelve years of service by men and seven by women, working a thirty-five-hour week, would be sufficient for this purpose. There is to be a double economy: The provision of necessities is to be regulated by the state, while private enterprise is to handle the production and distribution of luxuries. After a person has completed his term of service, he is free to work in any occupation he chooses, or not to work at all. In the latter event, he is still fully entitled to receive all "necessities." As technology advances, the period of service in the Nourishment Army will become progressively shorter.
Popper deliberately used the term Nährpflicht (literally "the duty to furnish nourishment") to express the key concept of his program, since it rhymes with Wehrpflicht, the German for compulsory military service, which Popper resolutely opposed. Popper's idea of a "compulsory civil service" is similar to one proposed by William James in his essay "The Moral Equivalent of War," but Popper anticipated James by several decades. If Popper's ideas about the duty of society to secure the individual against economic uncertainty do not sound exciting to the contemporary reader now that the concept of the welfare state is accepted by the majority of the populations of western Europe and the United States, and even the notion of a guaranteed income is advocated by leading economists, it should be remembered that at the time of their first publication, these ideas were extremely radical and were in fact received with violent hostility. In 1878 the great majority of political theorists, economists, and statesmen still adhered to the view that people are poor because of their laziness and ineptitude and that any state intervention in economic matters is a highly dangerous tampering with natural laws.
In spite of his courage and independent spirit, Popper failed to emancipate himself in some important areas of thought from the prejudices of his times. For example, he accepted without any question the view that masturbation "shatters" (zerrütet ) the nervous system. He also had no doubt about the soundness of the prevailing hereditarian theories, according to which mental disturbances are largely the result of an innately weakened nervous system, and Popper frequently indulged in generalizations about the basically weak or strong nervous system of this or that national group. Although he knew of Freud's high esteem of his own work, Popper had no appreciation whatsoever of any of the ideas of psychoanalysis. Fritz Wittels, a psychoanalyst who was one of Popper's most devoted and trusted followers, called his attention to Freud's books and there was some polite correspondence between Popper and Freud. However, according to Wittels, Popper scarcely did more than look at Freud's books. In one case, when the subject was society (Freud's Group-Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego ), Popper went to the trouble of reading the book. "I enjoyed what he quoted from the Frenchman [Le Bon]," he later told Wittels, but as for Freud's own theories, Popper added, "I must tell you that I did not understand one word."
The Sanctity of Human Life
None of Popper's theories is philosophically more interesting than the ethical individualism on which he bases his program of social reform. On the opening page of Das Individuum und die Bewertung menschlicher Existenzen (from now on referred to as Das Individuum ) Popper announces what he calls his "motto," and the rest of the book consists of its elaboration and defense as well as of detailed criticism of the anti-individualist positions of various influential writers, including Hegel, Nietzsche, Thomas Carlyle, Herbert Spencer, Heinrich von Treitschke, and Popper's own friend Wilhelm Ostwald. Popper formulates the motto as follows:
Basic Principle of a Moral Social Order
When any individual, of however little account, but one who does not deliberately imperil another's existence, disappears from the world without or even against his will, this is a far more important happening than any political or religious or national occurrence, or the sum total of the scientific and artistic and technical advances made throughout the ages by all the peoples of the world.
Should anybody be inclined to regard this statement as an exaggeration, let him imagine the individual concerned to be himself or his best beloved. Then he will understand and accept it.
