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Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FRS FBA

Sir Karl Popper in 1980.
Full name Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FRS FBA
Born 28 July 1902
Vienna, Austria
Died 17 September 1994 (aged 92)
London, England
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Critical rationalism
Fallibilism
Evolutionary epistemology
Liberalism
Main interests Epistemology
Philosophy of science
Social and political philosophy
Philosophy of mind
Notable ideas Falsifiability
Hypothetico-deductive method
Open society

Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH, FRS, FBA (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian and British[1] philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics.[2] He is widely regarded[3] as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century;[4] he also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. Popper is known for his attempt to repudiate the classical observationalist/inductivist account of scientific method by advancing empirical falsification instead, for his opposition to the classical justificationist account of knowledge which he replaced with critical rationalism, "the first non justificational philosophy of criticism in the history of philosophy"[5], and for his vigorous defense of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism that he came to believe made a flourishing "open society" possible.

Contents

Life

Karl Popper was born in Vienna (then in Austria-Hungary) in 1902, to middle-class parents of assimilated Jewish origins, both of whom had converted to Christianity.[6]

Karl's father Dr Simon Siegmund Carl Popper was a lawyer from Prague, and mother Jenny Schiff was of Silesian[citation needed] and Hungarian descent.

Popper received a Lutheran upbringing and was educated at the University of Vienna.[6] His father was a doctor of law at the Vienna University and a bibliophile who had 12,000–14,000 volumes in his personal library.[7] Popper inherited from him both the library and the disposition.[8]

In 1919, Popper became attracted by Marxism and subsequently joined the Association of Socialist School Students. He also became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, which was at that time a party that fully adopted the Marxist ideology.[9] He soon became disillusioned by the philosophical restraints imposed by the historical materialism of Marx, abandoned the ideology and remained a supporter of social liberalism throughout his life.

In 1928, he earned a doctorate in Philosophy, and then from 1930 to 1936 taught secondary school. Popper published his first book, Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery), in 1934. Here, he criticised psychologism, naturalism, inductionism, and logical positivism, and put forth his theory of potential falsifiability as the criterion demarcating science from non-science.

Gravesite of Sir Karl Popper in Lainzer Friedhof, Vienna, Austria.

In 1937, the rise of Nazism and the threat of the Anschluss led Popper to emigrate to New Zealand, where he became lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury University College New Zealand (at Christchurch). In 1946, he moved to England to become reader in logic and scientific method at the London School of Economics. Three years later, he was appointed as professor of logic and scientific method at the University of London in 1949. Popper was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1958 to 1959. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1976. He retired from academic life in 1969, though he remained intellectually active for the rest of his life. He was invested with the Insignia of a Companion of Honour in 1982. Popper was a member of the Academy of Humanism and described himself as an agnostic, showing respect for the moral teachings of Judaism and Christianity.

Popper won many awards and honours in his field, including the Lippincott Award of the American Political Science Association, the Sonning Prize, and fellowships in the Royal Society, British Academy, London School of Economics, King's College London, Darwin College Cambridge, and Charles University, Prague. Austria awarded him the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria in Gold.

Popper died in Croydon, UK at the age of 92 on 17 September, 1994. After cremation, his ashes were taken to Vienna and buried at Lainzer cemetery adjacent to the ORF Centre, where his wife Josefine Anna Henninger, who had died in Austria several years before, had already been buried.

Popper's philosophy

Philosophy of Science

Popper coined the term critical rationalism to describe his philosophy. The term indicates his rejection of classical empiricism, and of the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper argued strongly against the latter, holding that scientific theories are abstract in nature, and can be tested only indirectly, by reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historico-cultural settings. Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single counterexample is logically decisive: it shows the theory, from which the implication is derived, to be false. The term "falsifiable" does not mean something is false; rather, that if it is false, then this can be shown by observation or experiment. Popper's account of the logical asymmetry between verification and falsifiability lies at the heart of his philosophy of science. It also inspired him to take falsifiability as his criterion of demarcation between what is and is not genuinely scientific: a theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable. This led him to attack the claims of both psychoanalysis and contemporary Marxism to scientific status, on the basis that the theories enshrined by them are not falsifiable. Popper also wrote extensively against the famous Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. He strongly disagreed with Niels Bohr's instrumentalism and supported Albert Einstein's realist approach to scientific theories about the universe. Popper's falsifiability resembles Charles Peirce's fallibilism. In Of Clocks and Clouds (1966), Popper remarked that he wished he had known of Peirce's work earlier.

In All Life is Problem Solving, Popper sought to explain the apparent progress of scientific knowledge—how it is that our understanding of the universe seems to improve over time. This problem arises from his position that the truth content of our theories, even the best of them, cannot be verified by scientific testing, but can only be falsified (again, in this context the word 'falsified' does not refer to something being 'fake'; rather, that something can be shown to be false by observation or experiment). If so, then how is it that the growth of science appears to result in a growth in knowledge? In Popper's view, the advance of scientific knowledge is an evolutionary process characterised by his formula:

PS_1 \rightarrow TT_1 \rightarrow EE_1 \rightarrow PS_2.

In response to a given problem situation (PS1), a number of competing conjectures, or tentative theories (TT), are systematically subjected to the most rigorous attempts at falsification possible. This process, error elimination (EE), performs a similar function for science that natural selection performs for biological evolution. Theories that better survive the process of refutation are not more true, but rather, more "fit"—in other words, more applicable to the problem situation at hand (PS1). Consequently, just as a species' "biological fit" does not predict continued survival, neither does rigorous testing protect a scientific theory from refutation in the future. Yet, as it appears that the engine of biological evolution has produced, over time, adaptive traits equipped to deal with more and more complex problems of survival, likewise, the evolution of theories through the scientific method may, in Popper's view, reflect a certain type of progress: toward more and more interesting problems (PS2). For Popper, it is in the interplay between the tentative theories (conjectures) and error elimination (refutation) that scientific knowledge advances toward greater and greater problems; in a process very much akin to the interplay between genetic variation and natural selection.

Where does "truth" fit into all this? As early as 1934 Popper wrote of the search for truth as "one of the strongest motives for scientific discovery." Still, he describes in Objective Knowledge (1972) early concerns about the much-criticised notion of truth as correspondence. Then came the semantic theory of truth formulated by the logician Alfred Tarski and published in 1933. Popper writes of learning in 1935 of the consequences of Tarski's theory, to his intense joy.[citation needed] The theory met critical objections to truth as correspondence and thereby rehabilitated it. The theory also seemed, in Popper's eyes, to support metaphysical realism and the regulative idea of a search for truth.

According to this theory, the conditions for the truth of a sentence as well as the sentences themselves are part of a metalanguage. So, for example, the sentence "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. Although many philosophers have interpreted, and continue to interpret, Tarski's theory as a deflationary theory, Popper refers to it as a theory in which "is true" is replaced with "corresponds to the facts." He bases this interpretation on the fact that examples such as the one described above refer to two things: assertions and the facts to which they refer. He identifies Tarski's formulation of the truth conditions of sentences as the introduction of a "metalinguistic predicate" and distinguishes the following cases:

  1. "John called" is true.
  2. "It is true that John called."

