Immunization strategy

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The ideology-critical terms immunization strategy , self-immunization (against criticism ) or also criticism immunization were introduced into the philosophy of science by the German sociologist and philosopher of critical rationalism , Hans Albert .

Hans Albert understands by this - following Karl Popper  - all attempts to shield ( immunize ) theories, religious or secular views through dogmatization against unbiased, critical examination, against rational objections , by making them irrefutable, e.g. B. declared to be absolute and irrefutable truths.

"Dogmatization - this is how one can call the creation of such criticism immunity of problem solutions, if one wants to lean on the naturalized usage - is not limited to certain areas - for example to a discipline like theology or to the area of ​​knowledge in general - it is rather, it is a general possibility of social practice, from cognitive practice in science to practice in law, politics and economics. "

Recognizing immunization strategies is therefore a sharp instrument of the philosophy of Enlightenment criticism of world views , doctrines of salvation and ideologies of every provenance .

“Empty formulas” as immunization strategies

The Austrian philosopher and sociologist Ernst Topitsch introduced the concept of the empty formula as an instrument for criticizing ideology and ideology in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. In this way, in political and religious doctrines of salvation, in fundamentalist worldviews and ideologies, justifications presented as immunization strategies can be exposed as “hollow words” that have been filled in the history of ideas with any contradicting moralizing or idealizing content. Starting from his analysis of the ideologizing use of the term dialectic , Ernst Topitsch arrives at the following definition in his essay on empty formulas :

“As already emphasized, the dialectical formulas are compatible with any state of affairs due to their indeterminacy or emptiness; for the same reason they are also with any standard content: they can be used to justify or combat all conceivable, actual or desired moral-political orders and decisions. "

A term or a statement is called an empty formula if it only appears to mean something true or correct, but is far too indefinite to be checked. Just like a tautology or a definition by convention , an empty formula can always be used when the speaker does not want to commit to anything specific. Such an immunization strategy can be used in politics or comparable areas for legitimation purposes:

“[...] because such empty formulas are particularly suitable for all types of institutional leadership. They arouse - especially among those who are led - the impression of unshakable steadiness of the highest principles, while they do not in any way hinder the guiding authorities in their concrete decisions. "

The ideological usefulness of the empty formula is thus inversely related to its information content :

“If you want to defend your favorite ideas against scientific progress, you use an immunization strategy that 'empties' the affected idea so completely that it can no longer collide with any possible fact. [...] A careful study of modern theological literature can teach us that theology is a playground for lovers of such procedures. "

Examples of concepts of emptiness that have been and are filled with any content in the course of the history of ideas are thought structures such as God , natural law , justice , democracy , human dignity , purpose per se , "contemporary view", etc.

This is what Ludwig Feuerbach says in his work The essence of faith in the sense of Luther. A contribution to the essence of Christianity :

- God is an empty board with nothing more than what you yourself have written on it.

Another example of such a defining emptying and filling of the term God delivers Hans Kung in his book Does God Exist? . Hans Küng describes God there as:

"The absolute -relative, this- worldly - otherworldly , transcendent - immanent , all-encompassing-all-pervasive, real reality (sic!) In the heart of things, in people, in human history, in the world."

The religious and legal philosopher Norbert Hoerster criticizes - like Hans Albert  - this Küngian definition of God as a self-defined empty formula :

"The word 'God' can of course also be understood as blurred, meaningful and therefore meaningless."

Precisely because of their emptiness, because of their low information content, such figures of thought can be used by the most varied, even opposing ideological directions:

"For example, the castration of church singers was justified by scholastic natural law, as was a mirror as a 'fair' price for a negro slave."