To make clear what he means, Popper lists a number of propositions that he terms "the value-arithmetic" of human lives. The valuation of a person's life by the person himself, he writes, is something indefinite, varying, according to the mental state of the individual, from nothing to infinity. His life means nothing to him in moments of extreme unhappiness or when he is willing to sacrifice it for a cause in which he believes; but in other circumstances he regards it as possessing infinite value. "From an ethical point of view," Popper writes, "the existence of a stupid peasant-boy is just as infinitely valuable as the existence of a Shakespeare or a Newton" (Das Individuum, p. 193). "There is not the remotest equivalence," he remarks, "between the existence of a human being who wants to go on living and who is not trying to destroy another one, and any other value; the former exceeds the latter infinitely" (p. 189). Let us suppose that the angel of death were to allow William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton, in the most creative periods of their lives, to go on living only on condition that we surrender to him "two stupid day-laborers or even two incorrigible thieves." As moral beings we must not so much as consider an exchange of this kind. It would be far better if Shakespeare and Newton were to die. One may call attention, as much as one wishes, to the pleasure produced in countless future ages by Shakespeare's plays; one may point to the immense progress of science which would be the consequence of the prolongation of Newton's life—by comparison with the sacrifice of a human being, these are mere "luxury-values."
However, all of these considerations, Popper repeatedly insists, apply solely to "non-aggressive individuals." A person whose life is threatened by another may, in self-defense, kill the aggressor without having to feel the slightest remorse or misgivings. In such a case, the person's own life rightly counts as something infinite, while the life of the aggressor, be he one or many, counts as nothing. It is in fact a person's duty, and not merely his right, to defend himself in such a case with all means at his disposal. In addition to helping himself, he also "exerts a beneficial influence on millions of others if he demonstrates to them by his example what importance and value a non-aggressive human being attaches to his life" (p. 218). In one place Popper goes so far as to assert that it would be better if all the aggressors in the world, even if they numbered millions, were to be destroyed than if a single human being succumbed to them without resistance.
On occasions Popper concedes that his own principles cannot be proved and that the principles of his assorted opponents cannot be disproved, but for the most part he maintains that they can be shown to be "true" by means of an "evident deduction" from premises granted by most civilized men (p. 64). He employs two types of arguments, the first of which consists in calling attention to the way in which civilized persons actually judge and behave in a great many situations, when their vision is not clouded by special bias or prejudice. Suppose, for example, a fire were to break out in the Louvre; in such a situation. Popper maintains, it would not occur to any of the firemen or any of the voluntary helpers to save the paintings in preference to the human beings present. If somebody were to save a painting and let a human being die, his behavior would be generally condemned and he might in fact be subjected to punishment. It is true, Popper admits, that sometimes when people hear that in a fire in some distant location a number of human beings perished but that certain valuable manuscripts or collections were saved, they respond with greater satisfaction than if it had been the other way around; but this only proves that distance from the place of a disaster produces indifference and makes people forget the enormous value of somebody else's life. "It becomes altogether different," Popper observes, "if one stands in front of the burning house." To take another illustration, in all civilized nations a person may not be subjected to vivisection or become the involuntary subject of a medical experiment, regardless of the benefits that might accrue to medical science and, indirectly, to future generations.
Popper also considers at great length another type of case that, in his opinion, shows particularly clearly that civilized people do in fact adhere to his principles. In fortresses or on ships, where the shortage of food may become so acute as to necessitate the sacrifice of some individuals, civilized men would always decide the issue by the casting of lots; in such a situation it would not occur to anybody to refer to the special literary or scientific talents of some member of the group. Shakespeare and Newton would here count no more than anybody else, and nobody would dare to propose that a less talented person be killed so that the great dramatist or the great physicist be kept alive instead. This is very evident in a case of this kind because "once the terror of death is so close, everybody perceives that the naked existence of a human being is something so elevated and infinite that compared with it everything else—be it genius, scholarship, or physical beauty—becomes quite inferior in value and a mere luxury" (ibid., p. 208).
The analysis of these and many other cases makes it clear, Popper contends, that his principles, which seem so strange and unrealistic when first stated in general terms, are quite commonly invoked. It is true that they are widely ignored when it comes to certain questions, such as compulsory military service, the death penalty, and the duty of society to guarantee the basic subsistence of every human being. However, in these cases it can be shown that people are simply inconsistent and have not perceived the implications of their own principles.
