Given Popper’s personal history and background, it is hardlysurprising that he developed a deep and abiding interest in social andpolitical philosophy. However, it is worth emphasising that his angleof approach to these fields is through a consideration of the natureof the social sciences which seek to describe and explicate themsystematically, particularly history. It is in this context that heoffers an account of the nature of scientific prediction, which inturn allows him a point of departure for his attack upontotalitarianism and all its intellectual supports, especially holismand historicism. In this context holism is to be understood as theview that human social groupings are greater than the sum of theirmembers, that such groupings are ‘organic’ entities intheir own right, that they act on their human members and shape theirdestinies, and that they are subject to their own independent laws ofdevelopment. Historicism, which is closely associated with holism, isthe belief that history develops inexorably and necessarily accordingto certain principles or rules towards a determinate end (as forexample in the dialectic of Hegel, which was adopted and implementedby Marx). The link between holism and historicism is that the holistbelieves that individuals are essentially formed by the socialgroupings to which they belong, while the historicist—who isusually also a holist—holds that we can understand such a socialgrouping only in terms of the internal principles which determine itsdevelopment.


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