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Cohen on thecontinuum hypothesisPaul J.
Popper’s critique of both historicism and holism is balanced, on thepositive side, by his affirmation of the ideals of individualism andmarket economics and his strong defence of the open society—theview, again, that a society is equivalent to the sum of its members,that the actions of the members of society serve to fashion and toshape it, and that the social consequences of intentional actions arevery often, and very largely, unintentional. This part of his socialphilosophy was influenced by the economist Friedrich Hayek, who workedwith him at the London School of Economics and who was a life-longfriend. Popper advocated what he (rather unfortunately) terms‘piecemeal social engineering’ as the central mechanismfor social planning—for in utilising this mechanism intentionalactions are directed to the achievement of one specific goal at atime, which makes it possible to monitor the situation to determinewhether adverse unintended effects of intentional actions occur, inorder to correct and readjust when this proves necessary. This, ofcourse, parallels precisely the critical testing of theories inscientific investigation. This approach to social planning (which isexplicitly based upon the premise that we do not, because we cannot,know what the future will be like) encourages attempts to put rightwhat is problematic in society—generally-acknowledged socialills—rather than attempts to impose some preconceived idea ofthe ‘good’ upon society as a whole. For this reason, in agenuinely open society piecemeal social engineering goes hand-in-handfor Popper with negative utilitarianism (the attempt tominimise the amount of misery, rather than, as with positiveutilitarianism, the attempt to maximise the amount of happiness). Thestate, he holds, should concern itself with the task of progressivelyformulating and implementing policies designed to deal with the socialproblems which actually confront it, with the goal of eliminatinghuman misery and suffering to the highest possible degree. Thepositive task of increasing social and personal happiness, bycontrast, can and should be left to individual citizens (whomay, of course, act collectively to this end), who, unlike the state,have at least a chance of achieving this goal, but who in a freesociety are rarely in a position to systematically subvert the rightsof others in the pursuit of idealised objectives. Thus in the finalanalysis for Popper the activity of problem-solving is as definitiveof our humanity at the level of social and political organisation asit is at the level of science, and it is this key insight whichunifies and integrates the broad spectrum of his thought.
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The dream hypothesis will increase the number of fully-functioning souls, that is to say, beings with the capacity to decide rationally what game to play, what interpretation to accept, what routine to follow.
Plato's five regimes - Wikipedia
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Popper’s final position is that he acknowledges that it is impossibleto discriminate science from non-science on the basis of thefalsifiability of the scientific statements alone; herecognizes that scientific theories are predictive, and consequentlyprohibitive, only when taken in conjunction with auxiliaryhypotheses, and he also recognizes that readjustment or modificationof the latter is an integral part of scientific practice. Hence hisfinal concern is to outline conditions which indicate when suchmodification is genuinely scientific, and when it is merely adhoc. This is itself clearly a major alteration in his position,and arguably represents a substantial retraction on his part: Marxismcan no longer be dismissed as ‘unscientific’ simplybecause its advocates preserved the theory from falsification bymodifying it (for in general terms, such a procedure, it nowtranspires, is perfectly respectable scientific practice). It is nowcondemned as unscientific by Popper because the onlyrationale for the modifications which were made to theoriginal theory was to ensure that it evaded falsification, and sosuch modifications were ad hoc, rather than scientific. Thiscontention—though not at all implausible—has, to hostileeyes, a somewhat contrived air about it, and is unlikely to worry theconvinced Marxist. On the other hand, the shift in Popper’s own basicposition is taken by some critics as an indicator thatfalsificationism, for all its apparent merits, fares no better in thefinal analysis than verificationism.
This reply is adequate only if it is true, as Popper assumes, thatsingular existential statements will always do the work ofbridging the gap between a universal theory and a prediction. HilaryPutnam in particular has argued that this assumption is false, in thatin some cases at least the statements required to bridge this gap(which he calls ‘auxiliary hypotheses’) are general ratherthan particular, and consequently that when the prediction turns outto be false we have no way of knowing whether this is due to thefalsity of the scientific law or the falsity of the auxiliaryhypotheses. The working scientist, Putnam argues, always initiallyassumes that it is the latter, which shows not only that scientificlaws are, contra Popper, highly resistant to falsification,but also why they are so highly resistant to falsification.
