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(MIG Tournament) In Defense of "An Open Society and it's Enemies" Vol. 2

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/20/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,529 times Debate No: 24371
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (1)




My advocacy is that Popper's critique of Marxism is valid. This critique can be found in his work An Open Society and its Enemies volume 2. Note: I am only defending his critique of Marx, and not of Hegel or Plato.


1. No new arguments in the last round which includes new warrants/justifications or evidence for a previously stated premise.

2. Drops are concessions

3. No semantics (but SPinko is a good debater so Inot worried about this)

*Arguments start Rd. 2

Good luck to you, SPinko! :D



I accept all of my opponent's rules. I'll use this round to roughly define Marxism.

Marxism is defined as the comprehensive social, economic, and political philosophy posited by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels which included the philosophies of historical materialism (and within that dialectical materialism), class struggle, and the necessity of revolution in order to overthrow capitalism (distinguishing itself from evolutionary approaches to dismantling capitalism) among other tenets.

Texts of particular importance within Marxism include "Theses on Feuerbach" (Marx 1845), "Capital" (Marx 1867), and "Critique of the Gotha Program" (Marx 1875).

I trust my opponent and I are in agreement on what constitutes a valid critique. I look forward to this debate and wish my opponent Serk luck.
Debate Round No. 1


Historicism: an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their principal aim…The belief… that it is the task of the social sciences to lay bare the law of evolution of society in order to foretell its future. – Poverty of Historicism

C1: Marxism is Historicist (provided by SPinko)

Everything is matter in motion. As per Marx's acceptance of philosophical materialism. The world is not simply a world of ideas a la Hegel. It exists in the here and now as only that which is material.


Contradictions within everything are what push change. it will begin with an abstract or thesis. Owing to its incompleteness a negation (anti-thesis) appears to counteract it. The result is a concrete which incorporates the anti-thesis or synthesizes it. The process then begins again as the concrete becomes the new abstract. This happens over and over until the Absolute is reached or totality. It's hard to describe it in words exactly but I think I understand what totality means.


These principles are applicable to human behavior since matter precedes thought, thus human behavior and thought are constrained within materialist limits.


The dialectical process in regards to humanity is based on internal economic contradictions within a given society i.e. incompatible class conflict based on the forces of and one's relation to the means of production.


Economic conditions in regards to the means of productionare the basis of human society. Politics, law, ethics, religion develop in relation to these economic forces.


Society progresses as the internal contradictions within various economic arrangements become clear.

C2: Critique of Historicism

In An Open Society and Its Enemies Popper assumes that his audience has already read The Poverty of Historicism. Some general criticisms of historicism, and thus applicable to Marxism are:

First, historicist accounts confuse analytic laws with empirical trends. Marxism attempts to create a scientific law dictating social movement by appealing to trends in shifting economic superstructures. For example, primitivism led to feudalism which led to capitalism which according to Marx will lead to socialism, communism and eventually anarchism. For Marx this is the trend which society a dicto will inevitably lead to. The problem with this however is that from a scientific standpoint there is no way to compare this to any other variable since society is moving naturally and it not controlled in a lab. As such, historicists make the jump from historical trends to universal laws. This is not to say that certain trends are not correct, but rather it is impossible to know if these trends are correct.

Second, individual action cannot be predicted. Even assuming Marxist and biological determinism is correct, as mentioned above there is no way to predict the behavior of humans. Whereas predicting a meteor path is pretty simple using math and physics, predicting the path of humanity is not possible at this stage in the development of man’s knowledge. Even if humans are on a certain path it is not possible for Marx or anyone to know the causes and especially the effects of this path.

Third, falsifiability. ;) Even within science, theories and laws are tested and if nothing contradicts it then science can make a non-falsified claim. However once the theory has been contradicted science must look to other alternatives. The problem with Marxist social sciences is that they attempt to link social behavior to an inevitable path without anyway to falsify that information. Historicists can easily make the claim that their theory coincides with any potential empirical trend that disproves its theory because there are so many variables operating that it is impossible to isolate the main operating variable.

Fourth, a trend vs. an outcome. Even if we assume Marxist trends are correct, there is no link that Marx provides us that shows these trends to be the inevitable trends of human history. In other words, Marx claims that since there exists a trend that it must be the trend. Marx does not provide nearly sufficient evidence to prove this rather broad claim of an inevitable trend of human history.