As early as 1945, Karl Popper showed in his work The Open Society and Its Enemies , how the general thought constructs of nature and of course can become arbitrarily manipulable empty formulas, in order to then be misused to justify all possible natural leaders or natural characteristics of human beings :

“This form of naturalism is so broad and so vague that it can be used to defend any ethical position. Everything that happens to people can be called 'natural'; because how could it have happened to him without being in his nature. "

In order to be able to be used for orientation and meaningfulness, terms need to be drawn up to limit their scope and scope ( definitio ). If terms cannot meet these demarcation conditions, then they can rightly be considered empty formulas:

"Even the highest German constitutional principle, the expression of human dignity adopted by Immanuel Kant [( Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law :" Human dignity is inviolable. It is an obligation of all state power to respect and protect it ")] is - despite its in Declarations and basically officially established consensuality and indispensability - exposed to the suspicion of being merely an ideologically fillable and instrumentalized 'empty formula' that lacks both a rationally identifiable content and the possibility of argumentative operationalization in ethical discourse . "

Even Arthur Schopenhauer ironically in 1840 the concept of human dignity with the words:

"Only this expression 'dignity of man', once pronounced by Kant, later became the shibboleth [= identification mark] of all perplexed and thoughtless moralists who claim their lack of a real or at least something meaningful basis of morality behind that impressive expression ' Human dignity ‹hidden, wisely counting on the fact that your reader would also like to see himself dressed with such a dignity and therefore be satisfied with it."

Low appreciation of this construct can also be seen in statements by Friedrich Nietzsche , who counts the term human dignity as one of the beautiful words of seduction and reassurance .

"Immunization strategy" following Karl Popper

Karl Popper called dogmatic shielding principles in his German-language publications, should immunize theories to criticism, as reinforced dogmatism (in the English reinforced dogmatism ) and conventionalist twist / Strategy ( conventionalist twist / stratagem ). Finally he took over the term immunization from Hans Albert as a generic term for all attempts to shield against criticism.

"Double entrenched dogmatism" ('reinforced dogmatism')

In his analysis of the Hegelian and Marxian dialectics , Karl Popper describes built-in immunization mechanisms that seal off philosophical systems against any kind of criticism or attack. He calls such built-in immunization mechanisms doubly entrenched dogmatism (in the English text reinforced dogmatism ):

“With the argument that his dialectical system accepts contradictions […], Hegel establishes a dogmatism of an extremely dangerous kind, a dogmatism that need not fear any attack. Because every criticism of any theory has to be based on a method to show some contradictions. […] Hegel's method is therefore effective, unfortunately too effective. It protects his system against any kind of criticism or attack and is therefore dogmatic in a very special sense, so that I would like to call it double entrenched dogmatism.
But there is no greater obstacle to science than such a double entrenched dogmatism. There can be no scientific development without free competition of thoughts. "

Because of their dialectic, because of their immanent immunization mechanism against criticism and because they do not answer the question under what conditions they are prepared to admit that they are untenable, Karl Popper branded Marxism and psychoanalysis as pseudosciences .

The epistemological problem of the demarcation between pseudoscience and science also occupies psychiatry , as it has so far not been able to develop objective diagnostic test procedures to differentiate between psychosis and mental health:

"[...] a demarcation between madness and sanity has been attempted in the past without much success. Also paranoia may lie on a continuum with normal thought and knowledge […]. This is a reminiscent of Popper's raising of the problem of demarcation of science by addressing pseudo-science, that is, reinforced dogmatism. "

Already Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in 1830, dialectic is the art, in a dispute to keep always right. If a participant in a dispute or discourse incorporates an immunization mechanism into his assertions, this enables him to always be right in any discussion about them, even if it is conducted in a critical-rational context. Such claims make statements about the reasoning itself. They allow any critical argument to be reinterpreted in support of the claim. The main example is metaphysical determinism : it follows -  self-referentially  - that every argument put forward as well as the result of a discussion that is conducted about determinism itself is determined and that consequently every discussion about it is senseless and illusory. An example dialog would be:

Argument: "The quantum theory contradicts determinism"
Response: “Determinism is obviously true, and the fact that you do not agree with it only shows that it is true. Because what, besides determinism, could lead you to make such a claim contrary to the obvious? The truth of determinism just means that it has always been established that you would bring this argument; that I am saying exactly what I am saying; and how you will react to it next. "

