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

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 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.

[The aim of science is] to explain what so far has taken to be an explicans, such as a law of nature. The task of empirical science constantly renews itself. We may go on forever, proceeding to explanations of a higher and higher universality.

The scientific tradition is distinguished from the pre-scientific tradition by having two layers. Like the latter, it passes on its theories; but it also passes on a critical attitude towards them.

The old scientific ideal of episteme — of absolutely certain, demonstrable knowledge — has proved to be an idol. The demand for scientific objectivity makes it inevitable that every scientific statement must remain tentative for ever.

The growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called 'natural selection'; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses: our knowledge consists, at every moment, of those hypotheses which have shown their (comparative) fitness by surviving so far in their struggle for existence, a competitive struggle which eliminates those hypotheses which are unfit.

My thesis is that what we call 'science' is differentiated from the older myths not by being something distinct from a myth, but by being accompanied by a second-order tradition—that of critically discussing the myth. … In a certain sense, science is myth-making just as religion is.

In my view, aiming at simplicity and lucidity is a moral duty of all intellectuals: lack of clarity is a sin, and pretentiousness is a crime.

I think that we shall have to get accustomed to the idea that we must not look upon science as a 'body of knowledge', but rather as a system of hypotheses; that is to say, as a system of guesses or anticipations which in principle cannot be justified, but with which we work as long as they stand up to tests, and of which we are never justified in saying that we know they are 'true' or 'more or less certain' or even 'probable'.

Great scientists... are men of bold ideas, but highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying first to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.

Nature consists of facts and of regularities, and is in itself neither moral nor immoral. It is we who impose our standards upon nature, and who in this way introduce morals into the natural world, in spite the fact that we are part of this world. We are products of nature, but nature has made us together with our power of altering the world, of foreseeing and of planning for the future, and of making far-reaching decisions for which we are morally responsible. Yet, responsibility, decisions, enter the world of nature only with us.

We should realize that, if [Socrates] demanded that the wisest men should rule, he clearly stressed that he did not mean the learned men; in fact, he was skeptical of all professional learnedness, whether it was that of the philosophers or of the learned men of his own generation, the Sophists. The wisdom he meant was of a different kind. It was simply the realization: how little do I know! Those who did not know this, he taught, knew nothing at all. This is the true scientific spirit.

All life is problem solving.

All things living are in search of a better world. Men, animals, plants, even unicellular organisms are constantly active. They are trying to improve their situation, or at least to avoid its deterioration… Every organism is constantly preoccupied with the task of solving problems. These problems arise from its own assessments of its condition and of its environment; conditions which the organism seeks to improve… We can see that life — even at the level of the unicellular organism — brings something completely new into the world, something that did not previously exist: problems and active attempts to solve them; assessments, values; trial and error.

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.

It seems to me certain that more people are killed out of righteous stupidity than out of wickedness.

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.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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