C3: Specific Marxist Critique

Popper makes the claim that historicism is dangerous because it promotes a utopian world view which a dicto must exist in the future. As such society unlocks the Oedipus Effect – society behaves in order to attain that which has been prophesized. This is where the danger comes in and where we can understand the title An Open Society and its Enemies. In Capital, Marx makes the claim that politics is impotent in social change and especially in terms of the inevitable social change towards socialism. As such, Marx calls for the uprising of the proletariat in order to bring about the social change needed for the apex of human history. Marx during his life saw the capitalists block almost all major legislation to protect the labor and their rights. As such Marx believes that politics themselves are impotent and thus the superstructure must be destroyed and a new one brought about.

The problem with this is no matter how one looks at the issue tyranny will most likely result. Even Marx believes there can be no stateless and classless society without a purging period where the state is run by the proletariat (the proletariat dictatorship). At that time the open society must be closed for the inevitable stateless society. Referring to history this has not been the case – the U.S.S.R. under Lenin and Stalin, Mao under his weird interpretation of Marx, Cambodia, Laos, etc. The list goes on and the variable consistent in each is a deprivation of freedom and state control via violence. The thing Marx misses in his analysis is the relationship of power on these historical trends. For Marx, institutionalized power is an effect not a cause of the ills which exist in each period of history – the ever evolving superstructure is and everything built on top acts in accordance with this structure. Even granting truth value to this statement Marx doesn’t fully anticipate the effects on the individual or collective conscience and how they react to the structure itself. Thus, Popper’s analysis of the danger that the Oedipus Effect has is correct:

Either, Marx is correct and statelessness will occur naturally through a destined path in which violence is not necessary. However, due to Marx’s ideas themselves violence becomes almost unavoidable as a means to speed up the process. Or Marx is not correct and there is no apex of humanity culminating in socialism which means Marx is perpetrating eventual and empirically demonstrated crimes against humanity all for the sake of supposedly more desirable state (or lack thereof). In both cases violence becomes the mean and the result is a deprivation of rights, liberty and the formation of an even more oppressive state than the status quo has.



I will not deny anything from C1 as it was both merely a summary of Marxism and, furthermore, it was written by me.

Contention 1. Critique of Historicism

(A) Analytic laws vs. empirical trends

This point by my opponent stems from a flawed conception of the philosophy of science. He argues that analytic laws are different from empirical trends. But it is specifically through our observation of the world empirically that we discover those laws! Consider the law of conservation of mass. The way in which it was formulated was through direct observation of the world. This, then coupled with analytic reasoning, was how it was determined to be a law. Now this is not to underscore the need for reasoning in extrapolating these kinds of conclusions, but knowledge of anything always starts with empirical observations.

For instance, even mathematical laws would be unbeknown to us if not for our observations and interactions with the world around us. Numbers and functions and the like were used to represent relationships within the world itself, trends that we spotted in our observations. This means that they could not be epistemically separated from the empirical trends in which they originated. What Marx did was observe general tendencies in human societies throughout history and use that as a base on which to apply analytic reasoning to. My opponent is mistaken in thinking that it was observation alone and not at all the help of dialectics and philosophical materialism that caused Marx to form the conclusions which he did surrounding his theory of history.

(B) Predicting individual action

Marxism doesn't so much as claim to be able to predict the specific actions of individuals as to claim that society generally develops in certain directions. For instance, Marxism wouldn't have anything to say on whether or not a specific worker would join a union in response to dwindling wages and bad hours. It would say however that people would generally become disgruntled with capitalism. This is simply based on a general conception of human responses to their environment. We come to enjoy certain things and detest others. Working for long periods of time with sub par pay and working conditions generally counts as something that people detest so Marx predicted a general trend that would occur. MY opponent is misinterpreting Marxism as more specific then it really is. It merely predicts trends in society and doesn't claim to predict the actions of individuals in themselves.

(C) Historicism and falsifiability

Now to the big point. Can historicism be falsified and regardless of the answer, if falsifiability either the only reliable and acceptable method of conducting science, or is it a legitimate method at all? Certainly this method of conducting science cannot just be accepted on my opponent's mere assertion can it? Now remember that all I have to do is show my opponent's case to be lacking. Building a separate and positive case in favor of Marxism is not my burden. Therefore I will employ a few different options to show why my opponent's lone falsifiability criterion is incorrect.