The Internet Classics Archive | Phaedo by Plato
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The annexation of Austria in 1938 became the catalyst which promptedPopper to refocus his writings on social and political philosophy andhe published The Open Society and Its Enemies, his critiqueof totalitarianism, in 1945. In 1946 he moved to England to teach atthe London School of Economics, and became professor of logic andscientific method at the University of London in 1949. From this pointon his reputation and stature as a philosopher of science and socialthinker grew enormously, and he continued to write prolifically—a number of his works, particularly The Logic of ScientificDiscovery (1959), are now widely seen as pioneering classics inthe field. However, he combined a combative personality with a zealfor self-aggrandisement that did little to endear him to professionalcolleagues at a personal level. He was ill-at-ease in thephilosophical milieu of post-war Britain which was, as he saw it,fixated with trivial linguistic concerns dictated by Wittgenstein,whom he considered to be his nemesis. Popper was a somewhatparadoxical man, whose theoretic commitment to the primacy of rationalcriticism was counterpointed by hostility towards anything thatamounted to less than total acceptance of his own thought, and inBritain—as had been the case in Vienna—he becameincreasingly an isolated figure, though his ideas continued to inspireadmiration.
The dream hypothesis is thus widely and rightly viewed as a threat to any traditional established order; for the sake of order, it must be fought and censored.
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Phaedo by Plato, part of the Internet Classics Archive
These beliefs lead to what Popper calls ‘The HistoricistDoctrine of the Social Sciences’, the views (a) that theprincipal task of the social sciences is to make predictions about thesocial and political development of man, and (b) that the task ofpolitics, once the key predictions have been made, is, in Marx’swords, to lessen the ‘birth pangs’ of future social andpolitical developments. Popper thinks that this view of the socialsciences is both theoretically misconceived (in the sense of beingbased upon a view of natural science and its methodology which istotally wrong), and socially dangerous, as it leads inevitably tototalitarianism and authoritarianism—to centralised governmentalcontrol of the individual and the attempted imposition of large-scalesocial planning. Against this Popper strongly advances the view thatany human social grouping is no more (or less) than the sum of itsindividual members, that what happens in history is the (largelyunplanned and unforeseeable) result of the actions of suchindividuals, and that large scale social planning to an antecedentlyconceived blueprint is inherently misconceived—and inevitablydisastrous—precisely because human actions have consequenceswhich cannot be foreseen. Popper, then, is an historical indeterminist, insofar as he holds that history does not evolvein accordance with intrinsic laws or principles, that in the absenceof such laws and principles unconditional prediction in the socialsciences is an impossibility, and that there is no such thing ashistorical necessity.
Dreaming, Philosophy of | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
How then can one be certain that one is questioning the right thing?The Popperian answer is that we cannot have absolute certainty here,but repeated tests usually show where the trouble lies. Evenobservation statements, Popper maintains, are fallible, and science inhis view is not a quest for certain knowledge, but an evolutionaryprocess in which hypotheses or conjectures are imaginatively proposedand tested in order to explain facts or to solve problems. Popperemphasises both the importance of questioning the background knowledgewhen the need arises, and the significance of the fact thatobservation-statements are theory-laden, and hence fallible. For whilefalsifiability is simple as a logical principle, in practice it isexceedingly complicated—no single observation can ever be takento falsify a theory, for there is always the possibility (a) that theobservation itself is mistaken, or (b) that the assumed backgroundknowledge is faulty or defective.
Karl Popper (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
At a very general level, Popper argues that historicism and holismhave their origins in what he terms ‘one of the oldest dreams ofmankind—the dream of prophecy, the idea that we can know whatthe future has in store for us, and that we can profit from suchknowledge by adjusting our policy to it.’ (Conjectures andRefutations, 338). This dream was given further impetus, hespeculates, by the emergence of a genuine predictive capabilityregarding such events as solar and lunar eclipses at an early stage inhuman civilisation, which has of course become increasingly refinedwith the development of the natural sciences and their concomitanttechnologies. The kind of reasoning which has made, and continues tomake, historicism plausible may, on this account, be reconstructed asfollows: if the application of the laws of the natural sciences canlead to the successful prediction of such future events as eclipses,then surely it is reasonable to infer that knowledge of the laws ofhistory as yielded by a social science or sciences (assuming that suchlaws exist) would lead to the successful prediction of such futuresocial phenomena as revolutions? Why should it be possible to predictan eclipse, but not a revolution? Why can we not conceive of a socialscience which could and would function as the theoretical naturalsciences function, and yield precise unconditional predictions in theappropriate sphere of application? These are amongst the questionswhich Popper seeks to answer, and in doing so, to show that they arebased upon a series of misconceptions about the nature of science, andabout the relationship between scientific laws and scientificprediction.
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