The mental process of critical rationalism

It is the fashion of the present time to disparage negative logic—that which points out weaknesses in theory or errors in practice, without establishing positive truths. Such negative criticism would indeed be poor enough as an ultimate re­sult; but as a means to attaining any positive knowledge or conviction worthy the name, it cannot be valued too highly; and until people are again systematically trained to it, there will be few great thinkers, and a low general average of intellect, in any but the mathematical and physical departments of speculation. On any other subject no one’s opinions deserve the name of knowledge, except so far as he has either had forced upon him by others, or gone through of him­self, the same mental process which would have been required of him in carrying on an active controversy with oppo­nents. That, therefore, which when absent, it is so indispensable, but so difficult, to create, how worse than absurd is it to forego, when spontaneously offering itself! If there are any persons who contest a received opinion, or who will do so if law or opinion will let them, let us thank them for it, open our minds to listen to them, and rejoice that there is some one to do for us what we otherwise ought, if we have any regard for either the certainty or the vitality of our convictions, to do with much greater labour for ourselves. [ch. II, 57-8]

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  1. […] Und an manchen Stellen müssen wir dem Publikum auch sagen: Meinungsfreiheit bedeutet zwar, dass niemandem Nachteile erwachsen dürfen, nur weil er diese oder jene Meinung hat. Aber eine aufgeklärte Gesellschaft hat eben auch ein Interesse daran, dass öffentlich kundgetane Meinungen nach Möglichkeit genau dem kritischen Prozess entspringen, dem wir all unser Wissen verdanken. Für eine Erinnerung daran, dass zum Beispiel zwei verschiedene Aspekte einer Meinung sich widersprechen und man sie konsequenterweise also verbessern müsste, sollten wir alle sogar dankbar sein. […]

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