Criticism

If you would like to make a guest post to this blog criticizing critical rationalism or something related (e.g. Popper’s criteria for a demarcation between science and non-science) please contact the blog administrator.

I would very much like to post your criticism directly into a blog entry.

The blog administrator is Matt Dioguardi, his email address is:
matt at anarchyjapan dot com

48 Responses to Criticism

  1. someone says:

    here are 2 criticisms!
    1. platos argument for rationalism was with his slave and he gave him some triangle problems. this is criticised that the slave didnt have any education
    so he got his knowledge from his senses.
    2. the cogito doesn’t tell us much about the real world and the cogito doesn’t really prove that you exist just because you can catch yourself thinking.

  2. Elliot says:

    Those aren’t criticisms of critical rationalism. CR does not advocate the cogito. The statement about Plato is ambiguous what conclusion we’re supposed to draw from it.

  3. Michael Kennedy says:

    Popper’s falsifibility criterion is only a necessary condiotion for scientific status. If by demarcation criterion we mean a frontier with scientific statements on one side of the line and non-science on the other then falsifibility does not work. For any old prophesy such as the world will end tomorrow or I will win a gold medal at Rio will be scientific. What falsifiability does is distinguish the empirical from the non-empirical. And that is well worth doing. Popper did use term “demarcation” but he was not as clear as he might have been, and I am not sure of quite where he stood. Did he perhaps confuse himself, or was he thinking of less strict meaning of the term “demarcation”?

  4. Matt says:

    Michael,
    There’s probably a lot that can be said about this. I’ll post your criticism as a blog post and hopefully someone will comment.

  5. Frank Burton says:

    Hi Matt –

    I have a suggested clarification of the mission of CR and of this blog, e.g., about the statement you make in the “What is CR?” page — which notes, compares, and judges between the relative social merit of three epistemological “big three traditions”, where you said: “One, dogmatism. Decide that you are privy to ultimate truth and then just follow that truth no matter what. Does such an attitude contribute to fanaticism? Perhaps. Two, pessimism. Decide that truth is impossible, relative, random, meaningless. Just do whatever you want because nothing matters anyway. Does such an attitude contribute to random violence? Perhaps. Three, critical rationalism, the truth is out there, but no one has a monopoly on it, so let’s work together to try and get a little closer to it. Does such an attitude contribute to progress and mutual respect? More than likely.”

    My suggestion is that any implication that these 3 traditions are mutually exclusive ones — wherein different people have chosen to embrace only one tradition within every aspect of their life — is untrue, and should be avoided. In fact, most of us embrace each tradition in one or another aspect of our thought or behavior.

    For example, even a dogmatic theocratic exerts sufficient critical rationalism to live — he accepts reality to the point that he won’t blithely step in front of a moving bus; he denies falsifiable assumptions to the point that he won’t wait for the bus to stop for him elsewhere than at the bus stop; and he masters his emotions to the point that he won’t insist on riding the bus for free no matter how much he desires it. So even the “dogmatist” still accepts that in some spheres of his existence, “What is, is; what is not, is not; and what is or is not, is paramount.”

    Conversely, even skeptics or atheists will sometimes (or even often, if we look at the “red meat” of the most popular New Atheist writers) broach their criticisms of religious ideas or faith using not just factual, but scathing, emotive language (i.e., ad hominem invective) to win their argument, even when the use of such invective means their “win” isn’t achieved fully rationally, but by evoking emotional irrationality — a sadly pyrrhic victory. Also, many “rational” environmentalists will buy a new Chevy Volt or Tesla — ignoring the reality that buying any “new” (recently manufactured) automobile is much worse for the environment than buying any used car. And Ayn Rand, the self-proclaimed paragon of critical rationality, died from denying the existence of tobacco addiction and the predictive validity of statistical epidemiology.

    My contention is that few of us consistently behave guided by only one particular epistemological tradition. We are rationalists that thunder; we are irrationalists who come in out of the rain. I think such human inconsistency in our driving motivations is one of Bartley’s own motivations in seeking to see Popper’s CR applied to all spheres of human thought and behavior, not just to the sciences.

