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On Conjectures and Refutations (1963), the first three essays.
What is science, and how is it different than pseudo-science? From philosophy? Is philosophy just pseudo-science, or proto-science, or what? Popper thinks that all legitimate inquiry is about solving real problems, and scientific theories are those that are potentially falsifiable: they make definitely predictions about the world that, if these fail to be true, would show that the theory is false.
With this idea, Popper thinks he's achieved a real respect for objectivity and beaten the epistemologists of the past, both empiricists (who think the ultimate source of knowledge is experience) and rationalists (who think that it's reason). For Popper, there is no such infallible source. We approach nature with expectations: we leap to a theory with little if any warrant (the "conjectures") and then we modify it when it fails us ("refutations"). Modify, not reject: really, the most powerful force in knowledge is tradition, so long as that tradition is open to critique.
Read more about the topic and get the text. Listen to Dylan's summary of the essays.
A.K. Lumpentroll says
A problem for Science is how to justify contingent, inductively derived understandings, which are foundational in spite of claims to the contrary.
All of us derive our common understandings on the basis of contingent beliefs. We rely on experience. It should come as no surprise that this also underpins all scientific thinking.
Hume refers to this as the Problem of Induction and decides it is insoluble.
Leibniz describes a Necessary Truth as one that could not be otherwise. He assigns this property to Logic and Geometry, thus elevating logically derived abstract truth in the hierarchy of knowledge vis a vis inductively (intuitively) derived understandings.
Popper’s objective is similar: he seeks to elevate abstract principles by undercutting inductively derived understandings with the principle of Falsifiability. He is an iconoclast to the last — and cleverer than you know.
Falsifiability disarms us by undermining the value of our normal way of understanding, both within and without the world of officially sanctioned Science. By insisting that logical truths are inherently superior to other forms of knowledge, he has fasioned a tool, Falsifiability, which diminishes our ability to defend ourselves against the would-be reducers, rationalizers and assorted cadre of “experts” who insist that what you feel and experince is not “Scientific” or logical and therefore irrelevant.
This is especially useful to the funders of Science as they seek to justify evermore destructive and/or outlandish actions grounded in what is purported to be our “best” understanding.
Think of the debate about torture as expressed in the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario.
This specific pro torture argument has a perfectly logical construction. An imminent terrorist threat and the potential murder of innocent people might be averted if only we are willing to torture a “terrorist” said by the authorities to possess criticial information.
Those of us who believe torture is inherently Evil and further understand (intuitively or otherwise) that willingness to accept torture is always counterproductive to society as a whole are deprived of the ability to oppose or contradict our Rulers based on our inability to Falsify this supposedly logical argument. The fact that this scenario has never been proven to have occurred makes no difference with respect to its falsifiability.
So it’s no wonder that a philisophical lightweight like Sam Harris can claim justification for the use of torture based on Science.
I know that Popper’s argument is more subtle and I will be accused of misunderstanding his theory but my conclusion is correct. He is committed to a version of reality in which the Law is predominant. Given the historical events of his lifetime this is perfectly understandable.
But I am unsurprised that Popper’s biggest heroes included Einstein, Freud, Marx and Adler. Of the three, he judged Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to be the only one that was Falsifiable and therefore most Scientific.
We all know how that turned out. Einstein’s theory has been thoroughly disproven. Perhaps out of genuine humility or thinking of his future legacy, Einstein himself admitted his theory might be wrong. Thanks to Quantum science we now know that God does indeed “play dice.”
Remember, what is most Scientific is not necessarily most true.
Having yet to listen to this episode, I’m interested to see how the Boys line up. I suspect that Popper will resonate most with Dylan and Seth (if he’s participating) while Wes will be tougher to pin down and Mark, hero of the people, will likely be most ambivalent.
Looking forward to it.
