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1.1 Background of the Study
Over the past few years, the word ‘historicism’ appears to have definitely been established in the vocabulary of history and philosophy. Since its meaning has varied greatly and has been obscured, an attempt at some clarification seems in order. Admittedly, the task to define it is a difficult one because the word itself has had no univocal definition. According to the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, historicism is “the belief that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to certain principle or rules towards a determinate end. Thus, every person desires to know and understand his past. The ability to be able to understand the past in the present may give one the chance to predict the future. This is the claim of the historicist. According to Arnaldo Momigliano, what we call historicism is a “situation arising from the process of selection, explanation and evaluation. It is the recognition that each of us sees past events from a point of view determined at least conditioned by our own individual changing situation in history” (64) Historicism stresses the importance of developing specific method and theories appropriate to each unique historical context. This view has been widely used in diverse discipline to designate and approach from historical perspective. This belief recognizes the historical character of all human existence but views history not as an integrated system but as a scene in a diversity of human will expressed in themselves and also that all historical knowledge is relative to the stand point of a historian. For Lawhead “historicism claims that every human is affected by the process of history such that any truth claim only has validity in terms of its place and role in historical development.” (354).Historicism as a method has existed right from the ancient period to modern times. It is the idea of attributing meaningful significance to historical periods. Historicist idea can be found in the works of philosophers such as Plato, Hegel, Karl Marx, Auguste Comte e.t.c Dwight E. Lee and Robert N. Beck also sees historicism in the sense that “ the history of anything is a sufficient explanation of it. The value of anything is entirely comprehended in the discovery of its origin” (568). The Austrian-English philosopher Karl came to condemned these historicist view along with determinism and holism.
Prior to Popper, there was a great outburst in the investigation of physical nature that took place in the seventeenth century, at the beginning came great scientists such as Copernicus who wrote on astronomy, Vesalius who wrote on anatomy, Newton who wrote his famous book titled Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica e.t.c This period was known as the period of scientific revolution and it took place across Europe. As a result of the successes recorded by science. Philosophers started thinking about applying the method of science to human situations. One of the most famous philosopher, Auguste Comte in his work, Positivist Philosophy, he explained that society has its own sets of laws under which it operats similar to that of the physical world. Thus, just as some basic experiment in the natural science can have the same result if such experiment is being carried out under the same circumstance as the original experiment, so Comte argues that a study of past event in the society will guarantee the same result in the future. Historicism claims that history plays an important an important role in the study of the society. It must be carefully studied with respect to historical laws and scientific method. Historicism stresses the importance of developing specific method and theories appropriate to each unique historical context. This view has been widely used in diverse discipline to designate and approach from historical perspective. This belief recognizes the historical character of all human existence but views history not as an integrated system but as a scene in a diversity of human will expressed in themselves and also that all historical knowledge is relative to the stand point of a historian. In his study of the society, G.W.F Hegel saw all human societies and all human activities such as science, arts or philosophy as being defined by their history and that essence can be sought only through understanding them with the seemingly reliance on historical event or historicism.
As a result of the seeming reliance on scientific method as the major tool to be able understand the law of history which the historicist believed to exist alongside the physical laws which would accurately make man able to understand as well as accurately predict future happening, Popper wrote his major work The Poverty of Historicism to debunk all the ideas of historical prophecy. Therefore, the main focuses of this work is on Popper’s criticism of historicism
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The central problem of this research is that Karl Popper in his critique of historicism never saw the positive aspect of historicism. His argument was basically biased; he tried to dodge most of the merit of historicism there by proposing an incomplete critique of historicism. The question that will arise will be if historicism has no usefulness why then does people still make mention of it? This work will examine Popper critique of historicism to see if historicism has had any positivity in its research.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine Poppers critique of historicism. Other objective include
i. To show what lead to Popper critique of historicism
ii. To espouse the historicist doctrine
iii. To show the loopholes in Poppers critique
1.4 Significance of the Study
Many scholars have criticized different aspect of philosophy but only a few has venture into making a detail criticism of historicism. Popper is among the earliest philosopher to engage in such criticism; his work seems to be the foundation on which other philosophers lay their claim against historicism. This work therefore becomes significant because it espouses the claims laid by Popper against historicism; it also goes further to show the flaws in Poppers critique.
1.5 Justification of the Study
Historicism is arguable one aspect of philosophical discussions that has not really being giving the much needed attention. This work is however justified on the ground that it espouses the idea of historicism as well as highlighting Popper critique of it.
1.6 Method of the Study
The method of this research work is that of textual analysis as it consulted and made use of some relevant materials and literatures in the area of philosophy and other relevant fields. Other materials include journal, article, and encyclopedia as well as internet sources. This work also carried out some philosophical method of critical analysis, conceptual clarifications as well as speculations. In this regards, it help the researcher to critically examine Poppers critique of historicism.
1.7 Scope of the study
The scope of this work is limited to Karl Poppers critique of historicism and as such it focuses on Poppers contribution to knowledge.
1.8 Organization of the Study
This research is organized into four chapters. Chapter one is an outline of the background of the study, statement of the research problem, objective of the study, significance of the study, clarification of key terms, scope of the study and the organization of study. Chapter two is a review of some works that are related to this study. Then chapter three is an outline of Poppers critique of historicism. Chapter four shall contain the evaluation and conclusion.
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