Tuesday, July 03, 2007

From Popper to Pearson

Last night I sat in front of the telly reading through some newspaper articles from The Weekend Australian (June 30-July 31). Included was an article by Noel Pearson headed ‘Needless Misery’. In the article he said: "[W]hat policies do we need so that all avoidable suffering is avoided in our society? We cannot remove evil from the world and I am not basing our hopes of escaping avoidable suffering on supra-human powers. I am asking us to use our considerable human powers to escape avoidable suffering. This is a question for our social policy: are our policies maximising the avoidance of such suffering? The answer is no. There is too much misery – chiefly endured by the disadvantaged in our society, the lowest classes – that is avoidable. And we do not need to achieve a socialist nirvana to relieve this suffering. I suggest that we can and must aim to hold a capitalist democracy to account to be consistent with the eradication of avoidable suffering."
When I read this I immediately recalled the teaching of Karl Popper in his classic ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’. Get a load of this summary by Magee in his brilliant and brief survey of Popper’s philosophy:
"The general guiding principle for public policy put forward in The Open Society is: ‘Minimize avoidable suffering’….The Popperian approach has this consequence right across the board: instead of encouraging one to think about building Utopia it makes one seek out, and try to remove, the specific social evils under which human beings are suffering. In this way it is above all a practical approach, and yet one devoted to change. It starts from a concern with human beings, and involves a permanent, active willingness to remould institutions." (Popper Bryan Magee’ 84-85)
Maybe one the many reasons I like Pearson’s writing is that I find it to be so Popperian (and also so Christian, in that in focuses on the good of individual human beings without ignoring the fact that human beings always live in community).
Anyhow, in this post I have got to mention Popper, Magee, and Pearson (and the teaching of the Lord). Just the sort of post I like to present for the consideration of the multitudes of you who read my blog.

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