A.K. Lumpentroll says
Paragraph 10 is awful and should read:
Those of us who believe torture is inherently Evil and further understand (intuitively or otherwise) that willingness to accept torture is always counterproductive to society as a whole are deprived of the ability to oppose or contradict the justifications of our Rulers based on the falsifiability of this supposedly logical argument.
Also… Einstein, Freud, Marx and Adler are four.
” Of the three, he judged Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to be the only one that was Falsifiable and therefore most Scientific.
We all know how that turned out. Einstein’s theory has been thoroughly disproven. ”
I don’t see where the contradiction here should be. And I’ll overleap your other confused statements…
Adeyemi Adediran says
That’s exactly what makes Popper right. The fact that Einstein’s theory was capable of being falsified by later theories is what makes it scientific according to Popper. Einstein’s theory wasn’t supposed to be taken as absolute knowledge according to Popper, but instead taken as a the better theory of all existing theories at the time, one which was closest to the truth–truths that we might not wholly know but which we can make progress towards discovering by making conjectures about them that we can falsify.
Donald Freeman says
Great book about Popper and Wittgenstein. Sure you’ve heard of it, but just in case.
Popper, from Science: Conjectures and refutations:
“In fact Newton’s theory of gravity, and especially the lunar theory of the tides, was
historically speaking an offspring of astrological lore. Newton, it seems, was most reluctant to
adopt a theory which came from the same stable as for example the theory that ‘influenza’
epidemics are due to an astral ‘influence’. ”
Here’s Newton himself from the Principia:
“But hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction. Thus it was that the impenetrability, the mobility, and the impulsive force of bodies, and the laws of motion and of gravitation, were discovered. And to us it is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea.”
Sweet twit indulging says
From my perspective, a proper historical reading of Popper should note that Popper suffered from his own lack of types. There are at least two types of phenomena which he fails to recognize; Observer Relative and Observer Independent. This, I believe is why ultimately Searle is most on track, not only for his wanton political epistemology but for the fact that Popper thinks that causality is not perceptable.
I think Searle gets it right in his notion of intentional causality. If you’ve ever performed an action, you’ve experienced causality which Kant and Popper say can’t be done. Maybe for observe independent phenomena, but If you agree with the types I listed, I’d say I’d say falsifiability is just follows from an applied collective intentionality when pressures are applied through technology, political, or other social phenomena.
Sweet twit, your comment reminds me of something I just read in William James’ essay, The Sentiment of Rationality. James describes how being trapped in the Alps, he must first have faith in his ability to leap over a chasm in order to be in a position to actually make it across. James says:
“In this case (and it is one of an immense class) the part of wisdom clearly is to believe what one desires; for the belief is one of the indispensable preliminary conditions of the realization of its object. There are then cases where faith creates its own verification.”
James goes on to acknowledge that not everything falls into this class.
“The future movements of the stars or the facts of past history are determined now once for all, whether I like them or not. They are given irrespective of my wishes, and in all that concerns truths like these subjective preference should have no part; it can only obscure the judgment.”
What James states here seems to jive with what you mentioned about observer related and observer independent phenomena. What do you think?
Strang Err says
The philosophical acumen of modern thinkers do all point to the controversy of modernity. The death of ideals and the gloat over their carcasses by deadly truth is the point of stasis. Ares is a democrat: all are equal on a battlefield. The goal of the examined life is to become better, which is made impossible by the death of ideals. In the light of viewing philosophy as a confession of its author, and autobiography as the true nature of philosophic writing, Popper seems like a spiritual brother rather of Giambattista Vico, than Charles Darwin. What is implied is the age old mentality of cyclical change (Ovid revived Metamorphosis for Rome from Greece remember?). Popper reaches back, in other words, call it nostalgia, call it a heroic attempt at a reaffirmation of human oumpf!, in the end it, is a comment on the controversy of modernity. This is all good. So, moving on, the question becomes: who is the most controversial, non pop philosopher of modern times in America and Europe?
All give it up?
