chapter  1
7 Pages

Life and character

Imre Lakatos is famous as a philosopher of mathematics and science. As with scientists, it is not normally necessary to know anything about the lives of logicians and methodologists in order to understand their work. So it is with Lakatos. It is possible to understand his philosophy without reference to his biography, and indeed he would have insisted that our evaluation of it should not be affected by biographical or social considerations. For Lakatos, theories should succeed or fail on their logical merits only. However, there is an important question which can only be addressed in the context of his life as a whole: why was Lakatos a rationalist? Rationalism, the view that Reason can and must prevail over Will, was not a conclusion for Lakatos, it was a premise. In order to see why Lakatos took rationalism as his starting point and guiding principle we must look to his early life in Hungary and Russia. There he experienced the efforts of authoritarian governments to impose doctrinaire constraints on the work of scientists and philosophers. As a result, Lakatos was always conscious of the dangers posed to Reason by entrenched dogma in all areas of inquiry, and this concern helped to mould his mature work.