Popper's second type of argument, which is already indicated in his "motto," is much more interesting and original. It may not unfairly be labeled an ad hominem technique. Arguments of this type consist of two steps: (a ) If a person, X, recommends a policy that involves the killing of one or more nonaggressive human beings, we extract from him the admission that the policy would not be justified if he, X, were the individual to be killed; (b ) we then extract from him the admission that other human beings have the same right to live and not to be sacrificed to some biological, cultural, or aesthetic goal. Popper observes that, except in special "periods of hate," most human beings are ready to make the latter of these admissions, at the very least for other members of their own nation or class. It does not, of course, mean, Popper explains, that a human being should mourn the death of any given person the way he mourns the death of somebody close to him; but human beings should realize that the mourning of somebody else in a similar situation is as justified as one's own and that to this other person his life or the life of somebody dear to him is more important than anything else in the world.
Popper employed his ad hominem strategy with relish in dealing with assorted philosophers and aesthetes who flaunted their readiness to approve the killing or enslavement of millions of ordinary human beings if this were necessary to achieve a biologically superior race or to produce great works of art. Thus, Popper devoted a good deal of attention to Spencer's conclusions that in giving artificial aid to the weakest members of a society, its physical and moral qualities are undermined and that, furthermore, all acts by the state to protect the weak and the sick are a "sin against the natural laws of life." After pointing out the dubious analogies on which such conclusions are based and the arbitrary preference for the value of future lives to those now in existence, Popper turns to his "frequently employed method." Suppose, he writes, Spencer or those taking such a "biological viewpoint" were themselves to become sick or unable to look after themselves. Would they approve of a society that turned to them and said: "Perish miserably! To help you is to make future generations less perfect." Will Spencer and his followers then be prepared to be treated as damaged goods, as refuse in a human breeding institution? Will they then still hold to the theories which they so calmly advocated while they were in good health and others were sick and in need of assistance?
Apparently nobody, not even the "monstrous" Nietzsche, irritated Popper more than the anti-Semitic historian and aesthete Heinrich von Treitschke, who in his essay "Der Sozialismus und seine Gönner" (Socialism and its patrons) had claimed that "the one statue of Phidias more than makes up for all the misery of the millions of slaves in Antiquity." One may well believe, Popper comments, that Treitschke can look at the statue of Phidias with great delight when others were compelled to labor as slaves. "A person holding such a view," Popper proceeds, "ought to have his own principles applied to himself to determine whether he will adhere to them after he has come to feel in his own person what they mean" (ibid., p. 166). It would have been a good idea to condemn Treitschke to five years of service as a slave and then offer him an apartment in the Berlin Museum, where he could spend all his days admiring antique statues. That would be the time to ask Treitschke how he feels about Phidias and the slaves. Perhaps this is the only method, Popper concludes, to make people like Treitschke have some respect for human life.
It would lead too far afield to attempt a detailed assessment of Popper's principles here, particularly of his rather curious "value-arithmetic" of human lives. A few words, however, are perhaps in order about his ad hominem technique, both because arguments of this kind are in fact very common (although few employ them with Popper's deliberateness and persistence) and because there may be a tendency to dismiss them too readily. Anybody with a training in logic is apt to regard all such arguments as flagrant instances of the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi. If a person makes a moral judgment but violates it in his own behavior, this is surely no argument against the soundness of the moral judgment. We all tend to smile at the familiar stage figure of the preacher of temperance who takes out his whiskey flask as soon as the congregation has departed, but his failure to practice what he preaches does not by itself invalidate his preaching—it does not even prove that he is insincere. A doctor, unable to break his own smoking habit, is not necessarily giving bad advice and also may be perfectly sincere when he advises his patients to stop smoking. Turning to one of Popper's examples, if Spencer, after becoming ill and helpless, were to abandon his views concerning the social or biological undesirability of aiding the weak, this would not disprove his views; nor, conversely, would it be evidence for Spencer's position if, upon falling ill, he refused all aid and cheerfully disintegrated in the belief that he was thereby promoting biological progress.