The first case belongs to the metalanguage whereas the second is more likely to belong to the object language. Hence, "it is true that" possesses the logical status of a redundancy. "Is true", on the other hand, is a predicate necessary for making general observations such as "John was telling the truth about Phillip."

Upon this basis, along with that of the logical content of assertions (where logical content is inversely proportional to probability), Popper went on to develop his important notion of verisimilitude or "truthlikeness".

The intuitive idea behind verisimilitude is that the assertions or hypotheses of scientific theories can be objectively measured with respect to the amount of truth and falsity that they imply. And, in this way, one theory can be evaluated as more or less true than another on a quantitative basis which, Popper emphasizes forcefully, has nothing to do with "subjective probabilities" or other merely "epistemic" considerations.

The simplest mathematical formulation that Popper gives of this concept can be found in the tenth chapter of Conjectures and Refutations. Here he defines it as:

Vs(a)=CT_v(a)-CT_f(a) \,

where Vs(a) is the verisimilitude of a, CTv(a) is a measure of the content of truth of a, and CTf(a) is a measure of the content of the falsity of a.

Knowledge, for Popper, was objective, both in the sense that it is objectively true (or truthlike), and also in the sense that knowledge has an ontological status (i.e., knowledge as object) independent of the knowing subject (Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, 1972). He proposed three worlds (see Popperian cosmology): World One, being the physical world, or physical states; World Two, being the world of mind, or mental states, ideas, and perceptions; and World Three, being the body of human knowledge expressed in its manifold forms, or the products of the second world made manifest in the materials of the first world (i.e.–books, papers, paintings, symphonies, and all the products of the human mind). World Three, he argued, was the product of individual human beings in exactly the same sense that an animal path is the product of individual animals, and that, as such, has an existence and evolution independent of any individual knowing subjects. The influence of World Three, in his view, on the individual human mind (World Two) is at least as strong as the influence of World One. In other words, the knowledge held by a given individual mind owes at least as much to the total accumulated wealth of human knowledge, made manifest, as to the world of direct experience. As such, the growth of human knowledge could be said to be a function of the independent evolution of World Three. Many contemporary philosophers have not embraced Popper's Three World conjecture, due mostly, it seems, to its resemblance to Cartesian dualism.

Political philosophy

In The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism, Popper developed a critique of historicism and a defence of the 'Open Society'. Popper considered historicism to be the theory that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to knowable general laws towards a determinate end. He argued that this view is the principal theoretical presupposition underpinning most forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. He argued that historicism is founded upon mistaken assumptions regarding the nature of scientific law and prediction. Since the growth of human knowledge is a causal factor in the evolution of human history, and since "no society can predict, scientifically, its own future states of knowledge", it follows, he argued, that there can be no predictive science of human history. For Popper, metaphysical and historical indeterminism go hand in hand.

In a 1992 lecture, Popper explained the connection between his political philosophy and his philosophy of science. As he stated, he was in his early years impressed by communism and also active in the Austrian Communist party. What had a profound effect on him was an event that happened in 1918: during a riot, caused by the Communists, the police shot several people, including some of Popper's friends. When Popper later told the leaders of the Communist party about this, they responded by stating that this loss of life was necessary in working towards the inevitable workers' revolution. This statement did not convince Popper and he started to think about what kind of reasoning would justify such a statement. He later concluded that there could not be any justification for it, and this was the start of his later criticism of historicism.

In 1947, Popper founded with Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and others the Mont Pelerin Society to defend classical liberalism, in the spirit of Open society.

Problem of Induction

Among his contributions to philosophy is his attempt to answer the philosophical problem of induction as emphasized strongly by David Hume. The problem, in basic terms, can be understood by example: given that the sun has risen every day for as long as anyone can remember, what is the rational proof that it will rise tomorrow? How can one rationally prove that past events will continue to repeat in the future, just because they have repeated in the past?

Popper claims to have found a solution to the problem of induction. His reply is characteristic, and ties in with his criterion of falsifiability. He states that while there is no way to prove that the sun will rise, it is possible to formulate the theory that every day the sun will rise—if it does not rise on some particular day, the theory will be falsified and will have to be replaced by a different one. Until that day, there is no need to reject the assumption that the theory is true. Neither is it rational according to Popper to instead make the more complex assumption that the sun has risen until a given day, but will stop so doing the next day, or similar statements with additional conditions.

Such a theory would be true with higher probability, because it cannot be attacked so easily: To falsify the first one, it is sufficient to find that sun has stopped rising; to falsify the second one, one additionally needs the assumption that the given day has not yet been reached. Popper held that it is the least likely, or most easily falsifiable, or simplest theory (attributes which he all identified as the same thing) that explains known facts that one should rationally prefer. His opposition to positivism, which held that it is the theory most likely to be true that one should prefer, here becomes very apparent. It is impossible, Popper argues, to ensure a theory to be true (but not fatal, since even false theories may have true consequence); it is more important that they can be eliminated and corrected as easily as possible if false.

Popper and Hume agreed that there is often a psychological belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, but both denied that there is logical justification for the supposition that it will, simply because it always has in the past. Popper writes:

"I approached the problem of induction through Hume. Hume, I felt, was perfectly right in pointing out that induction cannot be logically justified." (Conjectures and Refutations, p. 55)

To Popper, who was an anti-justificationist, traditional philosophy is misled by the false principle of sufficient reason. He thinks that no assumption can ever be or needs ever to be justified, so a lack of justification is not a justification for doubt. Instead, theories should be tested and scrutinized. It is not the goal to bless theories with claims of certainty or justification, but to eliminate errors in them:

"there are no such things as good positive reasons; nor do we need such things [...] But [philosophers] obviously cannot quite bring [themselves] to believe that this is my opinion, let alone that it is right" (The Philosophy of Karl Popper, p. 1043)

Free Will

Popper and John Eccles speculated on the problem of free will for many years, generally agreeing on an interactionist dualist theory of mind as a separate physical substance. When he gave the first Arthur Holly Compton Memorial Lecture in 1955, Popper revisited the idea of quantum indeterminacy as a source of human freedom. Eccles had suggested that "critically poised neurons" might be influenced by the mind to assist in a decision.

Popper criticized Compton's idea of amplified quantum events affecting the decision. He wrote

"The idea that the only alternative to determinism is just sheer chance was taken over by Schlick, together with many of his views on the subject, from Hume, who asserted that 'the removal' of what he called 'physical necessity' must always result in

'the same thing with chance. As objects must either be conjoin'd or not, . . . 'tis impossible to admit of any medium betwixt chance and an absolute necessity'.[10]

"I shall later argue against this important doctrine according to which the alternative to determinism is sheer chance. Yet I must admit that the doctrine seems to hold good for the quantum-theoretical models which have been designed to explain, or at least to illustrate, the possibility of human freedom. This seems to be the reason why these models are so very unsatisfactory.

"Hume's and Schlick's ontological thesis that there cannot exist anything intermediate between chance and determinism seems to me not only highly dogmatic (not to say doctrinaire) but clearly absurd; and it is understandable only on the assumption that they believed in a complete determinism in which chance has no status except as a symptom of our ignorance."[11]

Popper called not for something between chance and necessity but for a combination of randomness and control to explain freedom, though not yet explicitly in two stages with random chance before the controlled decision.

