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

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.

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.

Propose theories which can be criticized. Think about possible decisive falsifying experiments?crucial experiments. But do not give up your theories too easily?not, at any rate, before you have critically examined your criticism.

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.

The influence (for good or ill) of Plato's work is immeasurable. Western thought, one might say, has been Platonic or anti-Platonic, but hardly ever non-Platonic.

The war of ideas is a Greek invention. It is one of the most important inventions ever made. Indeed, the possibility of fighting with words and ideas instead of fighting with swords is the very basis of our civilization, and especially of all its legal and parliamentary institutions.

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