The Minimum Requirement for an Adequate Critique of Popper

Looking through the misreadings of Popper that are collected in my forthcoming book, the following thoughts occurred about the work required for a good critique. Whether not commentators agree with Popper’s views, if they write about him  they need to read  all of his (relevant) his  books that are or were in print up to the time their manuscript was  completed. Of course academics should have read his journal articles before they appeared in collections.

That means:

  1. Taking account of his work on the logic of testing  as an alternative to the logical positivists/empiricists program of attempted verification which morphed into the quest for “critieria of cognitive meaningfulness” and vindication of inductive probabilities.

2.  Recognizing the challenge that he issued to the quest for justified beliefs by shifting from justification to critical preference and from beliefs to consideration of objective, intersubjective or public scientific knowledge. This move or “turn” from knowledge as justified true belief, to conjectural knowledge needs to acknowledged and tested for its fertility,  its problem-solving power and its capacity to help scientists and other practical people.

3. Describing the “social” or “rules of the game turn” (Jarvie, 2001), which can be seen as a parallel to the later Wittgenstein, and contrast what Popper and Wittgenstein achieved after having that insight.

Random thoughts to develop the “rules” approach.

Rules of democracy, violence, rules not orders, rules of equalitarian justice, the rules of method

Proposals in the context of the protective state in lieu of the contract or historical purpose approach to social organization.

See what this does for scientific practice, rationality, and politics.

If you don’t agree with his ideas then you need to provide criticisms that were not anticipated and answered in The Logic of Scientific Discovery – for example regarding the need for conventions in scientific practice, the problematic nature of adverse evidence, the case for persisting with problematic theories in case they can be improved or otherwise revived.

New criticisms of Popper’s ideas are welcome but recycling refuted criticisms suggests a need for more reading and is unhelpful for students.

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4 Responses to The Minimum Requirement for an Adequate Critique of Popper

  1. Not a criticism but a question. While I adhere to CR/Falsification/CP, I am still struggling with the following:

    1) CR/CP is necessary since it compensates for our evolutionary (necessary) cognitive bias, to ‘do what we have done before’ as a least-cost set of actions. That bias is cognitively cheaper. It’s certainly better than a random walk. It’s a depth-traversal approach to investigation of possibilities.
    2) CR/CP eliminates cost from consideration (“pure science is a luxury good”).
    3) But do we know empirically that in fact, cost-independent pursuit of theories is more successful than cost-dependent selection of theories to pursue?
    4) As a logical check on cognitive bias, and a moral shield against specious claims, I agree entirely. But I am struggling with what APPEARS to be our very good progress in investigation, when we follow least cost greatest explanatory power. And I wonder, empirically speaking, if cost SHOULD be eliminated from CR/CP.
    5) Axiomatic expressions are not correspondent with the real world except for the axioms that we include in our attempt at correspondence. I kind of suspect that costs are correlative with results.

    The work needed to test this is something I can’t devote time and money to. I don’t necessarily see this as a weakness, or criticism, so much as an unanswered question. And the answer to that question one way or another might have quite an impact on the claims of CR/CP – albeit minor influence, and only on CP.

  2. > Recognizing the challenge that he issued to the quest for justified beliefs by shifting from justification to critical preference

    But critical preferences are a mistake, as I explained here years ago, and which no one here has ever given any counter-argument to.

    Why do you guys not care about criticism, and ignore it? Why no critical thinking and critical discussion?

    Rafe if you want to discuss it, post on FI list, I’m not going to discuss it in moderated comments on the site by the guy who banned me from his CR Facebook group for disagreeing with him.

    And if you don’t want to discuss it, well, isn’t that pretty screwed up? Isn’t it already screwed up not to have discussed in last year or the year before?

  3. Rafe says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to revisit this issue Elliot!

    I have had a lot of things on my mind over the last year or two and I can’t recall how the exchange ended last time. I will reply on the FI list in the next day or so because I have a full list of things to do today and tomorrow.

    Picking up a bit of your argument:

    “My approach is in significant agreement with Popper’s epistemology because it does not allow for the possibility of ideas having support. Some people would say we can differentiate non-refuted ideas by how much support each has, but I follow Popper in denying that.”

    “Popper’s alternative to support is criticism. I accept the critical approach. Where I differ is in not allowing an idea to be both criticized and non-refuted. I don’t think it makes sense to simultaneously accept a criticism of an idea, and accept the idea. We should make up our mind (keeping open the possibility of changing our mind at any time), or say we aren’t sure.”

    “As I see it, a criticism either points out a flaw in an idea or it doesn’t. And we either have a criticism of the criticism, or we don’t. A criticism can’t contradict a theory and be itself non-refuted, but also fail to be decisive. On what grounds would it fail to be decisive, given we see no flaw in it?”

    It looks as though you accept that there are decisive criticisms of a theory but so far as empirical tests are concerned there can be no decisive falsifications due to the Duhem problem etc. But it was reasonable to work with Newton in preference to rival theories until Einstein provided an alternative and the issue was in doubt for some time until Einstein was generally accepted as an advance, and so as a matter of critical preference people could work with Einstein knowing that it was still not the last word in the matter (not a Terminus).

  4. Alberto Sampaio says:

    Dera Curt,
    about your statement:
    “3) But do we know empirically that in fact, cost-independent pursuit of theories is more successful than cost-dependent selection of theories to pursue?”
    Could you help me by pointing me Tó some referentes? Thank you.

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