Category Archive: .Notturno, Mark

Criticism as respect

The Open Society – and by this I mean both the society and the book – is opposed not just to this or that authority, and not just to Plato, Hegel, and Marx. It is opposed to the very idea that there can be anything like cognitive authorities whom we can rely upon or the truth.

So if we are going to understand open society as scientific or rational society, then we must also understand science and rationality in Popper’s terms. We must think of science not as an institutionalized hierarchy of experts, but as a never-ending process of problem-solving in which we propose tentative solutions to our problems and then try to elim­inate the errors in our proposals. We must think of rationality not in terms of justification, but in terms of criticism. And we must think of criticism not as an offense, or as a show of contempt or disdain, but as one of the greatest signs of respetct that one mind can show to another. [47]

What argument can do

No argument can force us to accept the truth of any belief. But a valid deductive argument can force us to choose be­tween the truth of its conclusion on the one hand and the falsity of its premises on the other. [10]

The infinity of absolute truth

But if ‘2 + 2 = 4’ is true, then it follows that ‘2 + 2 = 5’ is false—and that ‘2 + 2 = 6’ is false, and that ‘2 + 2 = 7’ is false, and so on. But if these statements are false, then the statements ‘“2 + 2 = 5” is false’ and ‘“2 + 2 = 6” is false’ and ‘“2 + 2 = 7” is false’ are one and all true. And it is easy to see that we can, in this way, generate an infinite number of true statements that are of no interest to science at all, or to anyone else for that matter. [57]

Just the facts

Earlier I said that Popper believed in absolute and objective truth. This is very easily misunderstood, especially if we equate a definition of ‘truth’ with a criterion of truth. But whether or not truth is absolute has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we have a criterion for determining what it is. ‘Absolute’ simply means that something is not con­ditional or relative to anything else. Popper thought that truth is absolute in just this sense. Being true is different from being-believed-to-be true. It is not relative to or conditioned by what anyone believes. And it does not depend upon a theory, or evidence, or a historical context, or anything else—except the facts. [51]

Slaying the hydra of verisimilitude

In my view, trying to measure verisimilitude by counting a theory’s true or false consequences always missed the point. Every false theory has the same number (if we can really talk this way) of true and false consequences as every other. This is a consequence of the truth-functional nature of our logical connectives and the truth-functional definition of validity. But some false statements are still closer to the truth than others. [411]

Working with false theories

Whether we should work with a theory that we know to be false or eliminate our error will depend almost entirely on our alternatives, and on the problem that they are supposed to solve. [406]

The primary task of science

The primary task of science is not to differentiate the true from the false—it is to solve scientific problems. [406]

The rationality principle

To say that someone did something because he is a madman is to confess that we cannot really explain it at all. This is the fundamental insight, and the methodological point, behind the rationality principle.

The rationality principle is not the empirical hypothesis that each person acts adequately to the situation. That hypothesis is clearly false. It is, on the contrary, a methodological principle that places restrictions on what will and will not count as a rational explanation. It says that if we want to explain a social event rationally, then we must assume that the people in it acted adequately to the situation, or, at the very least, that they acted adequately to the situation as they saw it. [405]

Science and truth

There is … an infinite number of true statements about the world that no empirical science would ever, or should ever, take notice [of]. [403]

Democracy cannot create freedom

Popper did not regard socialism or capitalism or any economic system as an end in itself. He thought that such systems are to be valued—and evaluated—primarily as means toward freedom. The same holds true for political systems. Even democracy should be valued as a means to another end. It may well help us to preserve freedom, but it can never create freedom if we ourselves do not care for it. [187]

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