Tag Archive: fallibilism

The precondition for coexistence in dignity and peace

The age of totalitarian ideologies in Europe is drawing to a close. The belief in the historic mission of one race or class has proved to be the most devastating fallacy of this century: millions of innocent people fell victim to its sway. Karl Popper ceaselessly fought this fallacy. He is among the most significant champions of the open society; his arguments contradicting his enemies retain their validity and power of conviction.

His strongest weapons are utmost intellectual clarity and integrity. The conviction of the basic fallibility of human insight is expressed not least in his great personal modesty: mankind must never give up the quest for truth, but must beware the illusion of ever being able to possess the truth.

A commitment to such convictions requires courage – the inner strength to swim against the tide and resists the “Zeitgeist”. The triumph of freedom and democracy in Europe demonstrates that Karl Popper was right. His message for the future is that we must remain alert; critical rationality is the precondition for the coexistence of people and nations in dignity and peace.

Absolutely authoritarianism-free absolutism

The idea of a philosophical absolutism is rightly repugnant to many people since it is, as a rule, combined with a dog­matic and authoritarian claim to possess the truth, or a criterion of truth.

But there is another form of absolutism—a fallibilistic absolutism—which indeed rejects all this: it merely asserts that our mistakes, at least, are absolute mistakes, in the sense that if a theory deviates from the truth, it is simply false, even if the mistake made was less glaring than that in another theory. Thus the notions of truth, and of falling short of the truth, can represent absolute standards for the fallibilist. This kind of absolutism is completely free from any taint of authori­tarianism. [Addenda, 567-8]

The dead dogma of unexamined truth

However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth. [ch. II, 45]

The sole way of attaining a better truth

The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded. If the challenge is not accepted, or is accepted and the attempt fails, we are far enough from certainty still; but we have done the best that the existing state of human reason admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we may hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found when the human mind is capable of receiving it; and in the meantime we may rely on having attained such approach to truth, as is possible in our own day. This is the amount of certainty attainable by a fallible being, and this the sole way of attaining it. [ch. II, 28]

Why digital beats analogue

Without error-correction, all information processing, and hence all knowledge-creation, is necessarily bounded. Error-correction is the beginning of infinity. [140]