(C)1 Alternative Epistemological Methods

Paul Feyerabend, a philosopher of science and epistemology, argues for a position known as methodological pluralism or more controversially (and seemingly appropriate for a debate on Marx after all) epistemological anarchism[1]. The theory put simply is that in the pursuit of knowledge, there has not ever been shown an exception free rule that is both reliable and yield correct results. Drawing on accounts of past scientific research as mostly predicated on scientific conditions of the time (thus being tilted in favor of the then existing scientific paradigm) and the fact that different methods of conducting science can yield equally correct results (such as experimentation or abstract analysis).

Therefore instead of relying on one simple theory of knowledge, Feyeraband argues that the best way to proceed epistemically is through effective anarchy. This means that there are no official rules of science since all they do is impede possible alternative routes to knowledge. This also draws somewhat on Thomas Kunn's idea of the paradigm shift, whereby heavy standards and scientific beliefs of any given time (paradigm) are only changed (shifted) as a result of a huge amount of internal contradictions and evidence. Chances are this would not be the case to such an extent if alternative methods of conducting research and the like were accepted, depending on their results of course and whether they correspond to the truth.

My opponent's idea that Marxism should be wholly rejected for not conforming to a single epistemic method which he never bothered to justify in itself (a course necessary I would say seeing as it's not exactly universally accepted) fails in that it unduly rejects alternative methods of deriving knowledge about the world.It is certainly not impossible to find unfalsifiable statements which we know to be true. For instance, Descarte's famous statement "Cogito ergo sum" is non-falsifiable in that the utterance makes it necessarily true. But this doesn't mean that we aren't justified in knowing that we exist, so falsifiability must not be the sole acceptable epistemic criterion for knowledge.

(D) Trends and outcomes

Correct me if I'm wrong Pro, but it appears that you are arguing that the existence of trends within human history does not necessitate that those trends MUST have existed. Basically, my opponent's point seems to find fault with determinism itself. Marx's determinism stems from first the observation that means of sustenance is the primary need on which all other wants or desires are secondary to. We can see this point more clearly expressed in Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" in which actually staying alive is the primary motivation of human behavior[2].

From this, Marx deduced that most of our behavior is predicated on the pursuit of sustenance and other means of survival. This view has come to be known by names like economism and economic determinism. Now when this is coupled with another tenet of Marxist philosophy, namely materialism, we get a rather determinist view of human nature. Not fully predictable in every way necessarily, but we can see that "since matter precedes thought, thus human behavior and thought are constrained within materialist limits" (in my own words from Pro's R2 C1). Materialism in the physical world largely predicates a mostly deterministic universe. When applied to humanity as "material" creatures and our primary motivation being objective features of production, necessary economic conditions are not too far away intellectually speaking. The rest of the gap is filled by Marx's historical findings in past societies.

Contention 2. Specific Marxist Critique

Marxist Historicism and Tyranny

Whether or not Marxism has historically led to certain "bad" conditions is certainly irrelevant to its soundness as a theory. Marxism could still be correct even applying the criticism of bad consequences to it. I will argue here from the fact that the Russian revolution (and other various Communist movements) was fought in a relatively rural society. Excited revolutionaries attempted to force the revolution when it was not yet ready. Marx predicted that revolution would occur in more developed capitalist countries as the contradictions inherent in the system became more apparent. The fact that Communist countries suffered was precisely because the development of the base modes of production was not ready, as Marx predicted would be necessary. So even if my opponent is correct in his Oedipus effect theory, it does not empirically disprove the validity of actual Marxist philosophy.


Debate Round No. 2


C1: Critique of Historicism (all subpoints)

My opponent’s main argument is that empirical trends give us evidence to create analytic laws. In other words, empirics before analytics. I grant this completely, however it does not directly address the issue at hand. My argument is that Marx has empirical trends but lacks sufficient reasoning to create these trends as analytic laws. As SPinko pointed out, Marx has used trends found in society to create a law that there is an economic progression that occurs a dicto in human society. The problem with this is that these empirical trends do not surmount to enough to evidence to be able to determine if it really is an a dicto law. For example, the conservation of mass, as my opponent mentioned, has been declared a law since it has not been falsified and appears to be true in every case. Since falsifiability is key to this argument I will respond to falsifiability here and then continue on the defense of this point.

