Saturday, September 20, 2014

KARL POPPER - Philosopher of Science

by James Craig Green

Karl Popper (1902-1994) has become one of my favorite philosophers, because he dared to challenge the orthodoxy that so often permeates all fields of knowledge, including science itself and especially, popular examples of pseudo-science such as socialism, Marxism and today's angry, destructive obsession with political correctness.

I continue to be amazed at how many of my free market heroes started out flirting with, and then abandoned, Marxism and other forms of socialism, like Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane, and Karl Popper.

I will begin with a link to a three-page bio of Popper, from which I have chosen some excerpts, copied below. I have added bold type, some of which is in italics and underlined, to emphasize what I consider to be some of Popper's particularly profound insights.

Craig Green

EXCERPTS from Popper bio:

Karl Popper is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of this century. He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed `critical-rationalist', a dedicated opponent of all forms of skepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally, a committed advocate and staunch defender of the `Open Society', and an implacable critic of totalitarianism in all of its forms. One of the many remarkable features of Popper's thought is the scope of his intellectual influence. In the modern technological and highly-specialised world scientists are rarely aware of the work of philosophers; it is virtually unprecedented to find them queuing up, as they have done in Popper's case, to testify to the enormously practical beneficial impact which that philosophical work has had upon their own...

1919 was in many aspects the most important formative year of his intellectual life. In that year, he became heavily involved in left-wing politics, joined the Association of Socialist School Students, and became for a time a Marxist. However, he was quickly disillusioned with the doctrinaire character of the latter, and soon abandoned it entirely.... The dominance of the critical spirit in Einstein, and its total absence in Marx, Freud and Adler, struck Popper as being of fundamental importance: the latter, he came to think, couched their theories in terms which made them amenable only to confirmation, while Einstein's theory, crucially, had testable implications which, if false, would have falsified the theory itself... (emphasis added by Craig)

...The principle objective of the members of the Circle was to unify the sciences, which carried with it, in their view, the need to eliminate metaphysics once and for all by showing that metaphysical propositions are meaningless. Thus was born the movement in philosophy known as logical positivism, and its chief tool became the verification principle... Popper was heavily critical of the main tenets of logical positivism, especially of what he considered to be its misplaced focus on the theory of meaning in philosophy and upon verification in scientific methodology. He articulated his own view of science, and his criticisms of the positivists, in his first work, published under the title of Logik der Forschung in 1934. The book - which he was later to claim rang the death knell for logical positivism - attracted more attention than Popper had anticipated, and he was invited to lecture in England in 1935. He spent the next few years working productively in science and philosophy, but storm clouds were gathering - the growth of Nazism in Germany and Austria compelled him, like many other intellectuals who shared his Jewish origins, to leave his native country.

...In 1946 he moved to England to teach at the London School of Economics, and became professor of logic and scientific method at the University of London in 1949. From this point on Popper's reputation and stature as a philosopher of science and social thinker grew enormously, and he continued to write prolifically - a number of his works, particularly The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), are now universally accepted as classics in the field. He was knighted in 1965, and retired from the University of London in 1969, though he remained active as a writer, broadcaster and lecturer until his death in 1994.


Two links follow, with more detail about Popper's revolutionary philosophy and logic. I cannot overemphasize the importance of Popper's work, which so completely destroyed the irrational bias and duplicity of many modern attempts to describe personal belief as "scientific."

(excellent 7-page expansion and clarification of introductory article)


Wikipedia Article on Karl Popper: