ABSTRACT

T H E present discussion of the problems connected with this theory starts from some views expressed by Sir Karl Popper in his books The Open Society and Its Enemies, first published 1943, and The Poverty of Historicism, published 1957.1 These views are no­ where closely argued by Popper. His standpoint is that his theory of explanation in science (explained in his Logic of Scientific Discovery) can be generalized to include historical explanation. With a slight exaggeration one could say that from Popper’s position stem all the main lines of discussion up to the present time. Popper holds the following points:

(a) science can be divided into theoretical sciences, applied sciences and historical sciences;

(b) the first two seek to test universal hypotheses and predict specific events, but the third seeks to explain particular events;

(c) explanation in the sciences is according to this procedure-first, we assume universal hypotheses (called also ‘universal laws’ by Popper) then matters referring to the particular instance (initial conditions) and from the two we deduce a conclusion. We can, Popper says, use the same framework also for prediction and testing;

(d) the interest of the generalizing sciences is in the laws or hypotheses, but in the historical ones, though the laws are there they are trivial —they hardly merit mention, and the historical scientist deals with particular events often without mentioning them at all;

(e) history has no laws of its own to operate with-it gets these from generalizing sciences and especially, but not exclusively, from sociology;

1 For a note concerning sources, see end of this chapter.