    Hence, in my view, Critical Rationalism isn’t a paradisal, “Undiscovered Country” that some of us should for the first time visit. Its the warm, “Home Sweet Home” where all of us already live — but must communally commit to consistently do so. And Irrationalism isn’t a foreboding, “No Man’s Land” into which only the foolhardy journey. Its our own dark, “cellar door” that we’ve all failed to consistently keep locked shut.

    Thus, the fight against an irrational world will depend not only on familiarity with the importance of CR, but also on the importance of familiarity with CR.

    My 2 cents worth.

    Thx,

    Frank H. Burton
    Exec. Director, The Circle of Reason

  6. Bruce Caithness says:

    For me one of the salient points of Popper’s thought that he did not use meaning as a criterion of demarcation of science and metaphysics.

    Play is a vital life function – Carl Jung spoke of active imagination, taking play seriously.

    I can find any product of my imaginative life meaningful but if I wish to introduce it to society as a knowledge object then I better be prepared for challenge as to its truthlikeness.

    Critical rationalism is not claiming much more than keeping the bastards honest, as one Australian politician was so fond of stating.

    Rather than making one cynical, I believe critical rationalism is potentially liberating. One should remain playful with all sorts of aspects of one’s life, critical rationalism can act as a balance against being a know-it-all while still giving the imagination (conjecture) due weight.

    Conjecture and refutation are each vital. At various moments of our lives we put more focus on one or the other.

  7. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Not criticism.

    I came across this online encyclopedia article http://www.iep.utm.edu/cr-ratio/, about critical rationalism and Karl Popper, was wondering if it was a useful resource?

  8. Matt says:

    Andrew,

    It probably has good and bad points. I know that Joseph Agassi’s paper on Karl Popper which that encyclopedia had requested he write was rejected by the editors. That’s very strange given Joseph Agassi’s background. His paper on Popper is here:
    http://www.tau.ac.il/~agass/joseph-papers/Popperiep.pdf

    I’m not sure about the paper you link to … I need to go back and reread it, it’s been a while since I looked at it.

  9. Rafe says:

    That is a really super paper Matt, just as well I didn’t see it before I wrote the Guides or I could have decided that they are not necessary:)

    Must add to Popper/CR resources, Joe’s site is listed but there are so many papers listed there it would be easy to miss this one, (especially if you don’t visit Joe’s site)!

    Small correction, on the second page we find that “the public’s right to overthrow its elected government by peaceful means”. Actually it is not a mistake, I was going to say that Popper reserved the right to overthrow a government by violent means if there is no other way to go (if it has become a tyranny), but in that passage the reference is an elected government, so violence is not in order.

  10. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Has anyone heard of Robert Nozicks criticism of karl Popper and if so, does anyone have any comments on it?

    Here is an interview that gives a brief statement of his criticism(if you press ctrl f and type “popper” while on the page it will take you straight to it):

    http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/NozickInterview.htm

  11. Rafe says:

    Thanks! I always wondered what Nozick thought about Popper, I scanned one of his very big books on the theory of knowledge and did not find any reference to conjectural knowledge.

    I think this is an example of one or more of the standard errors, partly based on the failure to grasp the idea of non-justificationism so there has to be some kind of inductive probability to justify a belief. It is probably theory of subjective knowledge as well but I would need to read more carefully to be sure about that.

  12. Bruce Caithness says:

    It seems to me that reliability is itself a conjecture. Why is the conjectural view an anathema?

    Alan Musgrave made a comment in “The Problem of Induction”, in the collection Karl Popper Critical Appraisals, Catton and MacDonald 2004:

    “It was William Warren Bartley III who urged the superiority of a comprehensive rationalism, a rationalism that could be rationally adopted by its own lights,a rationalism that could subsume itself. Anything less is subject to the Tu Quoque Argument– ‘So you too are irrational – about your theory of rationality!’. Robert Nozick has said that circularity or self-subsumption of this kind is not a vice, but a virtue. I disagree. I disagree because self-subsumption is too easily had. ‘My granny told me that I ought to believe everything she tells me’ subsumes itself – but it is no triumph. Circularity or self-subsumption is no virtue. It is merely, at this level of abstraction, the least of the vices.”