"freedom is not just chance but, rather, the result of a subtle interplay between something almost random or haphazard, and something like a restrictive or selective control."[12]

Then in his 1977 book with John Eccles, The Self and its Brain, Popper finally formulates the two-stage model in a temporal sequence. And he compares free will to Darwinian evolution and natural selection,

"New ideas have a striking similarity to genetic mutations. Now, let us look for a moment at genetic mutations. Mutations are, it seems, brought about by quantum theoretical indeterminacy (including radiation effects). Accordingly, they are also probabilistic and not in themselves originally selected or adequate, but on them there subsequently operates natural selection which eliminates inappropriate mutations. Now we could conceive of a similar process with respect to new ideas and to free-will decisions, and similar things. "That is to say, a range of possibilities is brought about by a probabilistic and quantum mechanically characterized set of proposals, as it were - of possibilities brought forward by the brain. On these there then operates a kind of selective procedure which eliminates those proposals and those possibilities which are not acceptable to the mind."[13]

Other thinkers who have formulated a two-stage model for free will include William James, Henri Poincaré, Compton, Henry Margenau, and Daniel Dennett.

The paradox of tolerance

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive , and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

Issue of Darwinism

Karl Popper famously stated "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program." In the same paper, he continued

And yet, the theory is invaluable. I do not see how, without it, our knowledge could have grown as it has done since Darwin. In trying to explain experiments with bacteria which become adapted to, say, penicillin, it is quite clear that we are greatly helped by the theory of natural selection. Although it is metaphysical, it sheds much light upon very concrete and very practical researches. It allows us to study adaptation to a new environment (such as a penicillin-infested environment) in a rational way: it suggests the existence of a mechanism of adaptation, and it allows us even to study in detail the mechanism at work.

He also noted that theism presented as explaining adaptation "was worse than an open admission of failure, for it created the impression that an ultimate explanation had been reached."[15] He later said

When speaking here of Darwinism, I shall speak always of today's theory - that is Darwin's own theory of natural selection supported by the Mendelian theory of heredity, by the theory of the mutation and recombination of genes in a gene pool, and by the decoded genetic code. This is an immensely impressive and powerful theory. The claim that it completely explains evolution is of course a bold claim, and very far from being established. All scientific theories are conjectures, even those that have successfully passed many severe and varied tests. The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested, and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism. [15]

He explained that the difficulty of testing had led some people to describe natural selection as a tautology, and that he too had in the past described the theory as 'almost tautological', and had tried to explain how the theory could be untestable (as is a tautology) and yet of great scientific interest. His

solution was that the doctrine of natural selection is a most successful metaphysical research programme. It raises detailed problems in many fields, and it tells us what we would expect of an acceptable solution of these problems. I still believe that natural selection works in this way as a research programme. Nevertheless, I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation.[15]

Influence

By all accounts, Popper has played a vital role in establishing the philosophy of science as a vigorous, autonomous discipline within analytic philosophy, through his own prolific and influential works, and also through his influence on his own contemporaries and students. Popper founded in 1946 the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and there lectured and influenced both Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, two of the foremost philosophers of science in the next generation of philosophy of science. (Lakatos significantly modified Popper's position, and Feyerabend repudiated it entirely, but the work of both is deeply influenced by Popper and engaged with many of the problems that Popper set.)

While there is some dispute as to the matter of influence, Popper had a long-standing and close friendship with economist Friedrich Hayek, who was also brought to the London School of Economics from Vienna. Each found support and similarities in each other's work, citing each other often, though not without qualification. In a letter to Hayek in 1944, Popper stated, "I think I have learnt more from you than from any other living thinker, except perhaps Alfred Tarski." (See Hacohen, 2000). Popper dedicated his Conjectures and Refutations to Hayek. For his part, Hayek dedicated a collection of papers, Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, to Popper, and in 1982 said, "...ever since his Logik der Forschung first came out in 1934, I have been a complete adherent to his general theory of methodology." (See Weimer and Palermo, 1982).

Popper also had long and mutually influential friendships with art historian Ernst Gombrich, biologist Peter Medawar, and neuro-scientist John Carew Eccles.

Popper's influence, both through his work in philosophy of science and through his political philosophy, has also extended beyond the academy. Among Popper's students and advocates at the London School of Economics is the billionaire investor George Soros, who says his investment strategies are modelled on Popper's understanding of the advancement of knowledge through the distinctly Hegelian idea of falsification. Among Soros's philanthropic foundations is the Open Society Institute, a think-tank named in honour of Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, which Soros founded to advance the Popperian defense of the open society against authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

Popperian philosophy also inspired the creation of Taking Children Seriously, a libertarian movement which noticed that Popper's general theory of knowledge creation does not differentiate between adults and children.

Critics

Criticism of his philosophy of science

Most criticisms of Popper's philosophy are of the falsification, or error elimination, element in his account of problem solving. In interpreting these, it is important to bear in mind the aims of his idea. It is intended as an ideal, practical method of effective human problem solving; as such, the current conclusions of science are stronger than pseudo-sciences or non-sciences, insofar as they have survived this particularly vigorous selection method. He does not argue that any such conclusions are therefore true, or that this describes the actual methods of any particular scientist.

Rather, it is a recommended ideal method that, if enacted by a system or community, will over time lead to slow but steady progress of a sort (relative to how well the system or community enacts the method). It has been suggested that Popper's ideas are often mistaken for a hard logical account of truth because of the historical co-incidence of their appearing at the same time as logical positivism, the followers of which mistook his aims for their own (Bryan Magee 1973: Popper (Modern Masters series)).

The Quine-Duhem thesis argues that it's impossible to test a single hypothesis on its own, since each one comes as part of an environment of theories. Thus we can only say that the whole package of relevant theories has been collectively falsified, but cannot conclusively say which element of the package must be replaced. An example of this is given by the discovery of the planet Neptune: when the motion of Uranus was found not to match the predictions of Newton's laws, the theory "There are seven planets in the solar system" was rejected, and not Newton's laws themselves. Popper discussed this critique of naïve falsificationism in Chapters 3 & 4 of The Logic of Scientific Discovery. For Popper, theories are accepted or rejected via a sort of selection process. Theories that say more about the way things appear are to be preferred over those that do not; the more generally applicable a theory is, the greater its value. Thus Newton’s laws, with their wide general application, are to be preferred over the much more specific “the solar system has seven planets”.

Thomas Kuhn’s influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argued that scientists work in a series of paradigms, and that falsificationist methodologies would make science impossible.

"No theory ever solves all the puzzles with which it is confronted at a given time; nor are the solutions already achieved often perfect. On the contrary, it is just the incompleteness and imperfection of the existing data-theory fit that, at any given time, define many of the puzzles that characterize normal science. If any and every failure to fit were ground for theory rejection, all theories ought to be rejected at all times. On the other hand, if only severe failure to fit justifies theory rejection, then the Popperians will require some criterion of 'improbability' or of 'degree of falsification.' In developing one they will almost certainly encounter the same network of difficulties that has haunted the advocates of the various probabilistic verification theories [that the evaluative theory cannot itself be legitimated without appeal to another evaluative theory, leading to regress]"---The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. pp. 145-6.[16]

Popper's student Imre Lakatos attempted to reconcile Kuhn’s work with falsificationism by arguing that science progresses by the falsification of research programs rather than the more specific universal statements of naïve falsificationism. Another of Popper’s students Paul Feyerabend ultimately rejected any prescriptive methodology, and argued that the only universal method characterizing scientific progress was anything goes.

