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Chocolate and Chess. Unlocking Lakatos Paperback – February 12, 2010
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I unknowingly thought my way in writing my dissertation to something like Lakatos' philosophy of science in the late 1960s from reading Lukacs and Popper. I was disappointed when I found that Lakatos had made this synthesis better and a few years earlier, unbeknownst to me. I could only take partial solace in the fact that Lakatos had a two decade plus head start, having studied personally with both Lukacs and Popper, while I had only read them in a few weeks on the beaches of Ogunquit, ME.
Since the fall of Communism several Hungarian writers have investigated Lakatos' secret (at least to most of the provincial Brits in the '60s and '70s) Lukacs connection. Lakatos carefully avoided tripping down memory lane while in Britain and asked silence from some other refugees who began to talk about the darker aspects of his past.
Paul Feyerabend once said that the secret of Lakatos was that he "drank from the devils brew of Leninism." See the book Appraising Lakatos including works by Ropolyi and Olga Kiss on the Hungarian Lakatos Appraising Lakatos: Mathematics, Methodology and the Man (Vienna Circle Institute Library). Also See Congdon's article on 'The Possessed' concerning Lakatos. There is something Faustian or even mephistophelian about Lakatos, both as an intellectual and as a political activist (whether of the left or the right).
I have noted in an article that the debate between Feyerabend and Lakatos on scientific method recycles or recapitulates the aesthetic debate between their respective teachers, the expressionist Bertold Brecht (whose offer to be assistant at the East Berlin opera Feyerabend at times regretted not having accepted in order to go to England to study with Wittgenstein [who died before Feyerabend could be his student]), and Lukacs, the sophisticated socialist realist and classicist discussing progress and degeneration and writing "The Destruction of Reason" that may be echoed in some of Lakatos' over the top polemics against Thomas Kuhn as portraying scientists as religious fanatics, or followers of mob psychology.
All in all this is a fascinating work, full of unexpected twists and turns. One blurb has compared it to John le Carre. Another blurb notes that Elie Weisel was shocked by a Jew kiling another Jew in the midst of the Nazi holocaust, something he called unheard of. it is by turns illuminating, inspiring, and chilling.
For its biographical, its political, and its intellectual history content it is well worth reading.