    Thanks to Rafe, The Rathouse has a copy of William W Bartley’s “Rationality versus the Theory of Rationality”. This is a jewel of a paper. http://www.the-rathouse.com/2008/Bartley1964CCR.html

  13. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Rafe

    in the book that it is in, ‘Invariances’, the criticism of Popper appears on p.103.
    To summarise, he thinks that when we test something in a particular domain, to test it again in that domain lowers that domains, and therefore the probability that it will be falsified in that domain in the furture, and so we have to test it in a new domain, and this accumulates, he says if this was not the case then the severest test would still be in the initial domain we tested it in.

    I am not sure if that represents him completely right, but I think it is pretty close.

    Regards,

    Andrew.

  14. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Sorry

    The sentence “to test it again in that domain lowers that domains” was meant to say, “to test it in that domain again is going to lower the probability of falsifying the theory”

    Andrew

  15. Bruce Caithness says:

    If we remove human belief from the equation a theory is either true or false.

    When we say a theory is probably true we mean it is possibly true but we are not sure.

    We may believe the theory is possibly true, in which case as in Bayesianism we may put a possibility figure of say 80% certainty that it is true. This figure is applicable, if at all, to our subjective beliefs. Does it apply to the theory? Nozick may be happy to accept true enough rather than true or false.

    Newton’s theory or law, whatever we may call it, passed lots of testing. Did this make it more true?

  16. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Bruce I am confused as to how you are approaching Nozick, you seem to be speaking generally.

    I am not sure how to tackle Nozick’s argument, my initial reaction was that he was confused about what corroboration was, but when I tried pin down exactly what he had wrong I found that I could not. Would it help if I quoted the passage in full (be aware that it is quite long, maybe a thousand words or more).

  17. Rafe says:

    Go ahead Andrew, we might as well see it, anything that he said about Popper could have been very influential. Bruce has sent me Nozick’s book but I have not got to it yet, I am trying to finalize my booklet on Misreading Popper, this looks like another one to put in:)

  18. Rafe says:

    No need to quote the passage Andew, it only repeats the argument in the interview that you put on line the other day. Maybe I am missing something (I may be wrong and Nozick may be right) but I think he has taken a very narrow view on the function of testing which is the kind of thing that happens when philosophers write hundreds of pages of arguments without much reference to actual scienific problem situations. His case for the incoherence of Popper’s philosophy of science turns on the issue of severe testing. He seems to think that Popper is committed to (1) the view that a better-corroborated hypothesis is more likely to survive its next test than a worse-corroborated one and (2) the wider the variety of circumstances under which a hypothesis is tested, the more severely it has been tested. He then went into an argument about the probability of the hypothesis passing its next test, on the basis of prior performance. I think his case fails because Popper was not committed to any kind of probability about future performance of hypotheses.

  19. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Rafe -

    Thanks for your reply comments; Sorry I did not reply earlier. Most of thsi makes sense to me; I have just one question.

    “(2) the wider the variety of circumstances under which a hypothesis is tested, the more severely it has been tested.”

    What would count as severe testing if not that it has been in diverse circumstances?

  20. Bruce Caithness says:

    Steven W. Clarke made the following comment with respect to Nozick:

    Nozick fails to recognize that the severity of tests is relative to *background knowledge*, not to the outcomes of past experiments.

    In effect, a certain kind of test becomes less severe because we tend to conjecture, after the first few identical results of that test, that we have a reproducible effect on our hands. This conjectural regularity is added to our background knowledge and subsequently the test is less severe relative to that adjusted background knowledge.