SPinko argues that methodological anarchism is preferable to strict scientific standards, such as falsifiability. I neither completely agree nor disagree with my opponent’s alternative. When it comes to all standards that exist in the status quo I do not know if they are needed or are too constraining for true scientific discovery. However, I will argue that falsifiability is a necessary methodological standard in science. But before I go onto independent justifications for falsifiability I will respond to my opponent’s argument that it is possible to discover truth without the criterion of falsifiability. He argues that truth such as the cogito is proven without falsifiability. I believe there are multiple types of truth which require different type of testing so to speak. The cogito is an a priori type of truth which is true just with a simple thought experiment or an analysis of the definition or proposition. To say “I think therefore I am” does not require testing to prove its validity. The act of thinking itself entails existence so the two are necessarily compatible in and of itself.

For posterior claims which require empirical testing, falsifiability is a necessary standard for evaluation. This is true because scientific claims are truth claims about the world and how the world and its constituent parts work. In order to determine if such truth claims are correct there needs to be a brightline by which we can measure its validity. Falsifiability provides us with a criterion to comparatively measure this validity.

The claims by Marx however are posteriori claims (as opposed to the cogito), which require testing. Marx has made claims which dictate social behavior not behavior that has its validity inherently but rather requires empirical testing. If we make the proposition that “societies will overthrow their governments and institute a classless system” we are making a proposition about action that doesn’t justify itself. As mentioned by my opponent, Marx had to look to past events to determine if his theory has empirical justification.

The problem with this is that one cannot go from the empirical studies to analytic laws because one cannot control the environment or control the variables on a macro-societal level as opposed to say a dissection of a frog. Societies are interacting in ways that cannot be evaluated by human observations and to come to an analytic law is impossible. SPinko made the response that well its general laws that can be deduced from observations. Unfortunately with this it doesn’t take into account individual and collective preferences that exist within all people or all societies. As Popper mentions in The Poverty of Historicism and An Open Society Marx was contained by only his viewpoint of capitalism which involved mass exploitation and an impotent government. However, one can easily criticize Marx’s methodology since it used limited amounts of knowledge to create a whole law. The levels of exploitation and impotent legislatures has diminished much since Marx’s time and thus the variables have changed drastically as well. [1]

Thus, it fails in testability as well as falsifiability.

C2:. Specific Marxist Critique

My opponent makes the argument that the soundness of a theory is separate from its conditions or practical results that might occur. Before I continue it is important to note that my opponent isn’t arguing that horrific results haven’t occurred because of Marxism but rather he is contending that this isn’t a relevant criterion for determining the validity or invalidity of Marxist-historicist theory.

My first argument against this is that Marx himself disagrees and believes that the pragmatic results of a scientific or philosophic must be practical. If not then it can be criticized on the basis of the results of the theory. This is why Marxism is placed within many area of the school known as pragmatism in both philosophy and science. SPinko, you’ve activated my trap card!! (laugh. It’s both a nerd and debate joke…)

Popper writes,

“Marx himself would have agreed with such a practical approach to the criticism of his method, for he was one of the first philosophers to develop the views which later were called ‘pragmatism’. He was led to this position… by his conviction that a scientific background was urgently needed by the practical politician, which of course meant the socialist politician. Science, he taught, should yield practical results. Always look at the ‘fruits’, the practical consequences of a theory!...A philosophy or a science that does not yield practical results merely interprets the world we live in; but it can and it should do more; it should change the world. ‘The philosophers’, wrote Marx … ‘have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.’ It was perhaps this pragmatic attitude that made him anticipate the important methodological doctrine of the later pragmatists that the most characteristic task of science is not to gain knowledge of past facts, but to predict the future.” [1]

My second argument is that my opponent’s own reasoning links directly into the Oedipus Effect theory I outlined above. My opponent claims that excited revolutionaries acted too quickly and thus acted within a time not ripe for the socialist movement. This criticism is important because it is because of Marx’s works that created this effect on society which prematurely created socialist revolutions not during the correct era (assuming it is true). Moreover, not only did the prematurity lead to hundreds of millions of deaths of innocent people but has eroded the very superstructure Marx needed in order to be the right time for a revolution. In other words, the violent and premature revolutions have created major political and activist backlashes against Marxism and anarchist socialism preventing its future institution. Whereas the transition from feudalism to capitalism was sparked by the Industrial Revolution (a natural process of history), the right time for Marxism cannot effectively occur because of Marx bringing it about in an artificial way.

