Re: Popper's 'Scientific' Irrationalism

Guru George (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 21:11:43 GMT

Sorry to disagree with you Reilly, but I have to say that Stove's
critique of Popper is complete bollocks - much as I enjoy Stove's acidic

The point of 'falsifiability' is this: if you are serious about using
experience to test theory then the only way you can *logically* do so is
deductively: you deduce empirical consequences from a theory, and if
those experiences don't pan out, then the theory logically *must* be false.

But there is no such thing as a*logic* of induction: there is no
logical*necessity* to induction, no logical 'must', like you get in
deduction: this is what Hume showed. (BTW, you can't escape this by the
Aristotelian/Randian route, because the truth of your theoretical
construct then depends upon the correctness of your identifications,
begging the question in a different way.)

If you think 'conjectural knowledge' is an oxymoron, then you must be
thinking of 'knowledge' as 'justified true belief'. This isn't the way
Popperians think of knowledge. For Popper, knowledge is simply
systematic truth. Nowhere does he deny that we have got a hold of some
systematic truth, nowhere does he deny that it is possible to arrive at
systematic truth.

How that truth was arrived at is irrelevant to its epistemological
status as knowledge: if it's true it's true, because the world is the way
it is, full stop. In fact the 'justified' and 'true belief' parts of the
traditional definition are precisely what lead to subjectivism and
irrationalism, to the continuous oscillation betweeen scepticism and
dogmatism in the Western tradition.

Of course, the 'justified' bit was an attempt to distinguish mere lucky
guesses from truths arrived at by some sort of rational process. The
problem is, the rational process is not 'justification' but*criticism*.

Popper's idea is that we ought to test our ideas to destruction. What's
left standing isn't thereby 'justified' or 'proved' true beyond any
further doubt, but is the best candidate we have for truth: after all,
what other candidate for truth do we have?

The upshot is, unless you believe in some queer magical connection
between what we say and the way the world is such that there is some
logically necessary link between them (which denies the very principle
of objectivity, which says that there is *no* such logically necessary
connection, that the world exists the way it does independently of our
whims, our thoughts and theories) you*must* (logically!) be a Popperian.

To put it bluntly, we just make stuff up, and then we test it against

Guru George