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All Life is Problem Solving

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415249928
ISBN-10: 0415249929
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Editorial Reviews

Review

As always, Popper's writing is extremely clear and fascinating.
–Stefano Gattei, Philosophy in Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (March 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415249929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415249928
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bradley A. Swope on February 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of 15 lectures/speeches/interviews that Popper gave at various points throughout his career (earliest 1958, latest 1994). They are organized into two sections (1) those related to natural science and (2) those related to history and politics. The first section relates to theory of science and knowledge in an evolutionary context with the process of problem solving at the core. In the second section Popper addresses problem solving more generally ("all life is problem solving") and shares his thoughts on subjects such as war, peace, communism, and interpretation of history.
This book has the weaknesses and strengths that you would expect from a work not originally intended to be published in written form. The benefits are that the chapters are fairly brief and easy to read. Also, Popper's style is nearly anti-academic as he tries almost too hard to simplify the material in order to make it understandable to all. The primary drawbacks are that the book can't be well organized and there are significant repetition and overlap in ideas. Additionally, the book doesn't provide the level of detail that one normally expects in a book by a major thinker.

This is the first book of Popper's that I've read. I became interested in his work by being briefly introduced to some of his thinking from other authors. This book did not provide enough detail to satisfy my interest in Popper, but it served to confirm to me that he is a first rate thinker and that his other works should be near the top of my reading list. I especially enjoyed the surprise of reading Popper's thoughts on Saddam Hussein and the threat of nuclear weapons - highly relevant to our situation today (early 2003). There is no doubt where Popper would stand on the current debate about Iraq.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a long-time Karl Popper fan. I've read all but, I believe, 4 books of his. To my knowledge, this is his shortest at 161 pages - all consisting of essays. This is also the book of his that is the least original. If you're a long-time fan, you've read these ideas before. If you are a newcomer, there are better books to start with.
For all that, the first essay, "The Logic and Evolution of Scientific Theory" is the best short summary of Popper's views on science that I've read. The second essay is also a good summary of Popper's theories of body/mind interactionism, an odd position for a modern theoriest to hold.
The second half, although quite unoriginal (I've started to realize that Popper's views on freedom, democracy, open society, etc. were better expressed by James Madison)is still quite interesting. Also, this book, I'm quite sure for the first time, gives us Popper's views towards international policy. 'Waging Wars for Peace', an excerpt from a radio interview, is pretty timely in 2003 and reminds us that there can be no thing as an absolute pacifist. Not destroying someone certain to kill only postpones. The title essay, at 6 pages, is another timely celebration of technology; timely because many on the right and left (for different reasons about different techonologies) are preaching against technologies while failing to see the many good sides.
All in all, a quick and fairly worthwhile read. The experienced reader of Popper, again, will find nothing new here. [...]
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps a good place to start in this review of "All Life Is Problem Solving" is to focus on one essay, "Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge" written in 1989.

Karl Popper (b.1902, d.1994) elegantly proposes that knowledge is linked to expectations. These expectations express theories of reality. Thus knowledge expresses theories of reality. We as with all living things have propensities to guess reality based on hypotheses which logically and psychologically precede observation. Encounters with evidence are the bumps that allow continual reformulation of these assumptions. This in no way implies that the universe separate from our perceptions is illusion. Indeed only fools or sophists would deny its existence, but what is the foundation for defining a "real" world? What is the real you? What is the real anything - statistically analyzed, dissected, named, viewed under an electron microscope, blasted with x rays or gamma rays, painted by Monet? If we open any dictionary on the word "knowledge" we find all sorts of circularity and assumptions that knowledge is primarily empirically derived. Popper's association of knowledge with expectation, or guessing, is a breakthrough in clarity. Animals and plants carry what can be defined as unconscious guesses or theories, namely their genes and other molecular and physiological codes. It is a world of propensities.

Despite perceptual and cognitive limitations, living beings do seek truth and routinely test models against assumed facts. Truth should correspond with facts, but the degree of certainty of facts varies.
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I bought this a long time ago and it has languished on the to-read list. It is probably not the best introduction to Popper, but it's not bad.

The first section is a collection of speeches that have a lot of duplication between them. The good side of that is that I have a pretty good grasp of what he meant by a priori knowledge and his view of the scientific method. By a priori knowledge he means a set of expectations (either in the form of theory and hypothesis or, at a lower level, biological adaptation to the environment) that must be confirmed through interaction with the environment. His repeated comment is that Einstein can actually seek to refute his theories in the interest of advancing knowledge, but an amoeba must fear refutation since it will mean its own death to not be adapted properly.

The section on history and politics can probably be summed up as:
1) History is not a progression that we can really predict. One statement he makes is that history ends right now and the future is not predictable.
2) Be optimistic about the present - life is better now than it ever has been (at least on average).
3) We must constantly work to make the future better.
4) There is no guarantee that freedom will continue in the future as it has in the past. The longer people are free, the more they take it for granted and guard it less.
5) The real cause of a lot of conflicts in the modern world is over-population.

He was also amazingly pro-American for a European intellectual. He did not deny that we have problems but repeatedly stressed that we (the whole world of democracies and the US in particular) are the most successful form of social organization ever tried.
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