Yet surely this is not the end of the matter. In reading Popper, one cannot help feeling that he is doing a great deal more than expressing his indignation at the defenses of callousness and inhumanity by writers like Spencer, Nietzsche, and Treitschke. Granting that Popper's ad hominem arguments do not disprove the positions he attacks and that they do not prove his own ethical individualism, it might nevertheless be held that his strategy helps to bring out at least two points of some interest. In the first place, Popper may be said to call attention to a double use of "understand" and related expressions which seems of special importance in ethical controversy.
Bernard Shaw once remarked that nobody should be allowed to be a judge unless he had spent at least six months in prison. The average judge, he explained, does not really know what he is doing when he sends a man to prison. In a sense this is no doubt false, but in another and deeper sense it may well be true. A judge can of course understand the statement "You are hereby sentenced to imprisonment for a period of five years" without having been a prisoner and even without having visited a prison—he obviously knows the difference in meaning between "two years" and "five years," and he also knows when to apply and when not to apply the word prison. At the same time, however, he might not know what he is doing in the sense that he has no clear conception of what it is like to languish for years in prison—what conditions really prevail in most prisons and what such a term of imprisonment frequently does to a man's character.
It may very plausibly be held that when intellectuals like Nietzsche, Spencer, and Treitschke advocate or condone the destruction or enslavement of millions of men, they do not, in this latter sense of the word, understand what they are recommending and that they could properly understand their own recommendations only if they became slaves or if they themselves experienced the prospect of being forcibly done away with. If we are satisfied that a person who recommends a certain policy does not himself understand, in this deeper sense, what he is recommending, this does not indeed show his policy to be mistaken, but it does undermine his standing in the discussion. For it means that he is ignorant of relevant, perhaps crucially relevant, facts, and hence, on almost any normative theory, his recommendation would not be adequately supported.
Second, Popper's strategy may help to determine the true status of the recommendations under discussion. Most people would want to make a distinction between a genuine moral or evaluative judgment and the mere expression of a desire or feeling; and it is the mark of the former but not of the latter—so, at least, a defender of Popper would argue—that it is universalizable: In passing a moral judgment on somebody, one is, in virtue of its being a moral judgment, committed to passing the same judgment about anybody else in similar circumstances, including oneself and those one cares for. Now, the writers whom Popper was opposing presumably wished their pronouncements to be treated as genuine evaluative judgments, as the advocacy of certain ideals and not merely as expressions of their desires. However, unless they were willing to maintain that they, too, ought to be enslaved or killed or left without assistance in order to further the goals in question, their original assertions will not qualify as genuine evaluations.
It will be instructive to see how Popper's challenge, thus interpreted, helps to determine the status of Treitschke's recommendation. Treitschke, we will assume, has just declared that certain "inferior" human beings ought to be enslaved for the purpose of producing a sublime work of art. Let us also assume that, in the sense under discussion, Treitschke admits that he, as well as his children (whom he loves), is "inferior." Now, if Treitschke, in this hypothetical situation in which he imagines himself and his children to be inferior, is ready to maintain that he and his children, no less than other inferior human beings, ought to be enslaved, his original declaration has the status of a genuine evaluative judgment. If, however, Treitschke wishes to exempt himself and his children, not merely in the sense that he would resist any attempt to be sold into slavery but in the sense of declaring that he and his children, although inferior beings, ought not to be enslaved, it would follow that his initial statement was not a genuine evaluation—that "ought" was not used there in its moral or evaluative sense. (More accurately: It would follow either that Treitschke was not offering a genuine evaluation or that he was inconsistent in denying a proposition entailed by one asserted previously.) Popper would probably add to this that in actual fact the great majority of those who talk like Treitschke, and very likely Treitschke himself, would insist that they and those they love ought not to be enslaved or otherwise mistreated. While it may be disappointing to realize that the callous positions against which Popper wrote have not been refuted, it is not a mean achievement to have shown that certain pronouncements masquerading as value judgments are in fact nothing more than the expressions of certain desires.
