Front Page Titles (by Subject) Popper vs. Historicism - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1
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Popper vs. Historicism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Popper vs. Historicism
“Is Any of Popper's Arguments Against Historicism Valid?” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (UK), 29 (1978): 117–130.
In his 1957 edition of The Poverty of Historicism, Karl Popper presents a famous polemic against the so-called doctrine of historicism. It is widely believed that Popper wreaked irrevocable damage on this doctrine. Popper's “refutation” of historicism proceeds as follows: (1) The course of human history is strongly influenced by the growth of human knowledge; (2) We cannot predict, by rational or scientific methods, the future growth of our scientific knowledge; and (3) We cannot, therefore, predict the future course of human history. This plausible argument involves the questionable suppressed premise: we cannot predict (by rational or scientific methods) events which are strongly influenced by events which cannot be so predicted. But, Urbach contends, Popper's arguments do not hit historicism at all.
Popper describes historicism as: “An approach to the social sciences which assumes historical prediction is their principal aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the ‘rhythms’ or the ‘patterns,’ the ‘laws’ or the ‘trends’ that underlie the evolution of history.”
Four nonconclusive arguments against historicism appear in Popper's work:
(1) Popper's claim that historicist theories are unscientific (which means that they are untestable) simply misses its mark. Popper fails to provide good reasons for accepting his claim.
(2) Popper's claim that historicist theories are necessarily false ought to be compared to Popper's philosophy of physics. It is argued that there is no good reason to think that any of the things Popper says about the social sciences do not apply equally well to the natural sciences. This Popperian claim fails because of a curiously non-Popperian set of assumptions about scientific work.
(3) Popper's argument against prediction in the social sciences, and against “prophecy” in general, relies upon forgetfulness with regard to Popper's own discussion of prophecy within the natural sciences.
(4) Popper's argument from our inability to predict the growth of our own scientific knowledge relies upon a false suppressed premise, and upon a questionable explicit premise.
The conclusion is that none of Popper's arguments is valid, and that therefore the principle of the unity of the natural and the social sciences is unimpugned by these arguments.