The answer is Leo Strauss. Philosophy, if it is confession, is all about moving on. Please PEL make a podcast on Leo Strauss’ “Persecution and the Art of Writing”, or his comments on Plato’s dialogs and Xenophon.
Love the podcast on Popper. I noticed that you guys mentioned Kuhn very briefly. Do you have any plans to do a podcast on his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?
Mark Linsenmayer says
Great to hear. This line of discussion wouldn’t be complete without it to be honest. Kuhn’s contributions to the discussion of Epistemology/Philosophy of Science (such as his conceptions of “paradigms” and “paradigm shifts”) are immense. Reading through “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” was a pleasure for me and greatly insightful.
KUHN: philosopher of scientific revolutions?
Wes Sharrock And Rupert Read
Wayne Schroeder says
On the subject of Deduction versus Induction see http://dudespaper.com/the-mind-limber.html/.
A brief quote:
“It seems that, fundamentally, the power of inductive reasoning lies in our ability to listen: to be open to new experience, to collect raw data and play with it until we detect a pattern.”
Wayne Schroeder says
Truth or Method:
Here is an interesting interaction between Wes and Seth during the podcast (@1:20)
WES: Take the work of Antigone. Obviously there are bad interpretations. Someone come along and says oh no, Cryon is not proud and that doesn’t drive the plot in some way and you can bring all kinds of textual evidence to bear, but there is no strict falsifiability in this case. Popper would point in your theory of Cryon’s pride you can find all sorts of textual evidence and ignore other evidence but I think we would all agree there are better and worse interpretations. So I think there are areas that are not strictly scientific in which evidence and argument are still important factors. Just to say something isn’t strictly falsifiable isn’t to say we are suddenly in a realm where we ignore evidence and we ignore argument
SETH: Any philosopher is going to make Arguments and have claims and those claims are going to rest on certain kinds of evidence. There will be consequences if you accept the evidence or not.
WES: Part of the problem is philosophical evidence is introspective . You are not appealing to some experimental procedure in the external world, you are appealing to someone’s introspective experience.
SETH: Pursuing problems [for Popper] is more important than falsifiability. Many philosophical problems have roots in questions about how the world works.
I feel like my whole philosophical questioning is on display. Maybe, rather, this is so weird that it’s unreal, in that, no one would believe you anyway. Is this normal to all in philosophy?
Wayne Schroeder says
Your response is fairly cryptic, but I’m guessing you may not agree with Popper’s position as argued by Seth, which is an interesting blend of skepticism (you can’t really know truth) and optimism (well you can move toward it through falsifiability) ending in a kind of mixed Kantian position.
Wes questions the optimistic, Kantian position of Popper by talking about non empirical/observable aspects of “truth” which involve the field of hermeneutics as examined by Gadamer in Truth and Method. Using Popper’s falsifiability concept I have considered positing each philosophical position in terms of a scientific hypothesis in order to see if it is falsifiable, and how they would compare on this basis, but haven’t gotten around to it yet (ever?)
But just from that concept alone, foundational questioning is normal to philosophy, just because each philosophy is trying to answer somewhat different problems (this is a position outlined by Deleuze as well). I think it is important for others to believe our positions philosophically (intersubjective objectivity), but the first most important position is to believe my own position. Don’t know if I filled in your crypt or fell into it : )
If I sound cryptic don’t be that rabbit and dig another hole (pun on “Breath” there). I think it’s good to find our truth or our own position. That takes time and there are enough obscurities finding truths that are acceptable for myself. It’s another thing all together when there are times when belief in your (rhetorical) position runs mine in a feedback loop.
I can be very analytical and stick out philosophical wrestling with a topic that matters for reason more than my interest would normally be able to sustain. I could be off but if this were the case it’s nice to be upfront and open.
I haven’t read philosophical works in depth as many in the Not School group, and I enjoy these discussion and like fun but not mental mind twisting games because stability is as important for the obscurities that arise on there own. I hope my tone is read as I would wish it to be read and doesn’t come off pretentiously.
