The Open Society & Its Enemies
Be Holy--video

The Meaning We Give History

Karl Popper
Karl Popper considers the idea that history can provide us some meaning.  He doesn't think so, "We must find our justification in our work, in what we are doing ourselves, and not in a fictitious 'meaning of history.'"

He thinks that most of the history we learn in school is only the "history of power politics," which is problematic.  So we must learn to interpret it "from the point of view of our fight for the open society, for the rule of reason, for justice, freedom, equality, and for the control of international crime.  Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it, and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning."  (italics his)

What does he mean when he says we give purpose and meaning to nature and history?  He lists some examples:

Men are not equal; but we can decide to fight for equal rights.  Human institutions such as the state are not rational, but we can decide to fight to make them more rational.  We ourselves and our ordinary language are, on the whole, emotional rather than rational; but we can try to become a little more rational, and we can train ourselves to use our language as an instrument not of self-expression (as our romantic educationists would say) but of rational communication. 

He makes a point we would be well served to remember in 2018, "Facts as such have no meaning; they can gain it only through our decisions."

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