books to read

If you are new to critical rationalism and wondering what to read, I’ll offer some personal suggestions.

You can’t go wrong reading Karl Popper. If you are primarily interested in Popper’s views on science, Conjectures and Refutations is a much better starting point than The Logic of Scientific Discovery. If you are primarily interested in Popper’s overall philosophy and his political views, start with The Open Society and Its Enemies. If you are interested in Popper at his metaphysical best, then Objective Knowledge is a truly wonderful book. I’ve never been disappointed in any book I’ve read by Popper.

Also worth nothing here is the excellent Popular Popper series by Rafe Champion. These are study guides that are intended to assist people reading Popper’s books. They clarify the main issues at stake in each book and provide a lot of important context. For people trying to understand Popper’s books, they can be very helpful.

There are many other writers to read. One of my favorite books is by W.W. Bartley III, The Retreat to Commitment. This book is more far reaching than its topic, modern Protestant theology, would suggest. The book questions the manner in which we all present arguments and makes some startling discoveries. A truly excellent book. Make sure to read the second edition!

Beyond this, there are so many good books to read, I find it hard to know where to begin. Below I’ll offer links to some helpful lists.

— Matt

  • Introductory Reading on Popper’s Philosophy Part of the Karl Popper Web.
  • Popper’s main works in English Also part of the Karl Popper Web.
  • Rafe Champion’s Amazon review page A great selection of books.
  • Bruce Caithness’s Amazon review page Also, a great selection of books.
  • Readings in Critical Rationalism beyond Karl Popper Some good suggestions.
  • Friesian site review page Many interesting books reviewed, mostly by Kelly Ross.
  • Popper bibliography by The Japan Popper Society
  • Critical Rationalism bibliography by The Japan Popper Society
  • International Karl R. Popper-Bibliography compiled by Manfred Lube

    Note: Additions and corrections are not only welcome but hoped for, please comment!

  • 10 Responses to books to read

    1. Michael Kennedy says:

      Myopic rationalists may like to know that The Open Society and its Enemies is now available as an e-book with Amazon and iBooks. Joseph Agassi’s Philosophy from a Sceptical Perspective is also with Amazon Kindle.

    2. Michael Kennedy says:

      Realism and the Aim of Science is now on iBooks.

    3. Andrew Crawshaw says:

      I am not sure where this should go.

      I am a little but suprised by the absence of Nassim Nicholas Taleb from this blog, it seems to me that at least a blog post detailing the influence of Popper on Taleb would be interesting. I can’t stomach his book, though, I find it to, erm, arrogantly, funny in parts but generally disrespectful to his audience. But anyway does anyone have any insight into what Talab had right or wrong about Popper’s philosophy?

    4. Andrew Crawshaw says:

      “arrogantly written”*

    5. Rafe says:

      I don’t think Taleb wrote enough about Popper to be sure what he thought about Popper’s ideas.

    6. Andrew Crawshaw says:

      Rafe –

      It seems to me that taleb cites Popper more than any other philosophyer, expeccially in Fooled by Randomness. And, it seems to me, that the whole analysis contained in The Black Swan is bassically a Popperian approach to financial systems. Granted he talks about Popper a lot less in interviews and articles he writes and his latest book only has a few references in the index to popper.

      This is just one of the many things he has to say about Popper: “just as Karl M arx wrote, in great irritation, a diatribe called The Mis­ery of Philosophy in response to Proudhon’s The Philosophy of Misery, Popper, irritated by some of the philosophers of his time who believed in the scientific understanding of history, wrote, as a pun, The Misery of Historicism (which has been translated as The Poverty of Historicism).

      Popper’s insight concerns the limitations in forecasting historical
      events and the need to downgrade “soft” areas such as history and social
      science to a level slightly above aesthetics and entertainment, like butter­
      fly or coin collecting. (Popper, having received a classical Viennese educa­
      tion, didn’t go quite that far; I do. I am from Amioun.) What we call here
      soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies.”

      Though I give this passage more for the fact of Nassim’s style, and how he engages, he does also critically engages (and sometimes at length) with Popper’s ideas. This passage taken from the section: how to predict your predictions (chapter 11), is a case in point, it is bassically him outlining what he thinks to be Popper’s idea of historcism and how it fits in with his analysis.


    7. Doug Huffman says:

      A small benefit of e-books is that they can be searched. Fooled By Randomness cites Popper fifty-one times.

      I stopped by to ask about a cheap/free copy of A World Of Propensities, anywhere? My budget is busted by Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics as a p-book.

    8. Andrew Crawshaw says:

      Bartleys retreat to commitment is now, I assume, in the public domain; it can be downloaded at the internet archive.

    9. Bell Ocampo says:

      I’ve heard a complaint about The Logic of Scientific Discovery is that apparently it get repetitive after spelling out it’s main point. I don’t know if the criticism is valid or not, but it’s appeared when I looked for it

    10. Rafe says:

      I think that impression can come from the amount of detail in the argument that was responding to the concerns of the people in the Vienna Circle at the time. They were nit-picking over the most minute points of their doctrines that Popper was subjecting to attack and he had to be equally fastidious in nit-picking to answer them.

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