My final important analysis on this point and a potentially damning point for my opponent since it is a drop is my opponent’s nonresponsiveness to the power analysis. Remember, Marx tells us that a socialist anarchist society is only possible through a transition period where there is dictatorship of the proletariat. The analysis I provide in my first round is that Marx ignores power relationships seen in all government or state structures. People that gain power do not want to lose this power. Thus, the transition period empirically and theoretically is insurmountable which prevents the institution of classlessness.

Thus, it can be concluded that Popper’s critique of Marx from a practical standpoint is valid on the three levels of analysis mentioned above.

[1] Popper. An Open Society and Its Enemies.



Contention 1. Critique of Historicism.

Analytic Laws and Empirical Trends.

As I argued in the previous round, Marx did not originate his laws of history based SOLELY on empirical trends as my opponent seems to argue. As I argued in the previous round, it was historical trends coupled with analytical reasoning that lead Marx to his historical laws. One instance of this was his theory of base and superstructure. Sustenance is primary in any given society specifically because without sustenance, no individuals could exist to form society in the first place. Therefore, Marx reasoned, things predicated off of society (such as law, art, religion, etc.) was also predicated off of the economic system in place within that society. He did not employ pure empiricism, but coupled it with rational analysis.

Historicism and Falsifiability.

My opponent argues that while alternative methods of justifying knowledge may very well exist, he still maintains that falsifiability is always necessary regarding posterior or synthetic claims which he argues cannot be justified by virtue of reason alone as with the cogito. Now while I will agree that falsifiability can in fact be necessary for some types of propositions, the foundations on which Marxism is built upon i.e. philosophical materialism, economic base, etc. are all falsifiable. On top of that, the empirical trends which Marx saw throughout history are themselves not strictly non-falsifiable. While it is only a trend in itself, his observations claim very certain stages to have existed throughout history. These propositions are clearly themselves falsifiable are they not? It is certainly possible to disprove the notion that capitalism developed out of a feudalist society or that barbarism developed out of primitive communism. So, like my opponent, I suppose I have enacted my own trap card?

Contention 2. Historicism and Tyranny.

(1) I'll first begin that I did point out that it was not the correct implementation of Marxism that caused the various Soviet terrors of the twentieth century, but because of the premature revolutions on the part of excited revolutionaries. My opponent responds in arguing that it is precisely because Marxism was incorrectly implemented which means that it CANNOT be. I will respond to that criticism in (2) below.

(2) On the Oedipus effect, my opponent argues that it was specifically Marx's works that lead to the creation of premature revolutionaries and thus, this is a flaw inherent in Marxism. The problem with this argument however, is that my opponent must totally ignore the history of revolutions in order to stand by his point. Consider the French Revolution wherein excited revolutionaries enacted the Reign of Terror and committed atrocities comparable to those of the Soviets (though obviously lessened by virtue of less technological advancements for the French to exploit). But the revolutionaries at the time were fighting for principles which we now hold to be common sense i.e. unjustness of absolute monarchy, a royal class, State religion, etc. So the mistakes of excited revolutionaries cannot simply be taken to disprove the principles which they were fighting for, but must be analyzed through the fact that humanity is prone to mistakes.

(3) On the power analysis, my opponent makes the mistake of misinterpreting the power structure which Marx supported and predicted as necessary to erode capitalism. It was not the partyarchy and dictatorships which we have seen in countries which have forcefully hurried Marx's theory, but a worker's democracy that Marx supported as the makeup of a socialist State. My opponent's analysis only pertains to situations wherein a single person or a single party is given complete control over a State. It is in that situation that my opponent's power analysis would apply. A worker's democracy which Marx envisioned would have been closer to the democratic Paris Commune. Engels writes: "Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat."[1]


(1891 Introduction by Frederick Engels "On the 20th Anniversary of the Paris Commune")
Debate Round No. 3


C1: Critique of Historicism

Testability (Dropped/Conceded)

Before I go onto the specifics of my opponent’s refutation I must point out that SPinko dropped a key argument in his last round, which I believe is sufficient reason to affirm regardless of any other argument including falsifiability and the tyranny argument, though I will explain those later on. The argument he dropped was an explanation of predicting human or societal action.