Daniel David says
Enjoyed it once again, guys. Once Kuhn is out of the way, what about an episode on Feyerabend somewhere down the line? I’d love to hear you guys kicking his ideas around.
Absolutely agree. Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method,’ which of course was supposed to be contrasted with his friend Lakatos’ ‘For Method.’ Feyerabend is an interesting voice in Philosophy!
and Latour, Pickering, and Hacking!
Daniel T says
What a great podcast. I don’t often find myself trying to join the conversation while I’m listening, but you guys got me this time. Here are a couple of things I found myself saying…
Several times, you guys talked about philosophical concepts being right or wrong, even if they weren’t falsifiable. That got me wondering… What does “wrong” mean if no test, or even thought experiment, can show the concept to be inadequate?
At about 52 minutes into it. Kant’s view is that every effect has a cause… Well, sure that may be true by definition, but every experience doesn’t necessarily have a cause. Quantum mechanics and Schrödinger’s Cat taught us that.
At about 64 minutes. You point out Popper’s apparent view “there’s a way to evaluate what’s good philosophy, what’s bad philosophy, at least to rule out some philosophical theories that’s just poor…” That got me wondering… What does “bad” or “poor” mean if no test, or even thought experiment, can show the concept to be inadequate?
Later (67 minutes) you guys give an answer about whether a theory is better or worse at attempting to solve the same problem, but isn’t that a means of falsification? Maybe not empirical falsification, but falsification none-the-less. I find myself thinking about literary theory, which is sometimes described as (my wife the lit major hates this word) a “lens,” merely a way of looking at the facts with no predictive content. However to say that one lens can conceivably be better than another lens for analyzing a particular work still implies prediction and thus allows for falsification.
At 68 minutes… I also want to attempt to answer the question, “why do we value simplicity?” My favorite example is comparing a heliocentric model of the solar system to a geocentric model. Both models “work” in that they both can equally accurately predict the future positions of the planets, but the former only has one “assumption,” the gravitational constant. When we are asked “why does g equal 6.67384 × 10^-11 m^3 kg^-1 s^-2? Our only answer (at least to date,) is “because that’s what it needs to be in order for the formula to work,” i.e., we don’t know. In the geocentric model, there are a whole slew of these sorts of assumptions required in order to make it so the theory is able to predict the positions of the planets, at least two for each body, except the sun. In other words, a whole host of “we don’t know”s are involved, and we have to add more “magic” numbers every time we discover a new body. What the above shows us is that the “simpler theory” is better not because it is better at predicting (remember, they are both equally accurate,) but rather it expresses the most knowledge in that there are fewer assumptions, fewer “magic” numbers. Occam’s Razor is all about the concept of valuing simplicity.
Of course, my latter comments feed back into my earlier questions… Someone who says that we shouldn’t value simplicity is implicitly predicting that nobody will ever be able to come up with an argument to refute his claim. It could be that prediction is inherent in all “good” philosophy, then the only difference between philosophy and science is wether or not the refutation/falsification is empirical.
In Episode 6, you implied that there were aspects of “monadology” to which you subscribed. In this episode, you emphasize the preposterous nature of the monad claim, although you feel the claim retains an eccentric explanatory power (kind of like “boldly going where no atom has gone before” -or since). I am wondering how, at this point in your thinking, you would “cash out” monadology in terms of utility and/or meaning -and dare I say truth?
One other question:
I’m not sure how conclude that deduction is more reliable than induction based on the example that was given in the podcast:
“All swans are white” and “I see a black swan,” therefore “not all swans are white.”
What if the swan had been in the BP oil spill or had a rare fungal disease or had been painted by a performance artist?
I’m not sure of how reliable the explicit exclusionary observation of deduction could ever be. Isn’t logical deduction ultimately limited by phenomenology -coming down to the associative power of conjoined series of sets of personal observations –the power ultimately being lattices or matrices of human associativeness -internal and interpersonal “netted surfaces” ——as opposed to or maybe in harmony with the TANGLED string-theory canon of mathematical formulas derived from winning one’s bet at the subatomic particle accelerator race-tracks.
“Induction applied to the physical sciences is always uncertain, because it is based on the belief in a general order of the universe, an order which is external to us. Mathematical induction — i.e., proof by recurrence — is, on the contrary, necessarily imposed on us, because it is only the affirmation of a property of the mind itself.” – Henri Poincaré, Science and hypothesis
Does the mind repeat or does its oscillations?
Or, as those pesky postmodernists say, the mind is both fact and fact-like.
I mean, honestly , everyone can see that physics has gotten a little afield of the domain of Euclid’s point and line where we all started. So for starters, what does that mean for the social contract? What does it mean for society? Text the answer to me and the rest of my collective by satellite-phone link to our google glasses so we can view it and commit it to reason, while we simultaneously phenomenologically scan the event horizon. Physics is not excluded from grounding itself in the crossing the human phenomenologic event horizon. Physics cannot claim it observes a separate event horizon.
Is human associativeness the same as monadic associativeness?
Ah —-that’s the question I really wanted to ask!!!
*Addendum: “limited by phenomenology” meaning “controlled by phenomenology.”
When all has been said and done, it is obvious to us all that infinitesimal calculus is limited not by its undefined terms but by its human increment, which is the human even horizon. —As opposed to the imaginative glamour of the black hole or white hole event horizon.
Maybe we are right here right now in this universe because this setting and these conditions are ideal for the human event horizon.
——-“the best of all possible worlds”
Is there resonance, similitude, or equivalence between physics’ “event horizon” and Leibniz’s “perception?”
Wayne Schroeder says
What’s up with all the posts?
Leibniz’s monadology was an early focus of the podcasts, and has been mentioned again on occasion, including in this podcast. “Monadology” straddles the border between phenomenology and scientific theory, as do areas of physics. I am interested in a “cash out” of monadology in light of the discussion in the current podcast, as the podcast focuses on science and “reality testing.” What’s up with all the posts? –Consider them a summation of the increments of my thoughts on the matter, which unfortunately are not instantaneous as in calculus operations. Fortunately, it is a finite series, which is to say: don’t worry, I’m done.
Wayne Schroeder says
I appreciate your phenomenological thinking. Sorry if I offended you by my question, but just wanted to clarify your posting, and I appreciate your clarification–Wayne.
Not a problem -you are just trying to reckon with startling multiplicity, as are we all.
Wayne Schroeder says
Ok, so perhaps we can dissolve through the concept of monad by not limiting being to the human event horizon and drill on down infinitely.
Billie Pritchett says
This is sort of a side-bar topic, but Wes mentioned Fodor’s argument against natural selection as a scientific theory, and I was curious about two issues: (1) Popper’s take and his recanting and (2) the idea of what constitutes scientific theory.
Setting aside the theory of evolution and looking at natural selection as a mechanistic theory for who or what survives, would Popper just say that the theory of natural selection could not be science proper because, like history, there would be no way to go back and check the claims against observational reality? Not having read Popper’s work (yet), I was wondering if this is how he would address the issue.
Regarding Fodor and what constitutes a scientific theory more broadly, I’ve listened to a debate between Jerry Fodor and Elliott Sober, and it was very difficult for me to understand what was at issue there in terms of what Fodor thought the problem was, but the best I could glean was the problem with the theory of natural selection was, as Fodor put it, that “the scientists are smarter than the theory” and that there is nothing in the theory to predict that a trait is adaptive or ‘exaptive.’ For Fodor, the framework of natural selection only provides that individuals of species in the present environment possess certain traits because the genes selected for them, because certain of these traits were advantageous for the survival of the genes. Fodor seems to believe that “the scientists are smarter than the theory” because they can look at the traits of an individual and surmise that the trait developed for some novel reason that would have benefited the gene–take, say, wings for an individual insect. But there is nothing in the theory that allows scientists to know why the wings developed except for whatever auxiliary assumptions they make, for instance, about how the wings aid in flight or were more important to keep the insect warm, or whatever the assumption might be based on the data. And regarding the issue of adaptation and exaptation, it’s not clear from the theory which traits actually helped the genes replicate (an adaptation) and which traits are a nice byproduct of the trait (exaptation). Maybe the wings, for instance, were for warmth (adaptation) but now they allow for flight (exaptation).