    The assessment of the severity of the test remains entirely “analytic” or deductive, yet it is now calculated relative to a different set of background hypotheses. No inductive assumption is involved and no incoherency is present.

    (Mary Hesse and Anthony O’Hear made the same (invalid) criticism back in the 1970′s.)

  21. What does it matter what degree of severity of tests an idea is put to?

    You test ideas with all the tests and criticism that anyone wants to, and then either it’s refuted or not. if it’s not refuted that is, as always, pending anyone wanting to test/criticize more.

    is degree of severity of testing meant as some kind of proxy for whether it makes sense to try to think of more criticisms or tests? i don’t think it’s a good proxy for that, i’d rather consider the issue directly. there can be lots of reasons to investigate something further, or not to.

    is it a shorthand for something? again i don’t think that’s a very good perspective and would prefer to see the longhand.

    is it trying to engage with common sense? i’d rather contradict common sense so people realize popperian epistemology is different.

    so besides trying to measure degree of severity of tests (a huge problem with no easy answers, if there are answers at all), i’d question that goal itself too.

  22. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    “What does it matter what degree of severity of tests an idea is put to?”

    See Conjectures and Refutations; index: testability, severity of…

    Popper’s idea of criticism/testability seems to me to be little more subtle than just “if a theory is refuted then it is refuted, and if it is not it is not.” This is similar to the missaprehension people had of his falsifiability criterion.

    “so besides trying to measure degree of severity of tests (a huge problem with no easy answers, if there are answers at all), i’d question that goal itself too.”

    It seems to me that you explcitly indicated that you did not understand what severity was, so why would you question it before looking into what Popper wrote? If you did look into it, have you any direct criticisms of what he said? I would be very interested in reading them.

  23. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    The indexical subject should have been “tests”.

  24. Andrew, I’m familiar with Popper. Saying you think his view is more subtle doesn’t say if or why it’s superior. I asked you a question and you didn’t answer it, then you expressed a negative opinion about a philosophical idea without arguing it. So far I’m not convinced you are interested in a productive discussion. If you are, go ahead and act accordingly.

    I’d also recommend learning something about who is who in Popperian circles before commenting on a CR blog accusing people of not being familiar with Popper. I’ve written perhaps more than anyone else about Popper in the last decade. I have written direct criticisms of things Popper said in many places including on this blog. If you actually care about the subject, look around or convince me you’re serious.

    It’s also false that asking you a question about something “explicitly indicate[s]” that I don’t understand it. There are reasons to ask questions other than total ignorance.

  25. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    “Andrew, I’m familiar with Popper. Saying you think his view is more subtle doesn’t say if or why it’s superior. ”

    The context of the discussion is about Popper’s view. I am trying to understand Popper better, so your general statements do not help me. That is why I asked if you had any particular criticisms. Which would help a great deal, that is why I directed you towards passages where he explicitly talks about this.

    “I asked you a question and you didn’t answer it, then you expressed a negative opinion about a philosophical idea without arguing it. So far I’m not convinced you are interested in a productive discussion. If you are, go ahead and act accordingly.”

    Ok, what you asked was this:

    “What does it matter what degree of severity of tests an idea is put to?”

    Which is a good question, but irrelevant to me finding out what popper meant by “severity”. I have no answer to your question, because I do not understand what popper meant by severity.

    “I’d also recommend learning something about who is who in Popperian circles before commenting on a CR blog accusing people of not being familiar with Popper. I’ve written perhaps more than anyone else about Popper in the last decade. I have written direct criticisms of things Popper said in many places including on this blog. If you actually care about the subject, look around or convince me you’re serious.”

    I know “who is who”, and I know who you are; you were given a dedication in David Deutsch’s book and you also run his discussion boards. But anyway it is irrelevant.

    “It’s also false that asking you a question about something “explicitly indicate[s]” that I don’t understand it. There are reasons to ask questions other than total ignorance.”

    You asked a question and then you preceded to give various potential answers to it, non which you thought were satisfactory, obviously indicating it was not clear what it was, so I assumed you did not understand it, or you think popper is not clear about it, which is pretty much equivalent.