Elimination of Religion and Metaphysics
Popper's positivism, like that of Mach, may be regarded as a midway stage between the philosophy of Auguste Comte and the logical positivism of the Vienna circle. Although he knew a great deal about mathematics, Popper did not advance beyond J. S. Mill's position that mathematical statements are extremely well supported empirical propositions. Metaphysics he dismissed as futile, but he wavered between dismissing metaphysical questions as meaningless and treating them as meaningful but unanswerable.
He never wavered, however, in regarding metaphysics, and more especially the theological varieties associated with Western religions, as exceedingly harmful. No change in economic arrangements, however rational and beneficial it may be, can bring about a happy world unless all forms of supernaturalism are banished. There can be no peace in the world, Popper insists, as long as there is the slightest vitality in organized religious superstition, which is something "necessarily aggressive." Some of Popper's more conservative followers have done their best to play down his antireligious sentiments. It is therefore necessary to insist that he himself regarded the Ausrottung (extermination) of religion and metaphysics—and of all "enthusiasm for transcendent ideals"—as an essential part of his philosophical and social program, one that was necessarily implied by his humanitarian individualism. Margit Ornstein, his literary executor, relates how Popper, very shortly before his death, when be was revising the manuscript of Über Religion, remarked to her with a smile, "This is my Parthian arrow," adding, "When the Parthians left the battle scene they turned around once more to aim a final arrow at the enemy" (Über Religion, p. 3).
Purely ceremonial or "civil" religions, such as those practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans or most of the people of China and Japan, are relatively harmless: Unlike the religions that we know in the West, they lack any kind of metaphysical foundation, anything that can be called a theological system, and above all, they do not possess a powerful priestly caste. Religion begins to have an evil influence only when it is given a systematic formulation and when it becomes "an affair of the heart." Popper's condemnation is sweeping and is meant to apply to the kind of belief fostered by rationalistic theologians no less than to the pietistic enthusiasm found in many religious groups all over the world. "At first it [religious zeal] is just nonsense, then it becomes obstinacy and spite, and in the end it is wildness and insanity beyond all limits" (Über Religion, p. 2). The harmfulness of religion is exactly proportional to the degree of religious fervor. Popper approvingly quotes Pierre Bayle's saying that "the person who is convinced that he is promoting the Kingdom of God by the extermination of heretics will step on all moral laws," and he offers numerous examples from the history of the "genuine positive," as opposed to the merely ceremonial and civil religions, to support his indictment that the former increase bad feeling in the world, that they encourage malicious tendencies which are then covered up and justified in high-sounding language, that they place love of man below the love of religious conceptions, that they multiply situations of strife and conflict by promoting the intervention of priests in even the most intimate details of everyday living, that they weaken and indeed destroy respect for truth and justice, and, finally, that they use, wherever they can, the power of the state for their purposes, especially in matters of education.
Popper disliked Christianity most of all, and in a section of Dos Individuum (A digression on the valuation of human lives in the Christian religion) he undertakes to correct the long-standing and, he claims, erroneous notion that Christianity encourages respect for the individual. Christianity does indeed speak of the value of the individual soul, but both in doctrine and in practice this notion has coexisted with contempt for the individual's body and life here on Earth. Popper does not deny that now and then religious belief has given people hope and consolation and that some of the expressions of religious devotion have been touchingly beautiful. However, such considerations must not be allowed to affect our overall judgment—"the burning of one heretic more than cancels ten thousand beautiful and deep feelings" (Dos Individuum, p. 72).