Wes, since you have read a lot of the literature about this, is the above a fair assessment of Fodor? And, as a follow-up question, do you find yourself sympathetic to Fodor’s position? When I consider it, I understand why he might think the theory of natural selection is paltry in the way of theory. On the one hand, it seems trivially true: yeah, certain traits we see now are here because certain genes had variations in their copies and certain of those variations survived and gave rise to certain of these traits. And on the other hand, it seems in some respects an appeal to ignorance: We don’t know exactly what physical/physiological/biological laws allowed for the evolutionary changes, so let’s just read off certain of the phenotypes for individuals and give our best estimate for why there are some traits rather than others.
Having trained as a medical doctor my views on a bunch of stuff, including philosophy, are affected by that special field of knowledge, so—not directly in response to the Popper episode, but more like giving voice to a kind of discontent which has developed over time as I listen to PEL podcasts—I gotta say:
The practices of medical research and even clinical diagnostic medicine are concrete, quotidian examples of the process of problem—inquiry—theorizing—testing etc etc. Both the fruits and an imitation of the methods of medical practice can shed light on philosophical questions.
In research, unfortunate events play a huge role in the investigation of a medical problem. Mutations, traumatic injuries, birth defects, drugs, and disease states such as strokes, etc, in animals and humans, have served as springboards to and shed light on investigations of huge problems like diabetes, cancer, and brain anatomy and function. More is learned in medicine when something was/is messed up than when it’s okay.
Are there any modern philosophers who get closer to the truth by looking at known physical disorders and variations of the brain either as starting points or to illuminate particular ongoing inquiries? To say something new, for example, about thought, consciousness, sense of self, altruism, memory, perception, shouldn’t you include consideration of the physical conditions in which these are disordered? Won’t this get closer to the truth and make the exercise more significant? Do philosophers discount or ignore this complementary source of understanding intentionally?
Wayne Schroeder says
Reasoning about the human condition from known physiological disorders occurs predominantly within neuroscience, eg., The Tell Tale Brain, Ramachandran, The Self Illusion (Bruce Hood), Being No One, Metzinger, etc., and more generally by Catherine Malabou in The New Wounded. Merleau Ponty explained his Phenomenology of Perception using neurological disorders to a large degree.
Daniel Horne says
I’m basically sympathetic to your point, so bear with me! That said:
It’s not clear to me that the investigative techniques you describe are unique to medicine. You’re simply describing traditional scientific method, no? And there is a professional research scientist on the podcast, so I don’t find the show to be uninformed on these concepts.
Also, your last question seems to imply that philosophers, as a group, discount or ignore [X] or [Y]. But there is no one posture adopted by all (or even a quorum) of philosophers. There are different traditions, different areas of inquiry, different fields of specialty, etc.
That said, I still take your point – theories of mind benefit from at least some background in empirical research.
I think you would appreciate the “neurophilosophy” work being done by Patricia Churchland:
…and here’s the PEL episode with Pat Churchland:
You might also appreciate the more philosophically-oriented work of the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga. He has done just as you suggested; developed theories of mind based upon patients with medical problems:
On intentionality in particular, I think you might appreciate the work of John Searle. He is not a trained scientist, but is an analytic philosopher informed by scientific research on the mind:
Are you going to do a reading on David Stove’s “Anything Goes: Origins of the Cult of Scientific Irrationalism” a critic of Plato, Hume, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend?