    Anyway the context of this dicussion was a criticism of Popper, which I am trying to understand.

  26. Andrew,

    > But anyway it is irrelevant.

    It’s irrelevant enough *unless* you decide to talk about me, rather than about ideas, as you did before. I’ll drop it now except one correction: none of the discussion boards I run belong to David Deutsch. The ones I run are mine, and I run them for my own benefit.

    > so I assumed you did not understand it, or you think popper is not clear about it, which is pretty much equivalent.

    My criticial questions and discussion were meant to help clarify the topic itself, not to indicate my own confusion. I was attempting to explain a few things.

    I’ve also reread the discussion for context. Andrew quoted:

    > “(2) the wider the variety of circumstances under which a hypothesis is tested, the more severely it has been tested.”

    Let’s put that back in context. Rafe was saying, “He [Nozick] seems to think that Popper is committed to (1) … (2) … I think his [Nozick's] case fails because Popper was not committed to any kind of probability about future performance of hypotheses.”

    The first one I consider both false and non-Popperian. From what you said, Andrew, I think you may already accept that. I think Rafe correctly considers this decesive in rejecting Nozick’s case in general.

    The second one is something I don’t think Popper was personally committed too – I think he was open to new ideas about it. I also don’t think it’s crucial to Popperian epistemology in general. I think if you refute it, Popperian epistemology does not fall apart.

    Andrew asked:

    > What would count as severe testing if not that it has been in diverse circumstances?

    I think the Popperian view of testing is more nuanced than picking a single criterion of severity of tests. I think it’d make things worse to try to pick one criterion like that. It’s better to have a flexible approach where various criterion of severity may be considered, and perhaps also criticized, in each case. It’s even possible to propose new ones to add to a discussion.

    What could matter besides diversity of tests? An example would be the margin of error of the instruments used in each test.

    However, I do not think it’s very important to decide what severity tests are. I might usefully tell my friend that one idea is new and barely tested, and I think it should be tested a lot more, while a different idea is old, tested a lot, and it’s hard to think of useful new tests for it. Those are casual and inexact statements but convey something useful. No problem. And to make them I do not need an exact or formal way of calculating the severity of tests in each case. But if there’s an argument or controversy, and I have to get serious and state my position rigorously, then I would drop claims like that, say they were just casual talk, and proceed in a different manner.

    In particular, I think what’s really important is whether an idea is refuted or not. I think that’s the best way to approach epistemology. I think it’s (with various elaborations) an improvement on Popper, in the same tradition. When I say this I’m serious and not just being unsubtle, and would appreciate substantive criticism if anyone has any.

  27. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    “I think it’s (with various elaborations) an improvement on Popper, in the same tradition. When I say this I’m serious and not just being unsubtle, and would appreciate substantive criticism if anyone has any.”

    Maybe the answer to my question was already implicit it what you have just said, but I am confused as to how this improves upon Popper. My question here comes in the light of Popper saying that a conclusive refutation is impossible (I could not find the exact quote for looking – it is in one of the first sections of the LoSD). To clarify: If, when considering ideas, whether they are refuted or not is really the important thing, but conclusive refutation is not possible, then it seems that we are left with a gap. Does that make sense?

  28. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    I am currently reading a book, and was wondering if someone could help with the clarification of some of the passages about induction and Popper. Firstly he disntinguishes between 3 types of induction, the first two he claims were sucessfully ciriticsed by Popper, but with regard to the third he claims Popper did not adress properly.

    So;

    “3. Epistemic Induction… if a theory T1 has been more sucessful than T2 so far (explanatory and prognostically), then it is probable, relative to the given state of affairs, that T1 will be more succesful than T2 in future”

    Later

    “Were this principle to be not accepted, there would not be any point in Popper’s method of testing”

    Later

    “[Popper's] arguments on this topic seem to rest on mere terminological maneuvers than on actual material reasons”

    The citation he gives for evidence of the above is Realism and The Aim of Science (1983) 66f.