Popper claimed to have recognized already in the 1934 version of his Logic of Discovery a fact later stressed by Kuhn, "that scientists necessarily develop their ideas within a definite theoretical framework", and to that extent to have anticipated Kuhn's central point about 'normal science'.[17] (But Popper criticised what he saw as Kuhn's relativism.[18]) Also, in his collection Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Harper & Row, 1963), Popper writes, "Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths; neither with the collection of observations, nor with the invention of experiments, but with the critical discussion of myths, and of magical techniques and practices. The scientific tradition is distinguished from the pre-scientific tradition in having two layers. Like the latter, it passes on its theories; but it also passes on a critical attitude towards them. The theories are passed on, not as dogmas, but rather with the challenge to discuss them and improve upon them."

Another objection is that it is not always possible to demonstrate falsehood definitively, especially if one is using statistical criteria to evaluate a null hypothesis. More generally it is not always clear, if evidence contradicts a hypothesis, that this is a sign of flaws in the hypothesis rather than of flaws in the evidence. However, this is a misunderstanding of what Popper's philosophy of science sets out to do. Rather than offering a set of instructions that merely need to be followed diligently to achieve science, Popper makes it clear in The Logic of Scientific Discovery that his belief is that the resolution of conflicts between hypotheses and observations can only be a matter of the collective judgment of scientists, in each individual case.[19]

Popper's falsificationism can be questioned logically: it is not clear how Popper would deal with a statement like "for every metal, there is a temperature at which it will melt." The hypothesis cannot be falsified by any possible observation, for there will always be a higher temperature than tested at which the metal may in fact melt, yet it seems to be a valid scientific hypothesis. These examples were pointed out by Carl Gustav Hempel. Hempel came to acknowledge that Logical Positivism's verificationism was untenable, but argued that falsificationism was equally untenable on logical grounds alone. The simplest response to this is that, because Popper describes how theories attain, maintain and lose scientific status, individual consequences of currently accepted scientific theories are scientific in the sense of being part of tentative scientific knowledge, and both of Hempel's examples fall under this category. For instance, atomic theory implies that all metals melt at some temperature.

An early adversary of so-called critical rationalism, Karl-Otto Apel attempted a comprehensive refutation of Popper's philosophy. In Transformation der Philosophie (1973), Apel charged Popper with being guilty of, amongst other things, a pragmatic contradiction.[20]

Other criticisms

Other critics seek to vindicate the claims of historicism or holism to intellectual respectability, or psychoanalysis or Marxism to scientific status.[citation needed] It has been argued that Popper's student Imre Lakatos, for example, transformed Popper's philosophy using historicist and updated Hegelian historiographic ideas.[21][22]

Ludwig Wittgenstein was accused of brandishing a poker at his fellow philosopher Karl Popper at a meeting of the Cambridge Moral Science Club as they argued about whether issues in philosophy were real or just linguistic puzzles. Wittgenstein's partisans claim that Wittgenstein was merely handling a poker but Popper used the situation to make a joke at Wittgenstein's expense. [23][24]

Charles Taylor accuses Popper of exploiting his worldwide fame as an epistemologist to diminish the importance of philosophers of the 20th century continental tradition. According to Taylor, Popper's criticisms are completely baseless, but they are received with an attention and respect that Popper's "intrinsic worth hardly merits".[25] William W. Bartley defended Popper against such allegations: "Sir Karl Popper is not really a participant in the contemporary professional philosophical dialogue; quite the contrary, he has ruined that dialogue. If he is on the right track, then the majority of professional philosophers the world over has wasted or is wasting their intellectual careers. The gulf between Popper's way of doing philosophy and that of the bulk of professional philosophers is as great as that between astronomy and astrology."[26]

In 2004, philosopher and psychologist Michel ter Hark (Groningen, The Netherlands) published a book, called Popper, Otto Selz and the rise of evolutionary epistemology, ISBN 0521830745, in which he claimed that Popper took some of his ideas from his tutor, the German psychologist Otto Selz. Selz himself never published his ideas, partly because of the rise of Nazism which forced him to quit his work in 1933, and the prohibition of referring to Selz' work. Popper, the historian of ideas and his scholarship, is criticized in some academic quarters, for his rejection of Plato, Hegel and Marx.[27]

According to Karl Popper, a theory is scientific only in so far as it is falsifiable, and should be given up as soon as it is falsified. [28] By applying Popper's account of scientific method, John Gray's Straw Dogs states that this would have killed the theories of Darwin and Einstein at birth. When they were first advanced, each of them was at odds with some available evidence; only later did evidence become available that gave them crucial support. [29]

