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Karl Popper - The Formative Years, 1902-1945: Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna Hardcover – October 23, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0521470537 ISBN-10: 0521470536 Edition: y First edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 626 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; y First edition edition (October 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521470536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521470537
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,525,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This intellectual biography examines the early life of one of the 20th century's most influential philosophers. Born in Vienna, Popper (1902-1994) grew up among educated, middle-class Jews who, despite their efforts at assimilation (Popper's father was Lutheran by conversion), still suffered prejudice. Though Nazism would eventually force him out of Europe, Popper spent the interwar years in Austria, developing the foundations of both his character and his soon-to-be-influential ideas. Like most of his countrymen, he believed that Jews' high public profile in the arts, sciences and professions contributed to anti-Semitism; he eschewed all religious practice, condemned Zionism and established a "life-long pattern" as "eternal dissenter and intellectual loner." In the mid-1930s he fled to a university in New Zealand; later, he secured a prestigious post at the London School of Economics. But Hacohen, an Israeli-born historian (Duke University), doesn't just map out the biographical details of Popper's early life. He combines them with critical readings of the philosopher's most important writings from these yearsAThe Open Society and Its Enemies, The Logic of Scientific DiscoveryAto argue against a contemporary academic trend. "Popper," Hacohen asserts, struggled with " 'poststructuralist' dilemmas" (like the notion that language both describes and invents the world) but crafted different solutions to these questions than today's scholars do. And Popper's contributions along these lines have been forgotten, in part, Hacohen suggests, because scholars have ignored the first half of his career. By remedying this oversight, Hacohen also "recommend[s Popper's] solutions as against poststructuralist ones." While much of Hacohen's book is accessible to analysts of language and philosophers of science, its rich evocation of the turbulent yet vital interwar Vienna should win this formidable book a wider readership. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Karl Popper is famous for his thesis that scientific theories are never confirmed yet can always be falsified and for his blistering attacks on ideologies that lead to tyranny. The two positions form a passionate defense of the individual against bureaucracy. The lone individual, Popper argued, can overturn a powerful scientific theory with a single negative example, while most political ideologies, including those of Marx and Hegel, are empty and incapable of confirmation or falsification. Without such theories, people must come together to make their own futures. Cold warriors welcomed Popper, though he never intended to justify egocentric individualism. This book explores his youthful Viennese socialism and his disillusionment with those who passively fell victim to Nazism because they assumed history would work in their favor. A Jew who battled against Israeli "tribal nationalism" and a conscientious thinker sometimes exploited by an unscrupulous Far Right, Popper, who settled in England, was always an odd man out. Hacohen (intellectual history, Duke Univ.) here draws on previously unexplored archives. His story is exciting and his scholarship meticulous, but ponderous prose will confine his book to academic libraries.DLeslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, Ont.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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One of those books which one can honestly say the reader will be much wiser after finishing it.
azphil
Hacohen gives us an eminent look at the personal, political and scientific antecedents of Karl Popper's main scientific and political publications.
Luc REYNAERT
This is a very compelling and very useful portrait of the early years of Karl Popper in the age of Wittgenstein's Vienna, and the interwar years.
John C. Landon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rafe Champion on February 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has several different aspects, all of absorbing interest, including the detailed reconstruction of Popper's intellectual career and the depiction of the social and political milieu of Vienna between the wars.
Popper was the archetypal workaholic. Hacohen reports that he worked for 360 days of the year, all day, without the distraction of newspapers, radio or TV. Several times a month, even in old age, he worked all night and friends such as Bryan Magee would get an early morning call from Popper, bubbling with excitement to report on his latest ideas. Popper lived well out of London near High Wycombe and when Magee gained Popper's confidence he was invited to visit, taking the train to "Havercombe" (in Popper's heavily accented English). When I made the trip to Havercombe, Popper arranged to meet me at the station, carrying a copy of the BBC Listener, presumably to pick him out from all the other elderly gentlemen of middle-European extraction who might be thronging the platform at 2.00 on a Wednesday afternoon. In the event, he left the magazine at home and the kiosk had sold out so he had to buy The Times and fold it to the size of the Listener. Of course he was the only person in sight apart from the Station Master. Popper, then aged 70, had what his research assistant tactfully described as a "very positive" attitude to driving. Fortunately it was not far to his home and there were few other cars on the road. Safely home, our conversation laboured, and he frequently pushed a tray of choc-chip cookies towards me. Later he lamented to his assistant that I had eaten a whole weeks supply of his favorite cookies in one afternoon. These aspects of Popper are the other face of the man who some described as "the totalitarian liberal".
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
We tend to see Karl Popper from a later perspective of the years of the Cold War. And yet his roots explain a number of enigmas surrounding his work.This is a very compelling and very useful portrait of the early years of Karl Popper in the age of Wittgenstein's Vienna, and the interwar years. The background of Popper's The Poverty of Historicism, for example, lies in the methodological debates of this prior era, and the background given in the book greatly illuminates some of this classic's oddities. Popper's youth and formative years, when he was a socialist,and a socialist soon confronted by socialist theories in action, are brought out against the background of the extraordinary period after World War I and the calamities swiftly following one another. Through all of this we see Popper's distinctly uncharacteristic and yet brilliant development as he becomes a philosopher of science, in counterpoint to the logical positivists, with whom he was always confused. All this coming to fruition in the mid-thirties and the onset of Nazism, as Popper joins the endless list of refugees from one of the most creative cultural generational series of modern times. In fact the portraits of many of the figures of this time, with many of whom Popper interacted, makes up a striking portrait of cultural history. One is oddly reminded of the inverted resemblance to George Lukacs, another scion of this era, whose different response and fate to one and the same chaotification and reification of theory in practice echoes as a mirror image the swiftly conservatized The Poverty of Historicism, beside the equally classic The Open Society and its Enemies.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By azphil on June 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Malachi Hacohen as written a great biography that both covers the personal has well as the philosphical development of one of the 20th century's greatest minds. This is a big book in every sense of the word, big in ideas, big in scope. One of the by products of reading this book was to discover the immense impact that intellectuals from 1920's Austria and non germanic Central Europe had upon, not just philosphy, but also economic and political developments in the Anglo Saxon world. People such as Hayek, Drucker, Polyani, Tarski, Neurath, Mises and many more have had a profound effect upon the thinking of both the Right and the Left in the US and Britain. One of those books which one can honestly say the reader will be much wiser after finishing it.
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