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Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Routledge Classics) 2nd Edition
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Karl Popper is unique in the annals of 20th century philosophy, as he stood equidistant between science and politics. Read morePublished 18 months ago by David P
CONJECTURES AND REFUTATIONS is Sir Karl Poppers most significant contribution. Many post-postmodern philosophers of science say that Poppers falsification has been replaced with... Read morePublished on January 18, 2014 by Laurence Chalem
This is a very rare book from the master of logic. Eventhough reading this book is not the easiest task, it is so thought provoking and informative that i feel very lucky to have a... Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Kyriakos Varveris
Professor Popper lays out the core mechanics for scientific progress. One of science's most influential books. Read morePublished on February 9, 2013 by Daniel R. Gresham
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.. Read morePublished on January 21, 2013 by Norman Bishop
Karl Popper has yet to achieve the status I think he might well deserve. He maintains both bold Conjectures and Refutations abound. Read morePublished on February 4, 2012 by mrnolanburris