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

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 most 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.

There is no pure, disinterested, theory-free observation,

We have become makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.

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.

The early Greek tribal society resembles in many respects that of peoples like the Polynesians, the Maoris for instance. Small bands of warriors, usually living in fortified settlements, ruled by tribal chiefs or kings, or by aristocratic families, were waging war against one another on sea as well as on land.

The quest for precision is analogous to the quest for certainty and both - precision and certainty are impossible to attain.

There will be well-testable theories, hardly testable theories, and non-testable theories. Those which are non-testable are of no interest to empirical scientists. They may be described as metaphysical.

We have the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should tolerate even them whenever we can do so without running a great risk; but the risk may become so great that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury.

Science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systematically criticized and, in time, corrected.

The empirical basis of objective science has nothing ?absolute? about it. Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or ?given? base; and when we cease our attempts to drive our piles into a deeper layer, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that they are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.

The question is not how to get good people to rule; THE QUESTION IS: HOW TO STOP THE POWERFUL from doing as much damage as they can to us.

This book raises issues that might not be apparent from the table of contents.

We know a great deal, but our ignorance is sobering and boundless. With each step forward, with each problem which we solve, we not only discover new and unsolved problems, but we also discover that where we believed that we were standing on firm and safe ground, all things are, in truth, insecure and in a state of flux.

Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thorough-going an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at a posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgements of all kinds remain necessary.

The fundamental thing about human languages is that they can and should be used to describe something; and this something is, somehow, the world. To be constantly and almost exclusively interested in the medium - in spectacle-cleaning - is a result of a philosophical mistake.

The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.

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.

We never know what we are talking about.

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.

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