A theory with a built-in immunization mechanism prevents it from being criticized by arguments on the matter. Such strategies are viewed in critical rationalism as an escape from possible criticism. According to him, they limit the possibilities for knowledge progress and should, if possible, be removed from statements. Nevertheless, the rational discussion can lead towards a position with an immunization mechanism. In cases like metaphysical determinism, according to William Warren Bartley, this can lead to a despair of reason : a rationalist would then be confronted with the fact that his own position is pointless and he would have to start in order to remain rational to condemn his own method.

If a position that contains built-in immunization mechanisms is consistently and rationally advocated, an immunization strategy is generally logically enforced in the event of criticism, while this approach is only one possibility in the case of other claims.

"Conventionalist twist"

One form of immunization in the philosophy of science is the procedure to always maintain a theory based on experience in its basic concepts and measurement methods by means of appropriate definitional statements against contradicting observations. Karl Popper speaks in this context of conventionalist twist / strategy (in the English text: conventionalist twist or conventionalist stratagem ). In the epistemological context, the situation is more difficult, because here an axiomatic system of statements is confronted overall with empirical observational sentences and the axioms of the theory or its measurement methods can be subsequently adapted relatively easily to the observation results. The redefinition of theoretical terms or the rescue of observations through auxiliary hypotheses therefore rejects Popper as a conventionalistic turn or immunization strategy.

Another variant of the conventional phrase is the procedure to bring falsifying observational sentences into harmony with the falsified theory by forming an ad hoc hypothesis . This reduces the degree of falsifiability or the empirical content of the theory in question. It is therefore no longer as easily attackable by observational sentences as it was before. An example of such an ad hoc hypothesis is the explanation of reproducible anomalies as "random measurement errors":

“Of course it is always possible to save a disproved theory by setting up auxiliary hypotheses. But science does not advance in this way. "

Such a conventionalist strategy violates the goal of Popper's scientific methodology to keep statements open for refutation. In contrast, only the fundamental methodological decision not to undertake such immunizations can help:

"This is how I came up with the idea of ​​the methodological rules and the fundamental importance of a critical approach, that is, avoiding immunizing our theories against refutation."


