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Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Routledge Classics) Paperback – August 11, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0415285940 ISBN-10: 0415285941 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2nd edition (August 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415285941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415285940
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'Popper holds that truth is not manifest, but extremely elusive, he believes that men need above all things, open-mindedness, imagination, and a constant willingness to be corrected.' – Maurice Cranston, Listener

About the Author

Karl Popper (1902-1994). Philosopher, born in Vienna. One of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century.

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Customer Reviews

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This book was the first book I read in this subject field.
Shahid
Today when science dominates so much of our lives either directly or indirectly it is good to be made to examine the nature of the scientific method..
Norman Bishop
Written with atypically clear prose and full of wit and insight.
M. Hamilton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Alex De Visscher on September 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of twenty papers and speeches that Popper has written throughout his life. The connection between these papers is that they are all loosely related to Popper's famous thesis that science progresses as a series of conjectures and refutations. Scientists build tentative theories (conjectures) to explain what they observe. Since no scientific theory can actually be proven, all a scientist can do is trying to refute it. If a theory withstands severe attempts to refute it, the conjecture becomes more credible (but not more probable, and not more true). A successful refutation of a conjecture is a breakthrough: it leads to new insights, and it can eventually lead to better conjectures. Science is a systematic way of learning from your errors, and criticism is an essential part of it.
Some of the papers in this book make a good introduction to Popper's ideas, but technical discussions of this kind are never easy to read. For instance, if you are unfamiliar with the ideas of Rudolph Carnap, you might want to skip the chapter devoted to him. I had a hard time reading it. Nevertheless, this is probably a better starting point than "The Logic of Scientific Discovery", a very difficult book.
The format of the book as a collection of papers is both a strength and a weakness. Some of the papers are a joy to read, especially when Popper writes about the presocratic philosophers and the birth of science. Popper is very good at introducing his subject, almost as if he were telling a tale. On the other hand, the many repetitions of the same theme become cumbersome after some time. This book is over 400 pages! BIG pages! Apparently, when Popper published this book, he was so famous that publishers uncritically printed anything he wrote, no matter how long-winded. Somehow, this is an ironical illustration of Popper's own thesis.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is rare these days to read a proper treatment of science. Bookshelves in the "science" sections are filled with astronomy, biology, chemistry and such. Not to suggest their is anything wrong with these disciplines; it's just that science is a way of thinking, or if you will, a method- not a collection of beliefs.

Karl Popper has been largely misunderstood, being labeled a relativist and destroyer of objective science. To be sure, he did believe, as the reader will find in this enjoyable collection, that all theories- even well corroborated, are tentative. To give his critics more ammo, Popper considers science "reasoned myth-making." Neither of these extend to relativism. If theories are tentative- always subject to new and different tests- a theory can never be fully proved but CAN be fully falsified. This is the essence of the books essays. Whether Popper is discussing the pre-socratic philosophers, social science or demarcation, his falsification theory is the common theme here. As for the "reasoned myth-making," Popper has a bone to pick with those who think that science is purely based on observation. Any theory, by necessity, is a generality and there are no generalities in nature. Theories are made by observation + induction and induction, as Popper will add, is never logically - only psychologically - justified This is another common thread of the essays.
Two suggestions for reading this book. First, if you are a Popper critic, you NEED to read this book as he goes a long way in explaining many beliefs of his that critics get wrong. Second, do not read the book front to back. As all of these 500+ pages are on the falsification theory applied to different situations, it will get extremely repetitive. Read a few essays at a time and come back later.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book is a collection of articles by Popper. It is easier to understand than his classic Logik der Forshung, and is much richer in content, for Popper embarks in some of these lectures on the history of philosophy and the history of science. There is also a delicious paper on self-reference and meaning in ordinary language.

I especially recommend the paper on "Scientific problems and their roots in metaphysics". Popper's conception of scientific dinamics as a sequence of big problems and answers to them makes him see continuity where experts on some particular philospher usually don't. Thus Popper sees a direct relation between Pythagoras, Plato and Euclid based on some fundamental cosmological problems. Euclid's Elements, Popper claims, were conceived by its author not as an excercise in pure geometry but as an organon of a theory of the world, designed to solve the problems of Plato's cosmology. Plato realized that Pythagoras' "arithmetical" theory of the world was in ruins after the discovery of irrational numbers, and that a new method was needed to understand the world. That is why he initiated the "gemoetrical" programme, which found its culmination in platonic Euclid's work. This way of seeing things is a bit unrealistic, a kind of free "rational reconstruction", but I think it is nevertheless a valuable view.

The fundamental lecture on philosophy of science in this collection is chapter 10, "Truth, rationality & the growth of scientific knowledge", where Popper presents his philosophy of science quite clearly and in detail. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since this paper was first published.
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