See also

References

  1. ^ Watkins, J. Obituary of Karl Popper, 1902–1994. Proceedings of the British Academy, 94, pp. 645–684
  2. ^ Popper was knighted in 1965, under the British Labour government of Harold Wilson.
  3. ^ See Stephen Thornton, "Karl Popper", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  4. ^ Richard Feldman - Department of Philosophy, University of Rochester
  5. ^ William W. Bartley: Rationality versus the Theory of Rationality, In Mario Bunge: The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy (The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), section IX.
  6. ^ a b Magee, Bryan. The Story of Philosophy. New York: DK Publishing, 2001. p. 221, ISBN 078943511X
  7. ^ Raphael, F. The Great Philosophers London: Phoenix, p. 447, ISBN 0753811367
  8. ^ Manfred Lube: Karl R. Popper – Die Bibliothek des Philosophen als Spiegel seines Lebens. Imprimatur. Ein Jahrbuch für Bücherfreunde. Neue Folge Band 18 (2003), S. 207–238, ISBN 3-447-04723-2.
  9. ^ - Stephen Thornton, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  10. ^ Popper's Hume quote is from Treatise on Human Understanding, (see note 8) Book I, Part I, Section XIV, p.171
  11. ^ "Of Clouds and Clocks," in Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford (1972) p. 227ff.
  12. ^ ibid, p.232
  13. ^ Eccles, John C. and Karl Popper. The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism, Routledge (1984)
  14. ^ The Open Society and Its Enemies: The Spell of Plato, by Karl Raimund Popper, Princeton University Press, 1971, ISBN 0691019681, pg 265
  15. ^ a b c "CA211.1: Popper on natural selection's testability". talk.origins. 2005-11-02. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA211_1.html. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  16. ^ Kuhn, Thomas (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  17. ^ 'K R Popper (1970)', "Normal Science and its Dangers", pages 51-58 in I Lakatos & A Musgrave (eds.) (1970), at page 51.
  18. ^ 'K R Popper (1970)', in I Lakatos & A Musgrave (eds.) (1970), at page 56.
  19. ^ Popper, Karl, (1934) Logik der Forschung, Springer. Vienna. Amplified English edition, Popper (1959), ISBN 0415278449
  20. ^ See: "Apel, Karl-Otto," La philosophie de A a Z, by Elizabeth Clement, Chantal Demonque, Laurence Hansen-Love, and Pierre Kahn, Paris, 1994, Hatier, 19-20. See Also: Towards a Transformation of Philosophy (Marquette Studies in Philosophy, No 20), by Karl-Otto Apel, trans., Glyn Adey and David Fisby, Milwaukee, 1998, Marquette University Press.
  21. ^ Hacking, Ian (1979). "Imre Lakatos' Philosophy of Science". British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30 (30): 381–410. doi:10.1093/bjps/30.4.381. 
  22. ^ Imre Lakatos' Philosophy of Science, Ian Hacking, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol 30 Nbr 4, 1979, article pg 381–410 |birth_place = (subscription and/or fee required)
  23. ^ "Professor Paul Krugman at war with Niall Ferguson over inflation"
  24. ^ When "Ludwig met Karl..."
  25. ^ Taylor, Charles, "Overcoming Epistemology", in Philosophical Arguments, Harvard University Press, 1995, ISBN 0674664779
  26. ^ Philosophia. Philosophical Quarterly of Israel, William W. Bartley: The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Part I: Biology and Evolutionary Epistemology, Philosophia Vol 6 (1976), pp. 463–494.
    (deposit account required)
  27. ^ See: "Popper is committing a serious historical error in attributing the organic theory of the state to Plato and accusing him of all the fallacies of post-Hegelian and Marxist historicism--the theory that history is controlled by the inexorable laws governing the behavior of superindividual social entities of which human beings and their free choices are merely subordinate manifestations." Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law, by John Wild, Chicago, 1964, The University of Chicago Press, 23. See Also: "In spite of the high rating one must accord his initial intention of fairness, his hatred for the enemies of the 'open society,' his zeal to destroy whatever seems to him destructive of the welfare of mankind, has led him into the extensive use of what may be called terminological counterpropaganda ..." and "With a few exceptions in Popper's favor, however, it is noticeable that reviewers possessed of special competence in particular fields--and here Lindsay is again to be included--have objected to Popper's conclusions in those very fields ..." and "Social scientists and social philosophers have deplored his radical denial of historical causation, together with his espousal of Hayek's systematic distrust of larger programs of social reform; historical students of philosophy have protested his violent polemical handling of Plato, Aristotle, and particularly Hegel; ethicists have found contradictions in the ethical theory ('critical dualism') upon which his polemic is largely based." In Defense of Plato, by Ronald B. Levinson, New York, 1970, Russell and Russell, 20.
  28. ^ Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963
  29. ^ John Gray, Straw Dogs, Granta Books, London, 2002

Bibliography

  • The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge, 1930–33 (as a typescript circulating as Die beiden Grundprobleme der Erkenntnistheorie; as a German book 1979, as English translation 2008), ISBN 0415394317
  • The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934 (as Logik der Forschung, English translation 1959), ISBN 0415278449
  • The Poverty of Historicism, 1936 (private reading at a meeting in Brussels, 1944/45 as a series of journal articles in Econometrica, 1957 a book), ISBN 0415065690
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945 Vol 1 ISBN 0415290635, Vol 2 ISBN 0415290635
  • Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics, 1956/57 (as privately circulated galley proofs; published as a book 1982), ISBN 0415091128
  • The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism, 1956/57 (as privately circulated galley proofs; published as a book 1982), ISBN 0415078652
  • Realism and the Aim of Science, 1956/57 (as privately circulated galley proofs; published as a book 1983), ISBN 0091514509
  • Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963, ISBN 0415043182
  • Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, 1972, Rev. ed., 1979, ISBN 0198750242
  • Unended Quest; An Intellectual Autobiography, 1976, ISBN 0415285909
  • The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism (with Sir John C. Eccles), 1977, ISBN 0415058988
  • In Search of a Better World, 1984, ISBN 0415135486
  • Die Zukunft ist offen (The Future is Open) (with Konrad Lorenz), 1985 (in German), ISBN 349200640X
  • A World of Propensities, 1990, ISBN 1855060000
  • The Lesson of this Century, (Interviewer: Giancarlo Bosetti, English translation: Patrick Camiller), 1992, ISBN 0415129583
  • All life is Problem Solving, 1994, ISBN 0415249929
  • The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality, (Edited by Mark Amadeus Notturno) 1994, ISBN 0415135559
  • Knowledge and the Mind-Body Problem: In Defence of Interaction, (Edited by Mark Amadeus Notturno) 1994 ISBN 0415115043
  • The World of Parmenides, Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment, 1998, (Edited by Arne F. Petersen with the assistance of Jørgen Mejer), ISBN 0415173019
  • Frühe Schriften, 2006 (Edited by Troels Eggers Hansen, includes Popper's writings and publications from before the Logic, including his previously unpublished thesis, dissertation and journal articles published that relate to the Wiener Schulreform) ISBN 9783161476327