Mark Linsenmayer says
Not familiar with it; can you make a pitch? Is this something being read in phil of sci classes these days? Or is an impatient denunciation of philosophy itself a la Rand? (or neither?)
Might be fun to pair this with “Fear of Knowledge” http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2010/11/15/boghossian-vs-goodman-on-fact-constructivism/
> Not familiar with it; can you make a pitch?
In short, there are 2 science camps:
1. Induction isn’t valid. There is only the hypothetico-deductive method. Science is privileged from other hypothetico-deductions (e.g. the demarcation problem) in that scientific theories are falsifiable. Science can never prove things, it can only disprove things.
2. Induction is valid, the scientific method can prove things. Falsification is irrelevant and was only invented by the induction isn’t valid camp to ward off subjective truth.
Stove puts Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend in the induction isn’t valid camp and points out various tricks they do to obscure it (well Popper at least. The others, especially Feyrabend, don’t make much of an effort).
> Is this something being read in phil of sci classes these days?
I’m not sure, I didn’t go to university for philosophy and most of my philosophy studies are around the foundations of maths and logics so I’m really out of the loop in terms of which philosopher is talked out in non-math/logic philosophy academic circles.
> Or is an impatient denunciation of philosophy itself a la Rand? (or neither?)
He’s got Randian qualities in that he’s a rationalist and he often makes insulty attacks (more Nietzscheish as opposed to Randish) towards people who are skeptical that mental phenomena implies an external word. But unlike Nietzsche and Rand he actually can take you through the steps of his argument instead of dazzling you with words or avalanching you with assertions.
His book justifying induction against Hume is technical (and you have to follow it with a diagram if you want to understand the subtleties) and filled with formalism which I know you guys hate:
But his book on Popper is easier to read and geared toward a wider audience. An earlier version of it is also available online for free titled “Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists” so you can skim it (or even better, read his wikipedia page for a summary):
Mark Linsenmayer says
Thanks! Very helpful!
Popper and After is another relevant book by Stove.
N Luna says
At approximately hour 1 minute 10 there is a discussion on preference for simple theories. The original question is good since it is often unclear why we should prefer simple theories over more complex theories, meaning it is unclear what logic could be employed to claim the universe couldn’t be complex. The explanation that simple is preferable for Popper because it is “riskier” and therefore more falsifiable is one possible explanation but it works best when we realize Popper was arguing that surviving falsifiable tests doesn’t imply a theory is more “true” (or verified) but only that it hasn’t yet been falsified. When you give up verification (and the ability to actually achieve description of the truth through theory, though not denying ontologic truth altogether, which he didn’t do i believe) then you might choose simple theories over complex theories in so far as they are easier models to understand, work with, deal with. If a complex theory better survived “falsification” than a simple theory I don’t think Popper would prefer that specific simple theory over the complex theory, but if two theories were both surviving equal “falsification” attempts he might prefer the simple theory for practical reasons, such as easier theory sharing, teaching etc. This might be more in line with a pragmatic view.
Also, I wondered at the point of the conversation where you all were discussing Popper’s understanding of philosophy being context driven, trying to deal with specific problems in specific contexts, whether that was hugely different from Wittgenstein’s approach with language games in philosophical investigations or his sense of philosophy as therapy, but perhaps there is an ocean of difference that would be apparent through talking it through.
Jennifer Tejada says
I realize I’m years behind the party.
I’m very interested in the section where the problem of observation is discussed. The idea that it is theory laden. I have heard this mentioned in other episodes but no deeper than an explanation of the idea that – in order to say “red patch here” that you’d have to have some theoretical constructs already in place.
I’m particularly confused when I think about infants and the idea that they have these constructs already in place. Just because an infant’s observes, how is it clear that they have theoretical constructs in place? I ask because this is a big question in the world of infant research – when their sense of self/awareness of self develops etc. and this area fascinates me.
If anyone knows of an author that discusses this more fully I would greatly appreciate it.