Karl Popper on knowledge and ignorance

Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FBA FRS (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British philosopher and professor. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favour of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments.



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3 responses to “Karl Popper on knowledge and ignorance

  1. “A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified…”

    Be careful, that is the LOGIC of FALSIFIABILITY. in the world of science, as Popper pointed out, there cannot be decisive FALSIFICATION due to the fallibility of instruments and the theoretical assumptions that are involved in observations and experiments. That does not undermine the importance of testing to locate new problems and to minimise the damage from confirmation bias; it means that Popper was never a “naïve falsificationist”,

    At that point Popper introduced the idea of methodological conventions or “rules of the game” of science which good scientists will observe (after critical scrutiny) to maintain “best practice”.. That meant high standards of criticism and testing, as occurred when Eccles falsified his own theory of neurotransmission, on advice from Popper, to make it stricter and easier to test. Give the rising concern about bad science that is being discussed, it is time to be more alert to the rules of the game that are employed outside the laboratory in the refereeing and peer review processes, and also in science journalism.


  2. Unlike scientists, leading philosophers like Popper are hardly ever ‘superseded’ by the likes of Kuhn et al – they just have a different position. There is often no right or wrong position in philosophy, unless it is badly argued or self-contradictory, which does not apply to Popper’s work.


  3. There is a lot more to Popper’s theory of knowledge than students are usually told when he is descrbed as a falsificationist whose work was superseded by Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend. It helps to get hold of several ways that Popper challenged the mainstream of philosophy, and not just the philosophy of science. I have called those challenges the “Poperian turns” in this paper.


    Some people thought the turns were changes in the direction of his own ideas so I have lately called them Popperian “themes”.


    Liked by 1 person

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