Further reading

  • [Comprehensive bibliography:] Lube, Manfred: Karl R. Popper. Bibliographie 1925–2004. Wissenschaftstheorie, Sozialphilosophie, Logik, Wahrscheinlichkeitstheorie, Naturwissenschaften. Frankfurt/Main etc.: Peter Lang, 2005. 576 pp. (Schriftenreihe der Karl Popper Foundation Klagenfurt.3.)
  • Stefano Gattei. Karl Popper's Philosophy of Science. 2009.
  • David Miller. Critical Rationalism: A Restatement and Defence. 1994.
  • David Miller (Ed.). Popper Selections.
  • John W. N. Watkins. Science and Skepticism. 1984.
  • Bailey, Richard, Education in the Open Society: Karl Popper and Schooling. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate 2000. The only book-length examination of Popper's relevance to education.
  • Bartley, William Warren III. Unfathomed Knowledge, Unmeasured Wealth. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press 1990. A look at Popper and his influence by one of his students.
  • Berkson, William K., and Wettersten, John. Learning from Error: Karl Popper's Psychology of Learning. La Salle, IL: Open Court 1984
  • Edmonds, D., Eidinow, J. Wittgenstein's Poker. New York: Ecco 2001. A review of the origin of the conflict between Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein, focused on events leading up to their volatile first encounter at 1946 Cambridge meeting.
  • Feyerabend, Paul Against Method. London: New Left Books, 1975. A polemical, iconoclastic book by a former colleague of Popper's. Vigorously critical of Popper's rationalist view of science.
  • Hacohen, M. Karl Popper: The Formative Years, 1902 – 1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Hickey, J. Thomas. History of the Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science Book V, Karl Popper And Falsificationist Criticism. www.philsci.com . 1995* Kadvany, John Imre Lakatos and the Guises of Reason. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8223-2659-0. Explains how Imre Lakatos developed Popper's philosophy into a historicist and critical theory of scientific method.
  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. Central to contemporary philosophy of science is the debate between the followers of Kuhn and Popper on the nature of scientific enquiry. This is the book in which Kuhn's views received their classical statement.
  • Lakatos, I & Musgrave, A (eds.) (1970), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press). ISBN 0-521-07826-1
  • Levinson, Paul, ed. In Pursuit of Truth: Essays on the Philosophy of Karl Popper on the Occasion of his 80th Birthday. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1982. A collection of essays on Popper's thought and legacy by a wide range of his followers. Includes an interview with Sir Ernst Gombrich.
  • Magee, Bryan. Popper. London: Fontana, 1977. An elegant introductory text. Very readable, albeit rather uncritical of its subject, by a former Member of Parliament.
  • Magee, Bryan. Confessions of a Philosopher, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997. Magee's philosophical autobiography, with a chapter on his relations with Popper. More critical of Popper than in the previous reference.
  • Munz, Peter. Beyond Wittgenstein's Poker: New Light on Popper and Wittgenstein Aldershot, Hampshire, UK: Ashgate, 2004. ISBN 0-7546-4016-7. Written by the only living student of both Wittgenstein and Popper, an eyewitness to the famous "poker" incident described above (Edmunds & Eidinow). Attempts to synthesize and reconcile the differences between these two philosophers.
  • Niemann, Hans-Joachim. Lexikon des Kritischen Rationalismus, (Encyclopaedia of Critical Raionalism), Tübingen (Mohr Siebeck) 2004, ISBN 3-16-148395-2. More than a thousand headwords about critical rationalism, the most important arguments of K.R. Popper and H. Albert, quotations of the original wording. Edition for students in 2006, ISBN 3-16-149158-0.
  • Notturno, Mark Amadeus. "Objectivity, Rationality, and the Third Realm: Justification and the Grounds of Psychologism". Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985.
  • Notturno, Mark Amadeus. On Popper. Wadsworth Philosophers Series. 2003. A very comprehensive book on Popper’s philosophy by an accomplished Popperian.
  • Notturno, Mark Amadeus. "Science and the Open Society". New York: CEU Press, 2000.
  • O'Hear, Anthony. Karl Popper. London: Routledge, 1980. A critical account of Popper's thought, viewed from the perspective of contemporary analytic philosophy.
  • Radnitzky, Gerard, Bartley, W. W., III eds. Evolutionary Epistemology, Rationality, and the Sociology of Knowledge. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press 1987. ISBN 0-8126-9039-7. A strong collection of essays by Popper, Campbell, Munz, Flew, et al., on Popper's epistemology and critical rationalism. Includes a particularly vigorous answer to Rorty's criticisms.
  • Richmond, Sheldon. Aesthetic Criteria: Gombrich and the Philosophies of Science of Popper and Polanyi. Rodopi, Amsterdam/Atlanta, 1994, 152 pp. ISBN 90-5183-618-X.
  • Schilpp, Paul A., ed. The Philosophy of Karl Popper, 2 vols. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press, 1974. One of the better contributions to the Library of Living Philosophers series. Contains Popper's intellectual autobiography, a comprehensive range of critical essays, and Popper's responses to them.
  • Schroeder-Heister, P. "Popper, Karl Raimund (1902–94)," International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001, pp. 11727–11733.Abstract.
  • Shearmur, Jeremy. The Political Thought of Karl Popper. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Study of Popper's political thought by a former assistant of Popper's. Makes use of archive sources and studies the development of Popper's political thought and its inter-connections with his epistemology.
  • Stokes, G. Popper: Philosophy, Politics and Scientific Method. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998. A very comprehensive, balanced study, which focuses largely on the social and political side of Popper's thought.
  • Stove, D.C., Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists. Oxford: Pergamon. 1982. A vigorous attack, especially on Popper's restricting himself to deductive logic.
  • Thornton, Stephen. "Karl Popper," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006.
  • Weimer, W., Palermo, D., eds. Cognition and the Symbolic Processes. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 1982. See Hayek's essay, "The Sensory Order after 25 Years", and "Discussion".

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

Sir Karl Raimund Popper (28 July 190217 September 1994) was an Austrian and British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics. He is considered one of the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, and also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy.

Contents

Sourced

If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories...
We are social creatures to the inmost centre of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.
Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.
The genuine rationalist does not think that he or anyone else is in possession of the truth; nor does he think that mere criticism as such helps us achieve new ideas. But he does think that, in the sphere of ideas, only critical discussion can help us sort the wheat from the chaff.
True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.
  • You can choose whatever name you like for the two types of government. I personally call the type of government which can be removed without violence "democracy", and the other "tyranny".
    • As quoted in Freedom: A New Analysis (1954) by Maurice William Cranston, p. 112
  • Piecemeal social engineering resembles physical engineering in regarding the ends as beyond the province of technology. (All that technology may say about ends is whether or not they are compatible with each other or realizable.)
    • The Poverty of Historicism (1957) Ch. 22 The Unholy Alliance with Utopianism
  • If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories. In this way it is only too easy to obtain what appears to be overwhelming evidence in favor of a theory which, if approached critically, would have been refuted.
    • The Poverty of Historicism (1957) Ch. 29 The Unity of Method
  • Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
    • Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (1972)
  • Before we as individuals are even conscious of our existence we have been profoundly influenced for a considerable time (since before birth) by our relationship to other individuals who have complicated histories, and are members of a society which has an infinitely more complicated and longer history than they do (and are members of it at a particular time and place in that history); and by the time we are able to make conscious choices we are already making use of categories in a language which has reached a particular degree of development through the lives of countless generations of human beings before us. . . . We are social creatures to the inmost centre of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.
    • As quoted in Popper (1973) by Bryan Magee
  • Appealing to his [Einstein's] way of expressing himself in theological terms, I said: If God had wanted to put everything into the universe from the beginning, He would have created a universe without change, without organisms and evolution, and without man and man's experience of change. But he seems to have thought that a live universe with events unexpected even by Himself would be more interesting than a dead one.
    • As quoted in Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes by Charles Hartshorne (1984)
  • There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions. … It obviously endangers the freedom and the objectivity of our discussion if we attack a person instead of attacking an opinion or, more precisely, a theory.
    • "The Importance of Critical Discussion" in On the Barricades: Religion and Free Inquiry in Conflict (1989) by Robert Basil
  • Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.
    • The Open Universe : An Argument for Indeterminism (1992), p. 44
  • I think so badly of philosophy that I don't like to talk about it. ... I do not want to say anything bad about my dear colleagues, but the profession of teacher of philosophy is a ridiculous one. We don't need a thousand of trained, and badly trained, philosophers — it is very silly. Actually most of them have nothing to say.
    • As quoted in "At 90, and Still Dynamic : Revisiting Sir Karl Popper and Attending His Birthday Party" by Eugene Yue-Ching Ho, in Intellectus 23 (Jul-Sep 1992)
  • I appeal to the philosophers of all countries to unite and never again mention Heidegger or talk to another philosopher who defends Heidegger. This man was a devil. I mean, he behaved like a devil to his beloved teacher, and he has a devilish influence on Germany. ... One has to read Heidegger in the original to see what a swindler he was.
    • As quoted in "At 90, and Still Dynamic : Revisiting Sir Karl Popper and Attending His Birthday Party" by Eugene Yue-Ching Ho, in Intellectus 23 (Jul-Sep 1992)
  • When I speak of reason or rationalism, all I mean is the conviction that we can learn through criticism of our mistakes and errors, especially through criticism by others, and eventually also through self-criticism. A rationalist is simply someone for whom it is more important to learn than to be proved right; someone who is willing to learn from others — not by simply taking over another's opinions, but by gladly allowing others to criticize his ideas and by gladly criticizing the ideas of others. The emphasis here is on the idea of criticism or, to be more precise, critical discussion. The genuine rationalist does not think that he or anyone else is in possession of the truth; nor does he think that mere criticism as such helps us achieve new ideas. But he does think that, in the sphere of ideas, only critical discussion can help us sort the wheat from the chaff. He is well aware that acceptance or rejection of an idea is never a purely rational matter; but he thinks that only critical discussion can give us the maturity to see an idea from more and more sides and to make a correct judgement of it.
    • "On Freedom" in All Life is Problem Solving (1999)
  • Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.
    • As quoted in In Passing: Condolences and Complaints on Death, Dying, and Related Disappointments (2005) by Jon Winokur, p. 144
  • Philosophers should consider the fact that the greatest happiness principle can easily be made an excuse for a benevolent dictatorship. We should replace it by a more modest and more realistic principle — the principle that the fight against avoidable misery should be a recognized aim of public policy, while the increase of happiness should be left, in the main, to private initiative.
    • As quoted in 1,001 Pearls of Wisdom (2006) by David Ross
  • True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.

