Karl Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper

Karl
Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper
1902
1994

Austro-British Scientific Philosopher and Professor at the London School of Economics

Author Quotes

Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification ? the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.

The future depends on ourselves, and we do not depend on any historical necessity.

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.

This is why the conflict between rationalism and irrationalism has become the most important intellectual, and perhaps even moral, issue of our time.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

Serious rational criticism is so rare that it should be encouraged. Being too ready to defend oneself is more dangerous than being too ready to admit a mistake.

The future is always present, as a promise, a lure and a temptation.

The survival value of intelligence is that it allows us to extinct a bad idea, before the idea extincts us.

Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.

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.

Simple statements are to be prized more highly than less simple ones because they tell us more; because their empirical content is greater; and because they are better testable.

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.

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.

Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).

What really makes science grow is new ideas, including false ideas.

Some scientists find, or so it seems, that they get their best ideas when smoking; others by drinking coffee or whisky. Thus there is no reason why I should not admit that some may get their ideas by observing, or by repeating observations.

The growth of knowledge depends entirely upon disagreement.

The use of violence is justified only under a tyranny which makes reforms without violence impossible, and should have only one aim, that is, to bring about a state of affairs which makes reforms without violence possible.

Thus 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.

What we need and what we want is to moralize politics, not to politicize morals.

Plato felt that a complete reconstruction of society's political program was needed.

The answer to this problem is: as implied by Hume, we certainly are not justified in reasoning from an instance to the truth of the corresponding law. But to this negative result a second result, equally negative, may be added: we are justified in reasoning from a counterinstance to the falsity of the corresponding universal law (that is, of any law of which it is a counterinstance). Or in other words, from a purely logical point of view, the acceptance of one counterinstance to 'All swans are white' implies the falsity of the law 'All swans are white' - that law, that is, whose counterinstance we accepted. Induction is logically invalid; but refutation or falsification is a logically valid way of arguing from a single counterinstance to - or, rather, against - the corresponding law. This shows that I continue to agree with Hume's negative logical result; but I extend it. This logical situation is completely independent of any question of whether we would, in practice, accept a single counterinstance - for example, a solitary black swan - in refutation of a so far highly successful law. I do not suggest that we would necessarily be so easily satisfied; we might well suspect that the black specimen before us was not a swan."

The history of science is everywhere speculative. It is a marvelous hiatory. It makes you proud to be a human being.

The Vienna Circle was empiricist and phenomenalist, Popper was a critical rationalist.

Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.

Author Picture
First Name
Karl
Last Name
Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper
Birth Date
1902
Death Date
1994
Bio

Austro-British Scientific Philosopher and Professor at the London School of Economics