Despite this negative conclusion regarding one of Hacohen’s aims I do not want to leave the reader with an unfavourable impression of the book. It is a work of quite remarkable scholarship, well organised, clearly and vigorously written. It will provoke debate among friends of Popper’s ideas, and perhaps among others who are less friendly. It should lead to a reconsideration of Popper’s low standing in contemporary philosophy. It stands as a monument to Popper’s indomitable spirit and to the support of many people, not all of them adequately recognised by Popper himself, who helped him on his way. These include some members of the Vienna Circle, Karl Buhler, Robert Lammer (the diligent first reader of Logik Der Forschung), Ernst Gombrich and Colin Simkin. May they never be forgotten.
Despite all the pressures of the times, the loneliness and isolation of New Zealand, the dreadful news from home, the threat of the Japanese advance, his teaching load and problems with his Professor (described in Roger Sandall’s book The Culture Cult), The Open Society and its Enemies was eventually written and dispatched. This book can be seen as a kind of “Battle of Britain” in the world of ideas, a desperate counterpart to the struggle where young men daily took to the air in the skies over the South of England with the future of civilisation virtually in their hands. On the other side of the world a relatively young Karl Popper patrolled the stratosphere of the world of ideas, confronting those from Heraclitus and Plato to the present day whose ideas he thought were undermining the cause of freedom and the open society. Like the young men in their Hurricanes and Spitfires, he did not fly in vain. The Open Society joined Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom to provide twin pillars of resistance to totalitarian thinking post WWII.
This paper is a tribute to two books which were inspired by Karl Popper, The Republic of Science by Ian Jarvie and The Organization of Inquiry by Gordon Tullock. Jarvie’s book attracted little attention and Tullock’s book has hardly been noticed in the Popper literature and so this is a belated call for recognition of their efforts. The paper contains a summary of the main theme of The Republic of Science and suggests that the social or institutional theme provides a common thread in Popper’s philosophy of science and his approach to politics, a theme which is shared with Hayek’s work on law, legislation and liberty. Space permits only a limited commentary on Tullock’s powerful and subtle argument which is relevant to concerns about the governance of science today.
For English-speaking people Popper first signaled what Jarvie called his “social turn” in Chapter 23 of The Open Society and Its Enemies and in Sections 31 and 32 of the Poverty of Historicism. Popper confronted Karl Mannheim’s exposition of the Marxist doctrine that our beliefs are determined by class interest and by the social and historical situation of our time. In defence of scientific objectivity Popper turned the sociology of knowledge on its head by arguing that its focus on the origin of subjective beliefs did not engage with its proper object of inquiry, namely knowledge as a public or social product. He claimed that the objectivity of science comes from the process of more or less free criticism in the scientific community.
Of course he was the only person in sight apart from the Station Master. Popper, then aged 70, had what his research assistant tactfully described as a “very positive” attitude to driving. Fortunately it was not far to his home and there were few other cars on the road. Safely home, our conversation laboured, and he frequently pushed a tray of choc-chip cookies towards me. Later he lamented to his assistant that I had eaten a whole weeks supply of his favorite cookies in one afternoon. These aspects of Popper are the other face of the man who some described as “the totalitarian liberal”.
is a major 20th century text, a book that often feels familiar even to many who have not read it. Seen as a call for the 'open society' and for democratic institutions, it was considered particularly relevant in the Cold War-era. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Popper's world view seems to have emerged as triumphant, but the book is still well worth revisiting: the struggles between the interests of the state and those of the individual -- and a pull towards the 'closed society' -- continue even in advanced democratic states, while historicism (vigorously denounced by Popper) continues to find widespread support.
is presented largely as a critical book. Popper does emphasise what he believes we should aspire to (first and foremost: a democratic foundation to any form of government), but the argument is largely framed within a disproof of popular systems.
The book is divided into two parts. The first, 'The Spell of Plato', is a devastating and very sharp critique of Plato's philosophy and ideology. The second, 'The High Tide of Prophecy', takes on Marx -- though Popper softens his criticism by excusing much of what Marx wrote based on the context and the times; the real target of this section, the man whose work Popper holds to have been far more damaging, is Hegel.
Popper embarks on his work with a very clear idea of what is desirable: it is time for the 'open society', the one which: "sets free the critical powers of man" and "in which individuals are confronted with personal decisions" (a big step forward (so Popper) from the tribal or 'closed society'). But keeping society open in this way is no easy task; totalitarianism often lurks nearby, some arguing even that it is inevitable. Popper will have none of that: democracy is the best solution, and it triumph (though it helps if one is aware of the constant threats against it).
A major part of his argument is also against , the idea that, like scientific laws, there are laws of history (which we can figure out) with predictive value, allowing us to look and -- more importantly -- plan ahead. Popper argues: it hasn't worked, and it won't work -- and it leads down a blind and dangerous alley.
In his section on 'The Spell of Plato' Popper does everything to break it. He holds Plato's ideas on governance to be outrageous and foolish. From Plato's racialist arguments -- defending infanticide, because: 'The race of the guardians must be kept pure' -- on Popper believes that:
Both articles appear in the textbook to this class.
In the article, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations", Karl Popper attempts to describe the criteria that a theory must meet for it to be considered scientific.
As Popper asserts, what is needed is the maximum possible tolerance in the operation of our free institutions, but the paradox is: too much freedom will do away with freedom, thus government intervention is necessary to guarantee freedom; it is, however, a "dangerous weapon: without it, or too little, freedom dies; but with too much of it freedom dies also."
In this work, Sir Karl sets forth a fundamental thesis of his, that, the belief in historical destiny is sheer superstition, and that there can be no prediction of the course of human history by scientific or any other rational method.
demarcation criterion by Karl Popper
“What contribution, if any, does the demarcation criterion by Karl Popper make to the maintenance of psychology as a scientific discipline?
Popper advanced his view of science in Die Logik der Forschung (1934, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, first translated in 1959). He developed the notion of falsifiability as his demarcation criterion between science and nonscience, inspired by German physicist Albert Einstein’s revolutionary—and risky, because improbable and falsifiable—theory of relativity. According to this criterion, a theory incompatible with possible empirical observations (i.e., data derived through observation or experiment) is scientific, while theories compatible with all such observations are unscientific, if not necessarily meaningless nor irredeemable. Because all empirical observations are selective, conditional, and fallible, science cannot be distinguished from nonscience on the basis of methodology; but to use falsifiability for this purpose instead, a distinction must be made between its logic and its application. Concretely, while testing a scientific theory means attempting to refute or falsify it, in practice, no single counterexample nor even accumulating counterevidence may be enough to reject it, especially in the absence of alternatives. Thus, although it is logically impossible to conclusively prove or verify a theory, one can amass a convincing amount of corroboration for it. But at the same time, a theory can always be superseded by a better theory that explains more. Unlike traditional empiricists, Popper holds that experience cannot shape theories, but it helps to eliminate false theories and choose, among the remainder, the best available in terms of explanatory and predictive power. All human knowledge, therefore, is hypothetical and provisional.
Through the 1920s and 1930s he wrote a series of papers on philosophical and methodological issues and it is interesting to recall this time when Mises spent his days trying to steer the Austrian economy and the nights grappling with the fundamentals of economics (Grundprobleme der Nationalekonomie). Not far away Karl Popper taught high school maths and science, then went home to work on the fundamentals of scientific method (Grundprobleme der Erkenntnistheorie).