Preface
As I will say in the text proper, this book is not an intellectual biography. It is
an expository history of ideas, including some political history, motivated by
an apparent covert philosophy embedded in the English-language works of
Imre Lakatos. If you want, the book is a hidden or secret history—not of
subterfuges or intrigues but of ideas and histories temporarily separated that
their progeny might survive and prosper. An intellectual biography of Imre
Lakatos would be of great interest, although I conjecture that the many ambi-
guities of Lakatos’s work and the betrayals of his life entail that we learn
most of philosophical value by not attending too much to him.
Guises of Reason’s thesis is that Lakatos’s English-language philosophy of
science and mathematics is a philosophical palimpsest, containing an origi-
nal and instructive account of historical rationality deriving from Hegel,
Marx, and the Hegelian-Marxism of one of Lakatos’s teachers in Hungary,
Georg Lukács. Hegel is the historicist philosopher par excellence, so Laka-
tos’s creation, whether intended or not, makes available a rich tradition in-
volving historiographical method, educational philosophy, and criticism,
now set in the context of a contemporary philosophy of science and mathe-
matics. Lakatos’s Hegelianism is neither eclectic nor opportunistic. It is an
inspired and powerful vision of scientific and mathematical rationality as
historical processes. This vision is also developed sub rosa within Anglo-
American philosophy, so that Lakatos’s work lives in two philosophical
worlds. Like no one else, Lakatos married substantive philosophical ideas
from Anglo-American and continental philosophical traditions, and made
them one. This Janus-faced philosophy, as we will see, becomes an entry point
into Lakatos’s terrifying and morally compromised Hungarian past as well.
Hegel has repeatedly been proclaimed a dead philosopher every several
decades over the last two centuries, only to be rehabilitated in some novel
incarnation. The most important reinvention during the twentieth century
was Lukács’s convincing interpretation of the positive role for human con-
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