Misreading Popper is up

At last the ms has become an ebook.  Misreading Popper.

Popper made an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science and he made a significant mark in several other fields as well, including political philosophy and the theory of rationality. Consequently the main lines of his work should be familiar to all educated people. This is clearly not the case. Ideas matter and the neglect and misunderstanding of Popper’s ideas contribute to the political, social and economic travails of our time.

The commentary on Karl Popper indicates that it is possible to spend a career in many philosophy schools without picking up a straight feed on his ideas. Misreading and misrepresentation of Popper’s work appears to be the norm in the academic literature and in introductory books on philosophy for students and the public.

Of course many of his views are strongly contested but the contest need to be conducted in relation to what he actually wrote because effective criticism has to be based on understanding of the work. It is unfortunate that this needs to be said in a community of scholars, especially since the rise of analytical philosophy was supposed to herald a new dawn of accuracy and precision in philosophical thinking.

The following are examples of very basic errors which turn up regularly in the commentary on Popper, even by scholars of established reputation.

Popper’s demarcation criterion was in competition with the verification principle to establish the boundary between sense and nonsense.

Popper did not take account of the theory-dependence of observations (the Duhem problem).

Science would have come to a halt of scientists took Popper’s ideas seriously.

Popper’s program was derailed by the failure of his formal definition of verisimilitude.

One of the purposes of this book is to challenge students to read Popper’s books to check whether the teachers and commentators are giving a fair and accurate account of his ideas.

I will not publicize to the world at large until friends have a chance to look and find residual typos and other errors which can be fixed before less friendly readers have a go it at.

Please use the comments to report anything you find, including passages that you think are not clear.



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2 Responses to Misreading Popper is up

  1. Niemann says:

    I just bought this book (published only yesterday) from Amazon kindle. Brave new world: it costs only 2.97 Euro. Thank you, Rafe! Browsing through it I am very looking forward to reading it.
    There is one very little thing I incidentally came across when browsing. It is at loc. 445:
    “Einstein replied warmly, endorsing the philosophy on all the essential Points, and asked what he could do to help.”
    I just read it again: In his letter to Frau Busch Einstein wrote “Ich würde gerne für Herrn Popper eintreten” (I would like very much to help Herrn Popper), however, he immediately added, that he sadly could do nothing to help him because too many refugees had already come to the USA without any prospect of getting an adequate position.
    Einstein wrote in the same letter, translated by myself: “I read nearly all of Popper’s book. This man is a highly gifted critic and deserves attention and better working conditions. Unfortunately in this book are also incorrect assertions, and not at marginal places but at important ones. The main thoughts, however, are valuable and original, and they are presented clearly and meticulously.”
    Einstein to Frau Busch, 15 Juni 1935, in German; Hoover Inst. Archive Box 573, folder 1, page 24.
    I apologize for meddling before having read more of the book. I am sure that I will like it and learn from it a lot. The passage loc 445 came into my mind by serendipity: because I cited just this letter of Einstein twice in my forthcoming book (besides, my first English book): ‘Karl Popper and the Two New Secrets of Life’.
    All the best, Jochen
    (Hans-Joachim Niemann)

  2. Rafe says:

    Thanks Jochen. Popper was terribly upset about his mistakes in the physics and probably should have been more relaxed about them, as long as he fixed them up of course!
    That is not meddling, that is adding value!!!!!!

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