Popper had no doubt that the ideal of a "superstition-free culture," which, for him, meant a world without religion, was entirely attainable. He repeatedly takes issue with the widespread view that religious belief or religious needs are innate. This, he argues, is clearly disproved by the existence of entire nations without religion and of numerous persons in our own culture who are entirely devoid of religious belief and whose lives are no less happy or responsibly conducted than those of most believers. Moreover, the existing statistics on the prevalence of religious faith are suspect in the sense that, as far as religious issues are concerned, most people are not allowed to develop freely but live under the constant pressure of proreligious propaganda and the threat of social disapproval and economic loss if they avow their disbelief. "The masses of Europe," he writes, live in effect "in a religious penitentiary" (Dos Individuum, p. 59). Once the social and political power of the churches is shattered and education, uninfected by proreligious bias, becomes universal, religious belief is bound to vanish. "A person who has learned about the history and origin of religions, including Christianity, who has absorbed the main results of the sciences and the relations of these to the claims of religion, will not for a moment be afraid of or express gratitude to imaginary entities or persons" (p. 223).
Prior to the elimination of religious influences from the public schools, freethinkers must band together into a powerful "International League for the Liberation from Superstition." Such a league would publish and obtain the vast circulation of what Popper calls "counter-books"—works written in simple and clear prose, which would refute point by point the fallacies, the lies, and the distortions in the religious and proreligious textbooks used in the schools. This league would also open "counter-schools" and train "wandering counter-preachers," whose function it would be to bring enlightenment to the peasant population. The counter-preachers would conduct meetings in the villages immediately after the Sunday services. In the beginning the peasants, incited by the priests, would try to chase away the "godless intruders," but with some courage and persistence it would be possible to receive a hearing, to catch the interest of the peasants, and in the end to make them see the soundness and good sense of the unbeliever's position. In his first formulation of this program in 1878, Popper estimated that such a "gigantic cleansing operation" would take several hundred years, but writing thirty years later, apparently encouraged by the constant decline in religious belief, he thought that a "few generations" would be quite sufficient.
In some places Popper admits that the teaching of science and of the history of religions and the exhibition of the conflict between scientific conclusions and religious assertions is not enough to banish supernaturalism. We also have to take into account the "metaphysical need" which is commonly found in Europeans, though it is for the most part lacking in the peoples of east Asia. This metaphysical need can be eliminated by "improved epistemological instruction." The metaphysical need is "nothing other than the longing to find a resting place in the exploration of the universe, to reach a stage at which there will be no urge to ask new questions" (p. 62). It is however, a senseless drive and must be recognized as such if we are to have a healthy mental constitution. Our knowledge of the world consists in the establishment of functional relations between experienced data (Mach's "elements"). Knowing the world means discovering correlations and subsuming these under ever wider correlations. "We cannot do anything further," writes Popper, "than to determine ever richer relations between elements already known or to insert new ones as connecting links between them." The world may be likened to a carpet spread out in front of us, between whose webs we go on weaving ever-new webs without limit. It is a vain effort "to try to see behind the carpet," as the metaphysicians and mystics do, in the hope of finding there all kinds of wonderful happenings. In discovering causal relations, "we do not descend step by step into the Ground of the World … rather we crawl like an insect on that colorful carpet which we call the world and which, as a consequence of our explorations, becomes ever more dense" (p. 63). This carpet has no "other side" transcending the one we explore.
See also Bayle, Pierre; Carlyle, Thomas; Comte, Auguste; Diderot, Denis; Dreams; Einstein, Albert; Ethics, History of; Freud, Sigmund; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'; Holism and Individualism in History and Social Science; Hume, David; James, William; Logical Positivism; Mach, Ernst; Mill, John Stuart; Newton, Isaac; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Ostwald, Wilhelm; Positivism; Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de.
