PHIL: Justificationalism (Was: Dynamic Optimism as a tool in logical reasoning)

From: Menno Rubingh (
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 08:02:21 MST

On Sat, 15 Jan 2000, wrote:

> You do not know it, but you _are_ a justificationlist. You are _not_ a
> Popperian non-justificationalist.

OK, fine ! Be it so. I can live with being called a justificationalist. :-)

> Make up a new word for this concept or call them "survivors."

OK, that would seem to be a fine solution. I like this "survivors"
terminology !! It is nonsense to say that a theory is 'true' or 'false', one
should say that the theory is a 'survivor' or 'non-survivor' meme. Nice !!


> that sounds pessimistic BUT WAIT . . . THAT MEANS justification is not > needed to get helpful theories! That _is_ Dynamically Optimistic!

I agree that it would be nice to get along with as simple and sparse a tool set as possible. I agree that IF it were possible to do without justificationalism, that this would be good, and that this would be an advance of science; and that IF justificationalism were unnecessary it would therefore be a D.O. thing to junk justificationalism. But you did *not* explain here *why* justificationalism is unnecessary, you only quoted authorities who say so.

Again thanking you for your literature pointers, I however suspect I would disagree with those non-justificationalist authorities you quote just as much as I disagree with you, because having read some things by Popper who you say is an non-justificationalist, I still don't seem to get the message. (Reading the justificationalist writers you quote would not help either, because I would agree with them anyway.) Since I'm not on a mailing list with any of those authorities but am on a mailing list with you, I'm trying to use direct conversation with you as a means to uncover some wisdom on this subject.

Can you explain to me please, WITHOUT using referral to 'authorities' as your only arguments, exactly WHY using positive/supportive proof is unnecessary and maybe even wrong/bad ? If it is so obvious to you that justificationalism is wrong, then that should mean that it should also be easy for you to explain why. E.g., can you explain with the use of a simple example from everyday life ?

> but empirical tests (controlled experiments) that weed > out the errors and therefore find the surviving and helpful theories _are_ > worthwhile.

Again, I fully agree that criticizing *is* necessary and useful !! But I still don't see how it might be possible to do science with criticism as your *only* tool -- i.e., without using also sometimes more constructive tools.

How do you invent the candidate theories with which you start out in the 1st place ? Criticizing (in your sense of the term) does not seem to be a tool that can be used to invent those new candidate theories.

Best greetings, Menno (

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