Karl Popper

kpOur aim as scientists is objective truth; more truth, more interesting truth, more intelligible truth. We cannot reasonably aim at certainty. Once we realize that human knowledge is fallible, we realize also that we can never be completely certain that we have not made a mistake.
There are uncertain truths — even true statements that we may take to be false — but there are no uncertain certainties.
Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.

6 thoughts on “Karl Popper

  1. shinichi Post author

    1. KNOWLEDGE

    I shall start with knowledge. We live in a time in which irrationalism has once more become fashionable. Consequently, I want to begin by declaring that I regard scientific knowledge as the best and most important kind of knowledge we have – though I am far regarding it as the only one. The central features of scientific knowledge are as follows:

    1. It begins with problems, practical as well as theoretical.

    One example of a major practical problem is the struggle of medical science against avoidable suffering. This struggle has been extremely successful; yet it has led to a most serious unintended consequence: the population explosion. This means that another old problem has acquired a new urgency: the problem of birth control. One of the most important tasks of medical science is to find a genuinely satisfactory solution to this problem.

    It is in this way that our greatest successes lead to new problems.

    An example of a major theoretical problems in cosmology is how the theory of gravitation may be further tested and how unified field theories may be further investigated. A very great problem of both theoretical and practical importance is the continued study of the immune system. Generally speaking, a theoretical problem consists in the task of providing an intelligible explanation of an unexplained natural event and the testing of the explanatory theory by way of its predictions.

    2. Knowledge consists in the search for truth—the search for objectively true, explanatory theories.

    3. It is not the search for certainty. To err is human. All human knowledge is fallible and therefore uncertain. It follows that we must distinguish sharply between truth and certainty. That to err is human means not only that we must constantly struggle against error, but also that, even when we have taken the greatest care, we cannot be completely certain that we have not made a mistake.

    In science, a mistake we make—an error—consists essentially in our regarding as true a theory that is not true. (Much more rarely, in consists in our taking a theory to be false, although it is true.) To combat the mistake, the error, means therefore to search for objective truth and to do everything possible to discover and eliminate falsehoods. This is the task of scientific activity. Hence we can say: our aim as scientists is objective truth; more truth, more interesting truth, more intelligible truth. We cannot reasonably aim at certainty. Once we realize that human knowledge is fallible, we realize also that we can never be completely certain that we have not made a mistake. This might also be put as follows:

    There are uncertain truths — even true statements that we may take to be false — but there are no uncertain certainties.

    Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.

    Science, scientific knowledge, is therefore always hypothetical: it is conjectural knowledge. And the method of science is the critical method: the method of the search for and the elimination of errors in the service of truth.

    Of course someone will ask me ‘the old and famous question’, as Kant calls it: ‘What is truth?’ In his major work (884pages), Kant refuses to give any further answer to this question other than that truth is ‘the correspondence of knowledge with its object’ (Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd edition, pp. 82 f.) I would say something very similar: A theory or a statement is true, if what it says corresponds to reality.

    Reply
  2. shinichi Post author

    We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.

    The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
    Introduction

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.