The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934) translated into English in 1959

No matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.
  • No matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.
    • Ch. 1 "A Survey of Some Fundamental Problems", Section I: The Problem of Induction
  • A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: "... this principle", says Reichenbach, "determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet's mind."
    Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
    • Ch. 1 "A Survey of Some Fundamental Problems", Section I: The Problem of Induction
  • The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.
    • Ch. 2 "On the Problem of a Theory of Scientific Method", Section XI: Methodological Rules as Conventions

The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)

We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.
  • If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes; and as the book tries to show, some of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization depends, and to divide them. The responsibility of this tragic and possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken in our criticism of what admittedly is a part of our intellectual heritage. By reluctance to criticize some of it, we may help to destroy it all.
    • Preface to the First Edition
  • I see now more clearly than ever before that even our greatest troubles spring from something that is as admirable and sound as it is dangerous — from our impatience to better the lot of our fellows. For these troubles are the by-products of what is perhaps the greatest of all moral and spiritual revolutions of history, a movement which began three centuries ago. It is the longing of uncounted unknown men to free themselves and their minds from the tutelage of authority and prejudice. It is their attempt to build up an open society which rejects the absolute authority to preserve, to develop, and to establish traditions, old or new, that measure up to their standards of freedom, of humaneness, and of rational criticism. It is their unwillingness to sit back and leave the entire responsibility for ruling the world to human or superhuman authority,and their readiness to share the burden of responsibility for avoidable suffering, and to work for its avoidance. This revolution has created powers of appalling destructiveness; but they may yet be conquered.
    • Preface to the Second Edition.
  • This book raises issues that might not be apparent from the table of contents.
    It sketches some of the difficulties faced by our civilization — a civilization which might be perhaps described as aiming at humanness and reasonableness, at equality and freedom; a civilization which is still in its infancy, as it were, and which continues to grow in spite of the fact that it has been so often betrayed by so many of the intellectual leaders of mankind. It attempts to show that this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth — the transition from the tribal or "enclosed society," with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society' which sets free the critical powers of man. It attempts to show that the shock of this transition is one of the factors that have made possible the rise of those reactionary movements which have tried, and still try, to overthrow civilization and to return to tribalism.
    • Introduction; part of this has sometimes been paraphrased : Our civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth — the transition from the tribal or 'closed society', with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society' which sets free the critical powers of man.
  • We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.
    • Introduction
If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
  • What a monument of human smallness is this idea of the philosopher king. What a contrast between it and the simplicity of humaneness of Socrates, who warned the statesmen against the danger of being dazzled by his own power, excellence, and wisdom, and who tried to teach him what matters most — that we are all frail human beings. What a decline from this world of irony and reason and truthfulness down to Plato's kingdom of the sage whose magical powers raise him high above ordinary men; although not quite high enough to forgo the use of lies, or to neglect the sorry trade of every shaman — the selling of spells, of breeding spells, in exchange for power over his fellow-men.
    • Vol. 1, Ch 8 "The Philosopher King"
  • The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.
    • Vol. 1, Endnotes to the Chapters : Notes to the Introduction.
  • The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.
    Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.
    • Vol. 1, Notes to the Chapters: Ch. 7, Note 4
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life.
  • We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.
    • Vol 2, Ch. 21 "An Evaluation of the Prophecy"
  • No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.
    • Vol 2, Ch. 23 "Oracular Philosophy and the Revolt against Reason"
  • There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as heroes.
    • Vol 2, Ch. 25 "Has History any Meaning?" Variant: There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world.

Utopia and Violence (1947)

The spirit of Hitlerism won its greatest victory over us when, after its defeat, we used the weapons which the threat of Nazism had induced us to develop.
Address to Institut des Arts in Brussels, Belgium (1947); later published The Hibbert Journal 46 (1948), and in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)
  • Not only do I hate violence, but I firmly believe that the fight against it is not hopeless. I realize that the task is difficult. I realize that, only too often in the course of history, it has happened that what appeared at first to be a great success in the fight against violence was followed by a defeat. I do not overlook the fact that the new age of violence which was opened by the two World wars is by no means at an end. Nazism and Fascism are thoroughly beaten, but I must admit that their defeat does not mean that barbarism and brutality have been defeated. On the contrary, it is no use closing our eyes to the fact that these hateful ideas achieved something like a victory in defeat. I have to admit that Hitler succeeded in degrading the moral standards of our Western world, and that in the world of today there is more violence and brutal force than would have been tolerated even in the decade after the first World war. And we must face the possibility that our civilization may ultimately be destroyed by those new weapons which Hitlerism wished upon us, perhaps even within the first decade after the second World war; for no doubt the spirit of Hitlerism won its greatest victory over us when, after its defeat, we used the weapons which the threat of Nazism had induced us to develop.
  • A rationalist, as I use the word, is a man who attempts to reach decisions by argument and perhaps, in certain cases, by compromise, rather than by violence. He is a man who would rather be unsuccessful in convincing another man by argument than successful in crushing him by force, by intimidation and threats, or even by persuasive propaganda.
  • We all remember how many religious wars were fought for a religion of love and gentleness; how many bodies were burned alive with the genuinely kind intention of saving souls from the eternal fire of hell. Only if we give up our authoritarian attitude in the realm of opinion, only if we establish the attitude of give and take, of readiness to learn from other people, can we hope to control acts of violence inspired by piety and duty.
  • There are many difficulties impeding the rapid spread of reasonableness. One of the main difficulties is that it always takes two to make a discussion reasonable. Each of the parties must be ready to learn from the other. You cannot have a rational discussion with a man who prefers shooting you to being convinced by you.
  • Do not allow your dreams of a beautiful world to lure you away from the claims of men who suffer here and now. Our fellow men have a claim to our help; no generation must be sacrificed for the sake of future generations, for the sake of an ideal of happiness that may never be realised.

