Karl Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper

Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper

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

Author Quotes

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.

I hold that he who teaches that not reason but love should rule opens up the way for those who rule by hate.

If you can't say it simply and clearly, keep quiet, and keep working on it till you can.

It is the rule which says that the other rules of scientific procedure must be designed in such a way that they do not protect any statement in science against falsification.

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.

I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.

If you know that things are bound to happen whatever you do, then you may feel free to give up the fight against them.

It is wrong and dangerous to extol freedom by telling people that they will certainly be all right once they are free... The most we can say of democracy or freedom is that they give our personal abilities a little more influence on our well-being.

Optimism is a duty. The future is open. It is not predetermined. No one can predict it, except by chance. We all contribute to determining it by what we do. We are all equally responsible for its success.

I may illustrate this by two very different examples of human behavior: 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 behavior 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 favor of these theories. It began to dawn on me that this apparent strength was in fact their weakness.

In point of fact, no conclusive disproof of a theory can ever be produced; for it is always possible to say that the experimental results are not reliable or that the discrepancies which are asserted to exist between the experimental results and the theory are only apparent and that they will disappear with the advance of our understanding. If you insist on strict proof (or strict disproof) in the empirical sciences, you will never benefit from experience, and never learn from it how wrong you are.

It is wrong to ask who will rule. The ability to vote a bad government out of office is enough. That is democracy.

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.

I personally call the type of government which can be removed without violence 'democracy,' and the other, 'tyranny.'

Is the world ruled by strict laws or not? This question I regard as metaphysical. The laws we find are always hypotheses; which means that they may always be superseded, and that they may possibly be deduced from probability estimates. Yet denying causality would be the same as attempting to persuade the theorist to give up his search; and that such an attempt cannot be backed by anything like a proof...

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.

Our aim must be to make our successive mistakes as quickly as possible. To speed up evolution.

I remained a socialist for several years, even after my rejection of Marxism; and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important than equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.

It can't happen here is always wrong: a dictatorship can happen anywhere.

It must be possible for an empirical system to be refuted by experience.

Our belief in any particular natural law cannot have a safer basis than our unsuccessful critical attempts to refute it.

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.

It is a myth that the success of science in our time is mainly due to the huge amounts of money that have been spent on big machines. What really makes science grow is new ideas, including false ideas.

It seems to me that I may be living too long. Indeed: my nearest relations have all died, and so have some of my best friends, and even some of my best pupils. However, I do not have a reason to complain. I am grateful and happy to be alive, and still be able to continue with my work, if only just. My work seems to me more important than ever.

Our greatest troubles spring from something that is as admirable as it is dangerous ... our impatience to better the lot of our fellows.

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Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper
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Austro-British Scientific Philosopher and Professor at the London School of Economics