I wrote, “The problem with this is that one cannot go from the empirical studies to analytic laws because one cannot control the environment or control the variables on a macro-societal level as opposed to say a dissection of a frog. Societies are interacting in ways that cannot be evaluated by human observations and to come to an analytic law is impossible. SPinko made the response that well its general laws that can be deduced from observations…As Popper mentions in The Poverty of Historicism and An Open Society Marx was contained by only his viewpoint of capitalism which involved mass exploitation and an impotent government. However, one can easily criticize Marx’s methodology since it used limited amounts of knowledge to create a whole law. The levels of exploitation and impotent legislatures has diminished much since Marx’s time and thus the variables have changed drastically as well.”

SPinko does not respond to this and thus it is a concession for the round. Why is this important? Remember, the debate is over the validity of Popper’s various criticisms of Marx and one major criticism is that Marx’s “scientific” methodology lacks any type of actual scientific testing. There are two important points derived from this argument: first is that past societal behavior cannot be measured scientifically since it is void of any control, lacks an environment proper for testing and has too many variables which are unable to be completely isolated or even understood within the context of the human mind. The second is that unlike an actual scientific test Marx could not alter the environment around him thus being unable to prevent against the cloud of presentism. Marx at the time could only see mass exploitation of workers and impotent governments which he concluded is the natural end of capitalism.

Thus, since SPinko concedes these two arguments there is a clear reason to vote Pro. But I will continue anyway.

Analytic Laws and Trends

SPinko makes the argument that Marx did not just use empirical trends but also used reasoning which is known as economism – the idea that economies are the driving superstructure for sustenance, etc. I concede this, though it doesn’t make a strategic difference. Since I have clearly extended testability then we can also conclude that Marx’s empirical analysis is majorly flawed in its methodology. Thus, even if I grant that he used analytics to support his claim he loses ground on empirics.


My opponent grants the validity of my argument that certain claims, especially posterior or synthetic claims should be falsifiable. However SPinko makes a very strategic move in shifting the argument away from the methodological critic to a subsuming critic. In other words he is arguing that he can link into my argument by proving that Marx’s claims are indeed falsifiable. I would argue to the contrary that his empirical claims and his predictions are non-falsifiable, and actually all claims of history are non-falsifiable. His past empirical claims are non-falsifiable because we are bound only to the knowledge left to us. Certain people write history and not all events are written or kept on the books. We cannot go back in history and re-live events in order to falsify them. As opposed to a physics lab we cannot falsify what has already happened. But more importantly Popper is criticizing Marx’s predictions as non-falsifiable because it either happens or it doesn’t and the Marxists use ad hoc justifications as to why it hasn’t happened yet. An example of this is what my opponent does in his argument against tyranny – he argued that the time was not ripe for the revolution and thereby can escape the criticism by saying well the real revolution hasn’t happened yet.

C2: Historicism, Marxism and Tyranny

SPinko concedes the pragmatism card in his last round, and strategically shifts the argument to the Oedipus effect. So pragmatism can be used as a mini-standard (framework) in evaluating this contention. Thus, as judges you must ask yourself: does Marxist-historicism make sense on a pragmatic level?

SPinko makes the argument against the Oedipus Effect that even if it might be true that Marx led to the creation of premature revolutions in order to determine the validity of the argument we must look to the principle.

My first response to this is that it ignores the mini-standard of pragmatism which my opponent concedes when he drops the Popper card. As such, we are evaluating this contention based on the results rather than the intentions behind those results. So even though those Marxist revolutions were based on classlessness and “let’s all hold hands and sing around the bonfire as comrades” the result has been the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people worldwide all for the sake of a classless utopia. This is exactly the danger Popper points out about historicist prophecies – it makes horrific crimes against humanity occur for something as abstract as a classless utopia.

Second, the harms by Marxism vastly outweigh the harms of democratic revolutions. The number of people killed by Marxist revolutions number in the hundreds of millions as opposed to tens of thousands killed during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

Third, SPinko drops the important analysis I provide in the last round which tells us that in response to the premature revolutions Marx essentially sealed the fate of a classless utopia.

