Analytic Contents
Magyar: Hungarian, Magyar
magyarázni: to explain
Introduction: Who Was Imre Lakatos? Ki volt Lakatos Imre?
There are two Lakatoses. One is the outstanding successor of Karl Popper,
editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science at the time of
his death and key participant in the Anglo-American philosophy of science
debates of the 1960s and 1970s. The other is a Hegelian who covertly in-
troduced innovative ideas about history, reason, and criticism into Anglo-
American philosophy. This combined dual philosophy makes reading Laka-
tos analogous to the 1920s’ reading by Georg Lukács’ in History and Class
Consciousness of the buried yet substantive Hegelian architectonic in Karl
Marx. The problem here is not that of understanding Lakatos but rather his
marvelous philosophical, historical, and cross-cultural achievements. Sev-
eral themes in Lakatos’s work suggest an interpretation of his dual philos-
ophy against the perverse irrationalism of Hungarian Stalinism between
World War II and the emergence of the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Part 1 A Mathematical Bildungsroman
1. The Mathematical Present as History
Lakatos’s Proofs and Refutations is an unusual combination of mathemat-
ical history and an analysis of numerous nineteenth-century proofs of Leon-
hard Euler’s theorem about polyhedra. Lakatos metaphorically describes his
complex narrative technique using Ernst Haeckel’s ‘‘biogenetic law’’ that
‘‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,’’ also a shorthand for Hegel’s historio-
graphical technique in The Phenomenology of Spirit. The strange histo-
riography is Lakatos’s means for devising a historical and fallible account
of modern techniques of mathematical proof. He identifies formalism—
meaning the complete identification of mathematics with some formalized,
metamathematical representative—as the philosophical perspective he in-
tends to challenge through his history.
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