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This was the start of his later criticism of historicism.

In , Popper co-founded the Mont Pelerin Society , with Friedrich Hayek , Milton Friedman , Ludwig von Mises and others, although he did not fully agree with the think tank's charter and ideology. Specifically, he unsuccessfully recommended that socialists should be invited to participate, and that emphasis should be put on a hierarchy of humanitarian values rather than advocacy of a free market as envisioned by classical liberalism.

Although Popper was an advocate of toleration, he also warned against unlimited tolerance. Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise.

Karl Popper Clips (1974)

But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Popper criticized what he termed the "conspiracy theory of society," the view that powerful people or groups, godlike in their efficacy, are responsible for purposely bringing about all the ills of society. As early as , Popper wrote of the search for truth as "one of the strongest motives for scientific discovery. Then came the semantic theory of truth formulated by the logician Alfred Tarski and published in Popper wrote of learning in of the consequences of Tarski's theory, to his intense joy. The theory met critical objections to truth as correspondence and thereby rehabilitated it.

The theory also seemed, in Popper's eyes, to support metaphysical realism and the regulative idea of a search for truth. According to this theory, the conditions for the truth of a sentence as well as the sentences themselves are part of a metalanguage. So, for example, the sentence "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. Although many philosophers have interpreted, and continue to interpret, Tarski's theory as a deflationary theory , Popper refers to it as a theory in which "is true" is replaced with " corresponds to the facts ".

He bases this interpretation on the fact that examples such as the one described above refer to two things: assertions and the facts to which they refer. He identifies Tarski's formulation of the truth conditions of sentences as the introduction of a "metalinguistic predicate" and distinguishes the following cases:. The first case belongs to the metalanguage whereas the second is more likely to belong to the object language. Hence, "it is true that" possesses the logical status of a redundancy. Upon this basis, along with that of the logical content of assertions where logical content is inversely proportional to probability , Popper went on to develop his important notion of verisimilitude or "truthlikeness".

The intuitive idea behind verisimilitude is that the assertions or hypotheses of scientific theories can be objectively measured with respect to the amount of truth and falsity that they imply. And, in this way, one theory can be evaluated as more or less true than another on a quantitative basis which, Popper emphasises forcefully, has nothing to do with "subjective probabilities" or other merely "epistemic" considerations.

The simplest mathematical formulation that Popper gives of this concept can be found in the tenth chapter of Conjectures and Refutations. Here he defines it as:. Popper's original attempt to define not just verisimilitude, but an actual measure of it, turned out to be inadequate. However, it inspired a wealth of new attempts. Knowledge, for Popper, was objective, both in the sense that it is objectively true or truthlike , and also in the sense that knowledge has an ontological status i.

He proposed three worlds : [61] World One, being the physical world, or physical states; World Two, being the world of mind, or mental states, ideas and perceptions; and World Three, being the body of human knowledge expressed in its manifold forms, or the products of the Second World made manifest in the materials of the First World i.

World Three, he argued, was the product of individual human beings in exactly the same sense that an animal's path is the product of individual animals, and thus has an existence and is evolution independent of any individually known subjects. The influence of World Three, in his view, on the individual human mind World Two is at least as strong as the influence of World One. In other words, the knowledge held by a given individual mind owes at least as much to the total, accumulated, wealth of human knowledge made manifest, comparably to the world of direct experience.

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As such, the growth of human knowledge could be said to be a function of the independent evolution of World Three. Many contemporary philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett, have not embraced Popper's Three World conjecture, mostly due to its resemblance to mind-body dualism. The creation—evolution controversy in the United States raises the issue of whether creationistic ideas may be legitimately called science and whether evolution itself may be legitimately called science. In the debate, both sides and even courts in their decisions have frequently invoked Popper's criterion of falsifiability see Daubert standard.

In this context, passages written by Popper are frequently quoted in which he speaks about such issues himself. For example, he famously stated " Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program—a possible framework for testable scientific theories. And yet, the theory is invaluable. I do not see how, without it, our knowledge could have grown as it has done since Darwin.

