Karl Popper

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.

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.

QuotesEdit

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...
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.
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)
  • For it was my master who taught me not only how very little I knew but also that any wisdom to which I might ever aspire could consist only in realizing more fully the infinity of my ignorance.[citation needed]
  • 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.
  • Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again.
    • As quoted in My Universe : A Transcendent Reality (2011) by Alex Vary, Part II

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

...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, p. 27
  • 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
  • Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her. And we must hazard them to win our prize. Those among us who are unwilling to expose their ideas to the hazard of refutation do not take part in the scientific game.
    • Ch. 10 "Corroboration, or How a Theory Stands up to Tests", section 85: The Path of Science, p. 280

The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)Edit

We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.
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.
We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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. 24 "Oracular Philosophy and the Revolt against Reason"
  • I do not overlook the fact that there are irrationalists who love mankind, and that not all forms of irrationalism engender criminality. But I hold that he who teaches that not reason but love should rule opens up the way for those who rule by hate. (Socrates, I believe, saw something of this when he suggested that mistrust or hatred of argument is related to mistrust or hatred of man).
    • Vol. 2, Ch. 24 "Oracular Philosophy and the Revolt against Reason"
  • ... the attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell. It leads to intolerance. It leads to religious wars, and to the saving of souls through the inquisition. And it is, I believe, based on a complete misunderstanding of our moral duties. It is our duty to help those who need help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intentions.
    • Vol. 2, Ch. 24 "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)Edit

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)Edit

"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)Edit

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.
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)Edit

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 (1984)Edit

All things living are in search of a better world.
  • 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.


MisattributedEdit

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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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 14:41