I write, “Moreover, not only did the prematurity lead to hundreds of millions of deaths of innocent people but has eroded the very superstructure Marx needed in order to be the right time for a revolution. In other words, the violent and premature revolutions have created major political and activist backlashes against Marxism and anarchist socialism preventing its future institution. Whereas the transition from feudalism to capitalism was sparked by the Industrial Revolution (a natural process of history), the right time for Marxism cannot effectively occur because of Marx bringing it about in an artificial way.”

Thus, even if Marx might have had good intentions the backlash against Marxism cannot be outweighed and the prospect of Marxism is negligible at best.

My opponent tries to respond to the power analysis but unfortunately you must ignore the argument he made in the previous round because he already dropped it from Rd. 1.

I write, “The thing Marx misses in his analysis is the relationship of power on these historical trends. For Marx, institutionalized power is an effect not a cause of the ills which exist in each period of history – the ever evolving superstructure is and everything built on top acts in accordance with this structure. Even granting truth value to this statement Marx doesn’t fully anticipate the effects on the individual or collective conscience and how they react to the structure itself.”

But even if you want to grant him slight benefit of the doubt his argument directly links into my analysis because what Marx planned is different than what has actually happened. My argument is that Marx missed the effect of power on the mind of the people in the transition stage. But that is irrelevant, it was already conceded from Rd. 1

I believe I have sufficiently upheld Popper’s arguments in three areas: first, testability; second, falsifiability; and third, the tyranny analysis and as such Marxism shooting itself in the foot.

Remember, no new arguments in the last round.

Thanks to SPinko for another great debate round as usual! :D



Contention 1. Critique of Historicism.

I'll first point out that I did not actually drop the argument regarding controlling macro-societal variables even though I didn't respond to it specifically. The refutation of this point lies in my point regarding analytic laws and empirical trends. My opponent claimed that we could not reproduce macro-societal factors or variables and thus that a viable macro-societal theory was not possible. But I showed in my point regarding laws and trends that laws can be grounded in observation coupled with analytic investigation of those observations. For instance, Marx's observation that society has never existed without some sort of economic system in place and that societies have existed without things like organized political structures or advanced culture lead him to deduce that economic relations formed the base on which other aspects of society (the superstructure) formed. Obviously this is a simplified version of his reasoning for space reasons but my opponent's point of macro-societal experimentation falls within this point since it shows that laws can be formed in a way separate from the way my opponent merely presupposed that they had to be.

My opponent's point that Marx was contained by the viewpoint of his current culture was not sufficient to refute the point in that he did not base the concepts of exploitation only on current observations but on the inherent aspects of capitalism. Any system where workers were not paid the full product of their labor time was exploitative, irrespective of legislative impotence. My opponent's contention that the viewpoint of newly industrialized society was the only point of reference which Marx took to create his historical examination of capitalism is simply a strawmann and ignores almost the entirety of my case surrounding the methodology Marx used in his formation of historical laws.

Analytic Laws and Empirical Trends.

My opponent has conceded this point in favor of focusing primarily on his new point of testability which I showed to be lacking above. Also, refer to my R2 point regarding epistemic anarchism. My opponent has not shown reasonably why testability itself is the lone and necessary condition in the attainment of knowledge even though it might be a valid one.

Historicism and Falsifiability.

(A) In arguing against the idea of Marxist falsifiability, Serk argues that any historical claim is non-falsifiable due to the omnipresent existence of limited information. He writes specifically that: "we are bound only to the knowledge left to us. Certain people write history and not all events are written or kept on the books. We cannot go back in history and re-live events in order to falsify them. As opposed to a physics lab we cannot falsify what has already happened." But this point simply proves too much. If we cannot possibly trust historical records or documents (or any other ways in which to go back and look at history) then that in itself refutes almost all but the most basic physical knowledge. For instance, how can we know that Great Britain fought on the side of the Allies in World War I? Well obviously we need to look no further than any history book or (if we wish to be more thorough) through national records on the matter. But by my opponent's standards we cannot trust this since "certain people" had to write this down and they may be lying or mistaken. Pro here is clearly insisting on an unreasonable burden of evidence here.

(B) My opponent has also yet again not properly responded to my point regarding the reasoning behind the point behind the ill effects of the various Communist revolutions. He claims that Marxists can simply use ad hoc reasons as to why this occurred. But as I have repeatedly pointed out, the countries in which the various Communist revolutions occurred had economic conditions wholly anti-thetical to the conditions sufficient for a proper revolution as basic Marxist theory points out. Dialectical materialism points out that revolution occurs when the dominant economic system of the time has run its course long enough to the point where its internal contradictions and class structures become too incompatible. This means that a fully developed and advanced capitalist economy would be ripe for revolution, not a barely developed agrarian economy like that of Russia or China at the times of their revolutions. A proper understanding of Marxism would be able to predict the ill effects of revolutions in these countries. It's not ad hoc, it's sound analysis.

Contention 2. Historicism and Tyranny.


I'm not sure where my opponent gets the idea that I conceded anything regarding pragmatism in the last round. Regarding C2, I argued that (A) I did not concede historical Communism as the proper implementation of Marxism (making this the second time my opponent has falsely claimed I conceded a point, (B) mistaken implementations do not necessarily refute underlying principles as in the case of the French Revolution, and (C) that my opponent has a mistaken view of the power structure which Marxism supports in the socialist State. So I never conceded such a thing, thus my opponent's pragmatic framework is as of yet unjustified by him. And since this is the last round he cannot justify it.


My opponent also relies heavily on the number of deaths incurred by the various "Marxist" States. I suppose I'll repeat my point which I have repeated at length, that the various Communist revolutions occurred in societies which were mostly of third world economic status. None of them actually fit the description which Marx wrote as necessary for the proper transition into a socialist State. Therefore, my opponent's point is inapplicable to actual Marxist theory and is simply based off of his pragmatism point which he falsely claimed I conceded in the last round.

Power Analysis.

On the Oedipus effect, I'll simply repeat my point which was unrefuted by my opponent. The fact is that my opponent is attempting to use an example of history which is wholly inapplicable to Marxist thought and is itself merely based on an assumed pragmatist debate structure which my opponent never justified. This debate is about the actual principles which Marx forwarded and whether they are true, not whether people will always adhere to Marx's thought (which Marx never even claimed). It is about whether or not the tenets of Marxism are correct i.e. economism. historical materialism, irreconcilable class conflict, etc. On C2, my opponent is trying to cast these principles into doubt by drawing on the flawed interpretation of them. As I have shown though, this does not refute the principles just as the French Revolution does not refute the principle of anti-monarchism (note that my opponents point regarding more deaths resulting from the Communist revolutions ignores technological developments and fallaciously draws upon the unjustified pragmatism value).


My opponent has failed to defend Popper's thesis in a number of ways. Pro has drawn upon an unjustified pragmatic framework which I never conceded and that he never justified, has attempted to totally ignore the simple fact that historical Communist revolutions are not indicative of actual Marxist predictions (and thus they are not applicable in judging Marx's principles), would eliminate historical investigation completely if his standards of evidence were adopted, and has forwarded testability as a necessary method of gaining knowledge without sufficiently disproving my own observatory-analytic method of grounding historical laws. It is for these reasons that I feel Popper's criticisms have been sufficiently refuted.

I'd like to thank Serk for certainly one of the most engaging debates I've participated in in a while. A great way to learn about a concept is to actually listen to the opposition and Serk has certainly defended Marxist opposition well.
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
I think I had at least 2,000 characters remaining. You kind of absorbed C1-B and C1-D into your general C1 criticism so I got to refute most of it together.
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
I ran outta room :O
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
ughh. cant motivate myself to respond yet
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
Good response btw SPinko : )
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
53 characters left to spare b1tch.
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
Well I guess theres only one option left.... concede :o :D
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
802 characters left and I just finished your first argumentative contention.
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
Oh right he started going on a rampage when he lost cause I argument dumped on him, which I do admit I probably went overboard on the amount of arguments. But think about it the first contention is all your own writing so u dont need to really respond to it
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
Sieben did a good debate on the effects of volumetric restrictions on debate once. I forgot the conclusion but basically it's bad for whoever runs out of room first and has to start dropping arguments.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Any number of theories can be formulated which agree with history. To verify a theory, it must make predictions which are true or false. One way to do that would be to apply the theory to history unknown to Marx. In science, whenever an exception occurs it prompts a modification to the theory. The argument against falsifiability rests on exceptions being granted with the original Marxist theory left in tact.