20 DECEMBER 1957, Page 18


SIR,—Contrary to what Mr. Watkins writes, my re- view of Professor Popper's Poverty of Historicism contained no 'unpleasant innuendoes.' When I said, of Professor Popper's argument, that 'we seem to have heard most of it before,' I had in mind the works of such writers as Sir Isaiah Berlin, M. Raymond Aron and Professor Michael Oakeshott. I did not, of course, suggest that Professor Popper had pilfered their arguments, only that the dissemina- tion of their views had lessened the impact of Pro- fessor Popper's book. Nor is there one word of truth in Mr. Watkins's statement that I insinuated that the only thing which can put our society right is some revolutionary upheaval. The real alternative (as any reader of Professor Popper's book, save apparently Mr. Watkins, will perceive) is between planning, which may be profoundly conservative and anti-revolutionary in purpose and direction, and what Professor Popper himself calls 'piecemeal tinkering' In the sense that he puts his money on the latter rather than on the former, it is possibly correct to describe Professor Popper as a 'philosophi- cal radial'; but I should have doubted whether it was very flattering, in 1957, to confer upon him a title so reminiscent of 1857. Nevertheless, I think Mr. Watkins does put his finger on an important point here. What Professor Popper has to offer is, indeed, a nineteenth-century brand of radical liberalism, which 'modern conservatism (to say nothing of modern Left-wing thought) has long ago outgrown, because (to use Mr. Watkins's favourite expression) it is 'practically inadequate' for the needs of the complex society in which we live.—Yours