From GM Davies’s post:
and my response below (with much-needed amendments and additions in red):
Your thoughts in the above post have a lot going on in them. Ponderous.
First-off, I also think that time horizons are amongst the most overlooked aspect of the consideration in many areas, not in the least, trading, economics and politics.
[This idea can lead to the largest most universal of conceptions, or towards the tiniest un-sliceable point-interval… I dare not venture…]
And reading quickly through your post, I can’t help but be struck by several pertinent points you mentioned which recalls the central tenets used and taught by a modern thinker/philosopher (especially in the areas of the philosophy of the scientific method and its applications to social+political philosophy) — Karl Popper.
Empirical falsification is the capstone to Popper’s overarching methodology (in his philosophy of the scientific method) and decidedly informs his social+political views as well (in his primary social philosophy work: Open Society and Its Enemies ).
And in the field of probability science, Popper extended beyond ‘Frequencies’ towards ‘Propensities’ in his Propensity Theory of Probability. (While) Popper’s propensity theory has had more direct (though not wholly successful) applications towards resolving some of the paradoxes in quantum mechanics in providing a dispositional account of quantum states in the (Schrodinger) wave-function;
but in applying (his) probabilistic thinking/ideas towards social science, Popper’s words echoes what you said above regarding ‘significance’ and ‘impact’:
Popper argues, then, paradoxical as it may sound, the more improbable a theory is the better it is scientifically, because the probability and informative content of a theory vary inversely—the higher the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false. Thus the statements which are of special interest to the scientist are those with a high informative content and (consequentially) a low probability, which nevertheless come close to the truth. Informative content, which is in inverse proportion to probability, is in direct proportion to testability. Consequently the severity of the test to which a theory can be subjected, and by means of which it is falsified or corroborated, is all-important.
[Popper argues the above in his justification of the efficacy of Piecemeal engineering over large-scale (and potentially catastrophic) ‘paradigm shifts’ in the humanistic area of social engineering.
(Basically (the first consideration is): To do no harm.)
And in the comments (between you and the Rock) above, it is evident that the two views raised reflect the enduring questions asked ever since Plato asserted: Who Shall Rule (the state)?
Plato’s preferred solution is for a virtuous and most excellent (tongue-in-cheek, but I really meant ‘Arete’) Philosopher-King to be educated and groomed from youth. As we have seen in history, the actual sovereigns and monarchies we had since were but poor and pale shadows of this ideal. Popper, in Open Society, takes aim at Plato squarely:
“Plato’s theory of justice indicates very clearly that Plato saw the fundamental problem of politics in the question: Who shall rule the state? It is my conviction that by expressing the problem of politics in the form ‘Who should rule?’ or ‘Whose will should be supreme?’, etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political philosophy.
First of all, such a reply is liable to persuade us that some fundamental problem of political theory has been solved. But if we approach political theory from a different angle, then we find that far from solving any fundamental problems, we have merely skipped over them, by assuming that the question ‘Who should rule?’ is fundamental. For even those who share this assumption of Plato’s admit that political rulers are not always sufficiently ‘good’ or ‘wise’, and that it is not at all easy to get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility of bad government; whether we should not prepare for the worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace the question: Who should rule? by the new question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?”
–Karl Popper, Open Society and its Enemies, Chapter 7: Leadership
Apologies for the verbiage.
And here, to show Popper’s views on The Paradoxes of Sovereignty:
From Popper’s Open Society and its Enemies,
-Chap 6: Totalitarian Justice (section on Individualism)
-Chap 7: The Principle of Leadership
-Chap 8: The Philosopher King
But the most pertinent parts relating to the paradox of freedom, the paradox of tolerance and the paradox of democracy, are actually to be found in the Notes to Chapter 7: The Principle of Leadership.
[Popper again cast aspersion on Plato, this time on his ‘altruistic collectivism’ and follows through this thread in his critique (lightly) on the early empiricists and their clinging onto Historicism (ie: to various modes of monarchies in their fear of Anarchy/the masses — eg. Robespierre’s horrendous Revolution & Reign of Terror) and then (heavily) attacking Marx’s ‘dialectic materialism’ in its inexorable march towards the ideal synthesis of Socialism from the initial thesis and antithesis of Feudalism and Capitalism.