    He says that Critical rationalsists like Watkins and Musgrave accept this principle.

    He clarifies that

    “Epsitemic induction is always only comparative”

    From Shurz, G. (2013) Philosophy of Science: A Unified Approach.

  29. > Popper saying that a conclusive refutation is impossible

    That’s correct. All our ideas, be they criticisms or not, are tentative and conjectural. We never have final proof of anything.

    I’m saying at any given time an idea is either refuted or it isn’t. I am not ruling out the possibility of criticizing a criticism so that an idea’s status changes back to non-refuted. What I am ruling out is a middle evaluation of half-refuted.

    > I am currently reading a book, and was wondering if someone could help with the clarification of some of the passages about induction and Popper.

    If you’d like to start new topics would you mind coming to https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/info instead of using an old comment thread?

  30. Matt says:

    If you’d like to start new topics would you mind coming to https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/info instead of using an old comment thread?

    Andrew,
    You might also want to try the Facebook discussion group associated with the CR Blog, which is here. Please feel free to post any question you’d like there:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/349038479903/

  31. Brian Scurfield says:

    Elliot wrote:

    > In particular, I think what’s really important is whether an idea is refuted or not. I think that’s the best way to approach epistemology. I think it’s (with various elaborations) an improvement on Popper, in the same tradition. When I say this I’m serious and not just being unsubtle, and would appreciate substantive criticism if anyone has any.

    Elliot has made an important contribution here to CR. The idea of critical preferences is a mistake and should be dropped. It is an attempt to solve the problem of what to do if there is an unresolved conflict between unrefuted ideas. It is supposed to lead to a preference for one of the ideas but doesn’t decisively refute any of the contenders.

    In Elliot’s approach, you either have a criticism that enables you to reject an idea or you don’t. If you don’t, then you should ask “what should be done now given I have this undecided conflict”. This is a new problem that doesn’t require solving the original conflict. And you can recurse on that if you again get stuck with an undecided conflict of ideas to solve the new problem.

    I haven’t seen much discussion of Elliot’s idea. Come on Popperians, give him some feedback or criticism! I think he is correct.

  32. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    This not an old comment thread, it is the criticism section of the CR Blog. That is why I posted the things on here that I did – they are criticisms of Popper and critical rationalism.

  33. You’re so uninterested in your question that you’re refusing? If not that, explain it to me.

  34. Bruce Caithness says:

    @Brian,

    I think you misread Elliot’s position.

    Popper’s position is addressed in part below

    http://www.criticalrationalism.net/2012/12/22/critical-preference-is-critical/

  35. Brian Scurfield says:

    In what way did I misread Elliot’s position?

  36. I don’t think Brian misread my position. Why do you?

    Bruce I looked at your link and it doesn’t discuss my position at all. We’re aware of Popper’s position, I discussed it when I criticized it. What is the point of linking to stuff about Popper’s position here?

    Maybe you don’t know what my position is, and you’re too used to dealing with idiots to bother asking? Take a look:
    http://www.criticalrationalism.net/2010/02/28/critical-preferences/

    And the followup criticism which the CR blog people (I don’t remember if you were one of them, Bruce, then, or not) ignored after agreeing I’d understood Popper’s position correctly:

    http://curi.us/1489-critical-preferences-and-strong-arguments

    Much more info at: http://curi.us/1595-rationally-resolving-conflicts-of-ideas

  37. Bruce Caithness says:

    @Elliot I am surprised indeed that you regard your position as a refutation of critical preference. I will put forward my understanding of Popper’s stance below and leave deeper contemplation of your avowed position until another time.

    Popper adopts the attitude “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth” (Open Society, vol. 2, fifth edition, p. 225). This statement was held by the aged Popper as the best one sentence distillation of his life work.

    The decision to adopt this attitude is irrational because it is a moral decision. The community of scientists are glued together by the norm of not evading criticism.

