In 1945 Karl Popper left Christchurch and moved to the London School of Economics where he became the Professor of Logic and Scientific Method.
His main course was Introduction to Scientific Method and he delivered a series of fifteen lectures on this topic for a decade or so through the 1950s. Mark Notturno became the editor of Popper’s work and one of his tasks was to convert the transcripts of the lectures into a publishable form. The recordings included questions and answers, and the usual false starts and half sentences of the spoken word, so the idea was to create an “ideal type” of each lecture, drawing on the best parts of the ten copies that were available for each lecture.
As described in the Introduction, the publication stalled but it is now possible to read the first three lectures on line. Introduction with links to the lectures.
The first lecture on Values began with a welcome from Popper who warned the students. “I am getting old…my English is deteriorating with age…I am getting more and more inclined to ramble…and I am not a good lecturer either”.
In fact he was a captivating lecturer, speaking without notes, inviting and responding to interjections, inserting asides about his projects and references to significant developments events in science at the time. That was all edited out unless it related specifically to the content of the lecture.
On the function of lectures he said “Lectures are sometimes enjoyable, sometimes boring, but always, in a certain sense, unimportant. The important thing is the work that you are doing yourself.”
On the real aim of a university education. “I believe that someone is well-educated only if he realizes in great detail how little he knows. And I think that this is really very important. I think that a man who has the feeling that he knows a lot is somehow badly educated. Yes, one can know a lot…but the main point, at least with regard to pure knowledge, is to recognize the many open problems that lurk in all the knowledge that we have achieved. Without that l would say that you are not really educated…And the more we know and the more our knowledge grows, the more modest we should become about all those things that we don’t know.”
Thanks to Mark Notturno!