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b see Karl R. Popper: Objective knowledge. An evolutionary design. Hamburg 1973, p. 43:
    Any theory can be immunized against criticism. (This excellent term, which I prefer to my terms conventionalist strategy and conventionalist phrase, comes from Hans Albert).
  2. Hans Albert : The idea of ​​critical reason. ( Memento of the original from November 13, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 239 kB) In: Enlightenment and Criticism. February 1994, p. 16 ff. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Hans Albert: Enlightenment and control. In: Hamburg yearbook for economic and social policy. Vol. 17. Tübingen 1972.
  4. a b Ernst Topitsch : About empty formulas. On the pragmatics of language use in philosophy and political theory. In: Ernst Topitsch (ed.): Problems of the philosophy of science. Festschrift for Viktor Kraft. Vienna 1960, pp. 233-264.
  5. here quoted from: Jos Hoogeveen, Hans Würzner: Ideologie und Literatur (science). Rodopi, Amsterdam 1986, ISBN 90-6203-918-9 , p. 175.
  6. Ernst Topitsch: Sociology of Existentialism. In: Merkur , 7th year, issue 6, 1953, p. 504 f.
  7. ^ Hans Albert: Economic Ideology and Political Theory. Göttingen 1972, p. 19, note 15
  8. Hans Albert: Treatise on Critical Reason. 5th, improved and enlarged edition. Mohr, UTB, Tübingen 1991, ISBN 3-16-145710-2 , pp. 138/139
  9. a b Ernst Topitsch: Natural law in the course of the century. In: Enlightenment and Criticism , 1/1994.
  10. "Ludwig Feuerbach: The essence of faith in the sense of Luther. A contribution to the essence of Christianity ” , (1844), p. 69
  11. a b Norbert Hoerster : The question of God , 3rd edition. CH Beck, Munich 2010, p. 117.
  12. Hans Küng: Does God Exist? dtv, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-423-01628-0 , p. 216.
  13. Hans Albert: The misery of theology. Critical examination of Hans Küng . Hoffmann & Campe, 1979, ISBN 3-455-08853-8 ; Alibri, 2005, ISBN 3-86569-001-7 ; 3rd ext. Ed., Alibri, Aschaffenburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-86569-111-8 , pp. 109 and 132.
  14. Kurt Salamun : Perspectives on an ideology theory in the sense of critical rationalism. , Pp. 251–268, in: Karl R. Popper and The Philosophy of Critical Rationalism: On the 85th birthday of Karl. R. Popper , Volume XIV. Of the series Studies on Austrian Philosophy Rudolf Haller (Ed.), Rodopi, Amsterdam 1989, ISBN 90-5183-091-2 , p. 258.
  15. Human dignity - empty formula or indispensable thought? (PDF; 517 kB) In: M. Nicht, AG Wildfeuer (Ed.): Person - Human Dignity - Human Rights in Disputes (= workbooks for school and educational work, vol. 5). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6104-X , p. 23.
  16. Human dignity - empty formula or indispensable thought? (PDF; 517 kB) In: M. Nicht, AG Wildfeuer (Ed.): Person - Human Dignity - Human Rights in Disputes (= workbooks for school and educational work, vol. 5). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6104-X , pp. 19–116.
  17. Arthur Schopenhauer: Preisschrift on the basis of morality , § 8 From the derived forms of the supreme principle of the Kantian ethics. In: Arthur Schopenhauer: Kleine Schriften II. Diogenes, Zurich 1977, ISBN 3-257-20426-4 , p. 206.
  18. Hans J. Münk: Philosophical-ethical concepts of dignity from a biblical-theological point of view. In: Ruth Scoralick (ed.): So that they have life (Jn 10:10). Festschrift for Walter Kirchschläger on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-290-20035-0 , p. 227.
  19. ^ Karl R. Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies. ( Memento of the original from July 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 3.4 MB) 4th edition. London 1962, p. 242. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. ^ Karl R. Popper: What is dialectic? (PDF; p. 19; 325 kB) In: Ernst Topitsch (Ed.): Logic of the Social Sciences , 5, 1968, pp. 262–290.
  21. ^ Abraham Rudnick: Paranoia and Reinforced Dogmatism.Beyond Critical Rationality. (PDF; p. 341) In: Philosophy of the Social Sciences , Volume 33 (3), September 2003, pp. 339-350.
  22. Arthur Schopenhauer: Eristic Dialectic or The Art to Keep Right. 1830/31. (Edition Arthur Hübscher (1966); Haffmans Verlag, Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-251-00016-0 )
  23. ^ Karl Popper: What is Dialectic? (PDF; 460 kB) In: Mind , New Series, Vol. 49, No. 196. (Oct. 1940, pp. 403-426.), (1937, p. 417.) and Karl R. Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies. 4. A., London 1962, vol. 2, p. 215; Cape. 11 n.51
  24. ^ William Warren Bartley , III: Rationality, Criticism, and Logic. ( Memento of February 16, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) ( MS Word ; 277 kB) Chapter XIX Despair of Reason. Philosophia , 11, 1982, pp. 1-2.
  25. ^ Karl Popper: Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. ( Memento of the original from September 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; p. 8 ff .; 192 kB) 1963, 2nd edition 2002, ISBN 0-415-28594-1 . German: Karl Popper: Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. Mohr Siebeck, 2000, ISBN 3-16-147311-6 , edition: One-volume study edition of Bde. 1 u. 2. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. ^ A b Karl R. Popper: Objective knowledge. An evolutionary design. Hamburg 1973, p. 43.
  27. ^ Karl R. Popper: Objective knowledge. An evolutionary design. Hamburg 1973, p. 389.