    We often find, or stumble over, true statements, but whether we can definitely sort the true statements from the jumble of all statements is a moot point.

    As far as black swans are concerned, is the particular swan I see in the lake a black swan, another type of bird altogether, a white swan that has been colored black to trick me, I need to decide. Even the word swan encapsulates universal assumptions.

    At the end of the day we cannot avoid making decisions, preferences based on criticism.

  38. Brian Scurfield says:

    Bruce,

    Ellliot’s position is fully within Popperian tradition: it takes seriously that we eliminate ideas by criticism. And only by criticism.

    If you find yourself weighing ideas according to figures of merit then you are doing it wrong. FIgures of merit are useful only in-so-far as they provide opportunities for criticism.

    The critical preferences idea allows for a halfway house of an idea somehow being partially criticised according to some figure of merit yet unrefuted. Well either the figure of merit enabled you to see a flaw in the idea or it didn’t.

    Elliot’s approach says if we get stuck choosing between ideas then we should acknowledge that and declare we are undecided and then seek *new* ideas about what to given the situation. But don’t start weighing ideas for you are making a mistake.

    BTW, your comment about irrationality and the Popperian attitude is incorrect (Popper made a mistake on this).

  39. > leave deeper contemplation of your avowed position until another time.

    When?

  40. Bruce Caithness says:

    If Elliot’s supposed improvement on critical preference depends on decisive refutation and fresh conjecture then I scratch my head about this being an improvement on Popper’s critical preference.

    As agreed, if theories are universal statements they cannot be proved by any finite quantity of observational data. It is also recognised that that refutation can be avoided by making ad-hoc modifications of the theory or the data, or by introducing some auxiliary assumptions, or plain dishonesty or alternatively ignorance of potential refuting events.

    Even basic statements contain universals. All our action contains universals and every statement we make transcends experience. What decision-making technology will provide a basis for decisive refutation? Popper said in Conjectures and Refutations” “Thus there is no uninterpreted empirical basis; and the test statements which form the empirical basis cannot be statements expressing uninterpreted ‘data’ (since no such data exist) but are, simply, statements which state observable simple facts about our physical environment. They are, of course, facts interpreted in the light of theories; they are soaked in theory, as it were.”

    Critical preference acknowledges human fallibility in decision making. I read no more into it than that. We don’t weigh refutations in kilograms or any other metric, we still make decisions even when we refute theories. Popper was never simplistic and proposed that one might consider internal consistency in comparing conclusions, investigations of the logical forms of theories, comparing theories with other theories to determine whether or not the theory under consideration is a scientific advance, and empirical applications of the conclusions. It is a bit hard to put metrics on these. I see no point in pursuing verisimilitude for some sort of metric, after the flaws in Popper’s initial efforts in this regard have been recognised by him and admitted.

    If Elliot says we refute then make fresh conjectures it seems to me another way of stating the obvious in that I am not sure that it adds anything substantive to Popper’s musings on the matter. Then again you might be right and I may be wrong and I may have missed Elliot’s point completely.

  41. Did you read my criticism of critical preferences, or my solution, as originally posted here? Or the additional explanatory material? As far as I can tell, you have not engaged with my points on either topic. Maybe using quotations would help when replying to something, so we could better see which comments are intended as replies to what.

    Another way to approach it would be if you said what the problem with critical preferences is that I see, and my solution, in your words, and ask if you got it right. Similar to how I approached the matter. Instead you seem to have tried to argue with me before knowing what my position is, rather than read about my position or ask questions about it. I don’t know what to do with that.

  42. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Elliot, I read your blogpost at curio. But I think something you said might help me understand Popper a little more and I think relates to an earlier comment I said. So: “I don’t think it makes sense to simultaneously accept a criticism of an idea, and accept the idea”.

    Do you think we should reject an idea in the case that we have only a criticism of it?

    And if so, is this not similar to the idea that we can discard a theory on the basis of just a refutation of it? if this is the case aren’t you rejecting Popper’s idea that we need good reason to discard a theory, falsification on its own not being sufficient for this?