In addition to the works by Popper mentioned in the body of the article, the following deserve to be mentioned. Fürst Bismarck und der Antisemitismus (Vienna, 1886) is an examination of the violent anti-Semitic fulminations of Eugen Karl Dühring and Richard Wagner, as well as of the milder anti-Semitic arguments of Eduard von Hartmann. Popper's Selbstbiographie (Leipzig, 1917) reprints the complete text of "Über J. R. Mayer's Mechanik der Wärme," as well as the correspondence between Mayer and Popper. Die Philosophie des Strafrechts (Vienna: R. Löwit, 1924) presents the details of Popper's objections to existing penal systems and his own alternative, based on his ethical individualism. Parts of a major epistemological treatise that Popper had planned to write were posthumously published under the title "Über die Grundbegriffe der Philosophie und die Gewissheit unserer Erkenntnisse" in Erkenntnis 3 (1932–1933): 301–324.
Very little by Popper is available in English. "Dreaming and Waking," translated by A. A. Brill, can be found in Psychoanalytic Review 34 (1947): 188–197. The story about incest is translated by S. Rosenzweig as Appendix I of his article "The Idiocultural Dimension of Psychotherapy—Pre- and Post-History of the Relations between Sigmund Freud and Popper-Lynkeus," in Psychoanalysis and the Social Sciences 5 (1958): 9–50. Extracts from various of Popper's writings are translated in H. 1. Wachtel, Security for All and Free Enterprise; A Summary of the Social Philosophy of Josef Popper-Lynkeus (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), which has an introduction by Einstein.
A. Gelber, Josef Popper-Lynkeus, sein Leben und sein Wirken (Vienna, 1922), and F. Wittels, Die Vernichtung der Not (Vienna, 1922), are full-length studies of Popper's life and work. The latter is available in English, translated by Eden and Cedar Paul as An End to Poverty (London: Allen and Unwin, 1925). There is a shorter but very informative study by Richard von Mises in Vol. VII of the series Neue Österreichische Biographic (Vienna, 1931), pp. 206–217. Popper's scientific work is discussed in P. Frank, "Josef Popper-Lynkeus zu seinem achtzigsten Geburtstag," in Physikalische Zeitschrift 19 (1918): 57–59; and in T. von Karman, "Lynkeus als Ingenieur und Naturwissenschaftler," in Die Naturwissenschaften 6 (1918): 457–463. Popper's contributions to "energetics" are discussed in G. Helm, Die Energetik nach ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung (Leipzig: Veit, 1898), Part VII, Ch. 2. A most interesting excerpt from the correspondence between Mach and Popper, containing a remarkable anticipation of the quantum theory, is reprinted in H. Löwy, "Historisches zur Quantentheorie," in Die Naturwissenschaften 21 (1933): 302–303.
Freud's estimate of Popper is found in his article "My Contact with Josef Popper-Lynkeus," which is reprinted in Vol. V of Freud's Collected Papers (New York, 1959) and also in his Character and Culture (New York, 1963). Popper's remark about Freud quoted in this article will be found in F. Wittels, "Freud's Correlation with Popper-Lynkeus," in Psychoanalytic Review 34 (1947): 492–497.
In recent years there has been a good deal of discussion of ad hominem arguments of the kind employed by Popper against writers like Spencer, Nietzsche, and Treitschke. This discussion is in large measure due to the work of the influential British philosopher R. M. Hare, who in his Freedom and Reason (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963) employed a strategy strikingly similar to that used by Popper. Among discussions of how much (or how little) can be established by means of such arguments, the following are especially noteworthy: A. C. Ewing, "Hare and the Universalization Principle," in Philosophy 39 (1964): 71–74; D. H. Munro, "R. M. Hare's Freedom and Reason. " in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 42 (1964): 119–134; G. Madell, "Hare's Prescriptivism," in Analysis 26 (1965): 37–41; and G. Ezorsky, "Ad Hominem Morality," in Journal of Philosophy 63 (1966): 120–125.
There is a complete bibliography of writings by Popper on philosophical, political, and scientific topics in H. I. Wachtel, Security for All and Free Enterprise (see above).
Paul Edwards (1967)
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