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In trying to explain experiments with bacteria which become adapted to, say, penicillin , it is quite clear that we are greatly helped by the theory of natural selection. Although it is metaphysical, it sheds much light upon very concrete and very practical researches. It allows us to study adaptation to a new environment such as a penicillin-infested environment in a rational way: it suggests the existence of a mechanism of adaptation, and it allows us even to study in detail the mechanism at work.

He also noted that theism , presented as explaining adaptation, "was worse than an open admission of failure, for it created the impression that an ultimate explanation had been reached". When speaking here of Darwinism, I shall speak always of today's theory—that is Darwin's own theory of natural selection supported by the Mendelian theory of heredity , by the theory of the mutation and recombination of genes in a gene pool, and by the decoded genetic code. This is an immensely impressive and powerful theory.

The claim that it completely explains evolution is of course a bold claim, and very far from being established. All scientific theories are conjectures, even those that have successfully passed many severe and varied tests. The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested, and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism. In , regarding DNA and the origin of life he said:.


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What makes the origin of life and of the genetic code a disturbing riddle is this: the genetic code is without any biological function unless it is translated; that is, unless it leads to the synthesis of the proteins whose structure is laid down by the code. But, as Monod points out, the machinery by which the cell at least the non-primitive cell, which is the only one we know translates the code "consists of at least fifty macromolecular components which are themselves coded in the DNA ".

Monod, ; [64] , [65]. Thus the code can not be translated except by using certain products of its translation. This constitutes a really baffling circle; a vicious circle, it seems, for any attempt to form a model, or theory, of the genesis of the genetic code.

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Toward an alternative dialogue between the social and natural sciences

Thus we may be faced with the possibility that the origin of life like the origin of the universe becomes an impenetrable barrier to science, and a residue to all attempts to reduce biology to chemistry and physics. He explained that the difficulty of testing had led some people to describe natural selection as a tautology , and that he too had in the past described the theory as "almost tautological", and had tried to explain how the theory could be untestable as is a tautology and yet of great scientific interest:.

My solution was that the doctrine of natural selection is a most successful metaphysical research programme. It raises detailed problems in many fields, and it tells us what we would expect of an acceptable solution of these problems. I still believe that natural selection works in this way as a research programme. Nevertheless, I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation.

The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological.

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In this case it is not only testable, but it turns out to be not strictly universally true. There seem to be exceptions, as with so many biological theories; and considering the random character of the variations on which natural selection operates, the occurrence of exceptions is not surprising. Thus not all phenomena of evolution are explained by natural selection alone.

Yet in every particular case it is a challenging research program to show how far natural selection can possibly be held responsible for the evolution of a particular organ or behavioural program. These frequently quoted passages are only a very small part of what Popper wrote on the issue of evolution, however, and give the wrong impression that he mainly discussed questions of its falsifiability.

Oh no, there's been an error

Popper never invented this criterion to give justifiable use of words like science. In fact, Popper stresses at the beginning of Logic of Scientific Discovery that "the last thing I wish to do, however, is to advocate another dogma" [68] and that "what is to be called a 'science' and who is to be called a 'scientist' must always remain a matter of convention or decision. I do not try to justify [the aims of science which I have in mind], however, by representing them as the true or the essential aims of science. This would only distort the issue, and it would mean a relapse into positivist dogmatism.

There is only one way, as far as I can see, of arguing rationally in support of my proposals. This is to analyse their logical consequences: to point out their fertility—their power to elucidate the problems of the theory of knowledge. Popper had his own sophisticated views on evolution [72] that go much beyond what the frequently-quoted passages say. Popper understood the universe as a creative entity that invents new things, including life, but without the necessity of something like a god, especially not one who is pulling strings from behind the curtain.

He said that evolution of the genotype must, as the creationists say, work in a goal-directed way [74] but disagreed with their view that it must necessarily be the hand of god that imposes these goals onto the stage of life.


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  • Instead, he formulated the spearhead model of evolution , a version of genetic pluralism. According to this model, living organisms themselves have goals, and act according to these goals, each guided by a central control. In its most sophisticated form, this is the brain of humans, but controls also exist in much less sophisticated ways for species of lower complexity, such as the amoeba. This control organ plays a special role in evolution—it is the "spearhead of evolution".

    The goals bring the purpose into the world.