    I think either I have misunderstood Popper or you, and a clarification would help.

  43. Andrew,

    > Do you think we should reject an idea in the case that we have only a criticism of it?

    (I think by “a criticism” you mean “one criticism”. I’ve responded accordingly.)

    Yes, and I think that’s important. There is no need to ever act on criticized ideas, or believe they are true.

    > if this is the case aren’t you rejecting Popper’s idea that we need good reason to discard a theory, falsification on its own not being sufficient for this?

    I reject that, but I don’t think Popper said that.

    Popper said we shouldn’t give up on ideas so easily. But I agree with that. If an idea has only one criticism, don’t act on it, but feel free to try to criticize the criticism or adjust the idea. But Popper never said something like “one falsification is insufficient, you need 3, or 2 + a critical argument”. That would be bad.

    I think the issue you’re getting at is the ambiguity between discarding an idea including discarding all variants of the idea and all attempts to defend it against criticism. Or, on the other hand, simply accepting that an idea is (tentatively, fallibly) refuted.

    (There is also a terminology issue here which is whether variant ideas count as a “new idea”, and also whether an idea plus a new criticism defending it counts as a “new idea”. If both of those count as “new ideas”, then a criticized idea is always wrong and can be permanently rejected, whereas if either of them count as rescuing the same old idea, then refutation isn’t permanent. I think counting both of these cases as “new ideas”, and therefore making all criticisms permanently decisive, is elegant and useful for some analysis. For most cases it doesn’t matter much as long as one is clear. I think it’s best to understand both views on the same underlying issue.)

    Plus, if an idea X is criticized, you can still act on a similar idea such as “idea X has one criticism of it, so it can’t be right. there’s more to know about this topic, I’m missing something. However I need to do something about situation Y now, and i don’t have a better approach than X, so I’ll use X for this specific time-sensitive case.” The idea in quotes is itself an idea with ZERO criticisms of it (at least it can be, sometimes we try a statement like that and see a criticism of it, in which case we should try more), and using statements like that is one of my proposals. i think such statements are important to epistemology.

  44. Bruce wrote:

    > Popper adopts the attitude “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth” (Open Society, vol. 2, fifth edition, p. 225). This statement was held by the aged Popper as the best one sentence distillation of his life work.
    >
    > The decision to adopt this attitude is irrational because it is a moral decision. The community of scientists are glued together by the norm of not evading criticism.

    Why do you think moral decisions are irrational?

  45. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    But Popper never said something like “one falsification is insufficient, you need 3, or 2 + a critical argument”. That would be bad.

    I mispoke: I did not meant to imply that Popper said that we need more criticisms, I meant to imply that popper said that criticism in itself is not sufficient meaning that we need also a theory which explains the data that the current theory does and also the data that refuted the other theory, for it to count as sufficient reason for that theory to be discarded even though falsified. I thought this was part of his rejection of naive falsification.

  46. Andrew Crawshaw says:

    Actually, I think you covered that in your last paragraph.

  47. Bruce Caithness says:

    @Alan Forrester, I accept the criticism, I could have phrased the sentence “The decision to adopt this attitude is irrational because it is a moral decision.” better. Reason can be used in reaching moral decisions, but I read Popper as implying that there is an irrational component in the acceptance of such decisions. Rationality without foundations. You may differ.

  48. Bruce wrote:

    “I accept the criticism, I could have phrased the sentence “The decision to adopt this attitude is irrational because it is a moral decision.” better. Reason can be used in reaching moral decisions, but I read Popper as implying that there is an irrational component in the acceptance of such decisions. Rationality without foundations. You may differ.”

    Accepting something without foundations isn’t irrational, it is rational because our ideas don’t have foundations. So saying they do have foundations is wrong. It is also irrational because it gives the impression that the idea is not subject to criticism. What matters for rationality is whether you are willing to consider that the decision might have been wrong, and whether you were willing to consider criticisms at the time you made it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


6 − = four

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>