On Freedom (1958)

"On Freedom" (1958; 1967) essay republished in Alles Leben ist Problemlösen (1994); translated as All Life is Problem Solving by Patrick Camiller (1994)
We do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves.
  • The true Enlightenment thinker, the true rationalist, never wants to talk anyone into anything. No, he does not even want to convince; all the time he is aware that he may be wrong. Above all, he values the intellectual independence of others too highly to want to convince them in important matters. He would much rather invite contradiction, preferably in the form of rational and disciplined criticism. He seeks not to convince but to arouse — to challenge others to form free opinions.
  • Although I consider our political world to be the best of which we have any historical knowledge, we should beware of attributing this fact to democracy or to freedom. Freedom is not a supplier who delivers goods to our door. Democracy does not ensure that anything is accomplished — certainly not an economic miracle. It is wrong and dangerous to extol freedom by telling people that they will certainly be all right once they are free. How someone fares in life is largely a matter of luck or grace, and to a comparatively small degree perhaps also of competence, diligence, and other virtues. The most we can say of democracy or freedom is that they give our personal abilities a little more influence on our well-being.
  • It is wrong to think that belief in freedom always leads to victory; we must always be prepared for it to lead to defeat. If we choose freedom, then we must be prepared to perish along with it. Poland fought for freedom as no other country did. The Czech nation was prepared to fight for its freedom in 1938; it was not lack of courage that sealed its fate. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 — the work of young people with nothing to lose but their chains — triumphed and then ended in failure. ... Democracy and freedom do not guarantee the millennium. No, we do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. Whether we realize its possibilities depends on all kinds of things — and above all on ourselves.

Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)

Our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.
I believe it is worthwhile trying to discover more about the world, even if this only teaches us how little we know.
Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths.
It is often asserted that discussion is only possible between people who have a common language and accept common basic assumptions. I think that this is a mistake.
There are all kinds of sources of our knowledge; but none has authority ...
  • The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance — the fact that our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.
    • Variant translation: The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, clear, and well-defined will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. The main source of our ignorance lies in the fact that our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.
  • What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach. We may admit that our groping is often inspired, but we must be on our guard against the belief, however deeply felt, that our inspiration carries any authority, divine or otherwise. If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far it may have penetrated into the unknown, then we can retain, without danger, the idea that truth is beyond human authority. And we must retain it. For without this idea there can be no objective standards of inquiry; no criticism of our conjectures; no groping for the unknown; no quest for knowledge.
    • Introduction "On The Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance" Section XVII, p.30 Variant translation: I believe it is worthwhile trying to discover more about the world, even if this only teaches us how little we know. It might do us good to remember from time to time that, while differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.
      If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far we may have penetrated into the unknown, then we can retain, without risk of dogmatism, the idea that truth itself is beyond all human authority. Indeed, we are not only able to retain this idea, we must retain it. For without it there can be no objective standards of scientific inquiry, no criticism of our conjectured solutions, no groping for the unknown, and no quest for knowledge.
  • Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths.
    • Ch. 1 "Science : Conjectures and Refutations", Section VII
  • The history of science, like the history of all human ideas, is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, and of error. But science is one of the very few human activities — perhaps the only one — in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected. This is why we can say that, in science, we often learn from our mistakes, and why we can speak clearly and sensibly about making progress there.
    • Ch. 1 "Science : Conjectures and Refutations"
  • Put in a nut-shell, my thesis amounts to this. The repeated attempts made by Rudolf Carnap to show that the demarcation between science and metaphysics coincides with that between sense and nonsense have failed. The reason is that the positivistic concept of 'meaning' or 'sense' (or of verifiability, or of inductive confirmability, etc.) is inappropriate for achieving this demarcation — simply because metaphysics need not be meaningless even though it is not science. In all its variations demarcation by meaninglessness has tended to be at the same time too narrow and too wide: as against all intentions and all claims, it has tended to exclude scientific theories as meaningless, while failing to exclude even that part of metaphysics which is known as 'rational theology'.
    • Ch 11. "The Demarcation between Science and Metaphysics." (Summary, p. 253)
  • It is often asserted that discussion is only possible between people who have a common language and accept common basic assumptions. I think that this is a mistake. All that is needed is a readiness to learn from one's partner in the discussion, which includes a genuine wish to understand what he intends to say. If this readiness is there, the discussion will be the more fruitful the more the partner's backgrounds differ.
    • p. 352
  • It seems to me certain that more people are killed out of righteous stupidity than out of wickedness.
    • p. 368
  • As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: "And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold."
  • I may illustrate this by two very different examples of human behaviour: that of a man who pushes a child into the water with the intention of drowning it; and that of a man who sacrifices his life in an attempt to save the child. Each of these two cases can be explained with equal ease in Freudian and in Adlerian terms. According to Freud the first man suffered from repression (say, of some component of his Oedipus complex), while the second man had achieved sublimation. According to Adler the first man suffered from feelings of inferiority (producing perhaps the need to prove to himself that he dared to commit some crime), and so did the second man (whose need was to prove to himself that he dared to rescue the child). I could not think of any human behaviour which could not be interpreted in terms of either theory. It was precisely this fact — that they always fitted, that they were always confirmed — which in the eyes of their admirers constituted the strongest argument in favour of these theories. It began to dawn on me that this apparent strength was in fact their weakness.
  • There are all kinds of sources of our knowledge; but none has authority ... The fundamental mistake made by the philosophical theory of the ultimate sources of our knowledge is that it does not distinguish clearly enough between questions of origin and questions of validity.

Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (1976)

Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you.
  • Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you.
    • Page 29
  • Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program.
    • Unsourced variant: Evolution is not a fact. Evolution doesn't even qualify as a theory or as a hypothesis. It is a metaphysical research program, and it is not really testable science.
Popper later retracted his criticisms:
  • I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation.
  • "Natural selection and the emergence of mind" dialectica Vol. 32 (1978), p. 339-355; republished in Evolutionary Epistemology, Rationality, and the Sociology of Knowledge (1987) edited by Gerard Radnitzky and W. W. Bartley, III

In Search of a Better World (1994)

All things living are in search of a better world.
  • All things living are in search of a better world.
    • Preface
  • The belief in a political Utopia is especially dangerous. This is possibly connected with the fact that the search for a better world, like the investigation of our environment, is (if I am correct) one of the oldest and most important of all the instincts.
  • Our aim as scientists is objective truth; more truth, more interesting truth, more intelligible truth. We cannot reasonably aim at certainty. Once we realize that human knowledge is fallible, we realize also that we can never be completely certain that we have not made a mistake.
  • There are uncertain truths — even true statements that we may take to be false — but there are no uncertain certainties.
    Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.
  • Why do I think that we, the intellectuals, are able to help? Simply because we, the intellectuals, have done the most terrible harm for thousands of years. Mass murder in the name of an idea, a doctrine, a theory, a religion — that is all our doing, our invention: the invention of the intellectuals. If only we would stop setting man against man — often with the best intentions — much would be gained. Nobody can say that it is impossible for us to stop doing this.

Unsourced

  • Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again.

Misattributed

These are quotations that have been wrongly attributed to Popper
  • To be ignorant of the past is to remain a child.
  • The deepest, the only theme of human history, compared to which all others are of subordinate importance, is the conflict of skepticism with faith.
  • Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
  • When we enter a new situation in life and are confronted by a new person, we bring with us the prejudices of the past and our previous experiences of people. These prejudices we project upon the new person. Indeed, getting to know a person is largely a matter of withdrawing projections; of dispelling the smoke screen of what we imagine he is like and replacing it with the reality of what he is actually like.

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