Critical rationalism in Popper

English version of Racionalismo crítico en Popper. Translated by the autor (Traducido por el autor). 

Karl Raimund Popper is one of the last great philosophers. He was born in Vienna in 1902 and he died in London year 1994. Founder of the current of the critical rationalism, philosopher of science and sociologist, has happened to history through his contributions to the epistemology, where he tried to distinguish between philosophy and science, as well as to clarify the study possibilities that both worlds contribute, how they become rich and when they are incompatible. One is the demarcation criterion. Like liberal sociologist, also it contributed interesting critics to the systems that he considered totalitarian (national-socialism, communism, etc.), shows of which appears in The open society and its enemies, of 1945.

But they are its theses in theory of the knowledge those that will turn to him a forced thinker to understand present science. The main arguments of the author are shaped in their classic immortal Logik der Forschung (translated like The Logic of the Scientific Discovery, of 1932, whose first edition was published in German). Throughout the book, it develops the famous principle of falsifiability. Popper considered that the scientific knowledge did not give results if were centred in establishing or confirming new laws, but that made when discarding the laws that the own experience refused by ineffective.

The key was then in rejecting the laws that empirically did not work. One is the well-known discards by falsifiability. The false thing will have to be criticised, and the authentic mission of the scientist will be for that reason to criticise the established principles, to resist them with the existing laws and to reduce therefore the number of proposals that are had by true. The demarcation criterion (boundary of the valid thing) is based on the capacity that the experts have at the time of refuting the foundations of the hypotheses (or to demonstrate its “falsifiability”).

The development of the knowledge for Popper is obtained putting in use the rationalism (own of the scientific operation) and combining it with the necessary critic and the exercise of falsifiability. Whereas the comprehension of the totality is doubtful, the popperian scepticism prefers to postulate the impossibility to verify the validity of the proposals in science. Such proposals could not be verified, but only be refuted.

Karl, before the complexity of a so abstract idea, illustrated his thesis with the famous example of the swans. From the Antiquity the swans were already known in Europe by their precious white colour. Well they were differentiated from other species, and one occurred by all means that all were white. The oration “all the swans are white” was worth as if it had been verified. But the reality is that it could be verified. In case it were even possible to observe the whiteness of the thousand and thousand pens of swans, it would not guarantee in way some that, certain day, took place an opposite observation to the proposal, and therefore that refuted the oration “all the swans are white”.

Then, the time gave to the reason to Popper and its critical rationalism. In Australia, a type of swan of black coloration was discovered. Thus, the hypothesis “All the swans is white” was refuted of definitive way. Of similar facts the conclusion, according to Popper, of which the progress in science does not take place solely when a hypothesis is confirmed, but when is extracted this one fails and is refuted by the experience. 

Un comentario en “Critical rationalism in Popper

  1. For anybody like me, not expert (though fan) neither in scientific topics nor in philosophical ones, the epistemological approaches that Popper proposes when he explains the distinction of the science with regard to other disciplines and the form in which the scientific advance takes place, do not turn out to be strange. And not only they do not turn out to be strange but also seem to be certainly reasonable and accurate.

    The author holds that it is possible to speak about science only when theories and laws could be subject to an imaginable empirical refutation. As I extract of Popper’s ideas, we cannot know the total reality of our world and of ourselves because the induction, as a method used in science, does not allow us to assure the generality of a phenomenon. Nevertheless, following the philosopher of science, we can know that something does not belong to the reality, defined by an affirmation obtained scientifically, when there is an observation or experiment that contradicts the above mentioned affirmation (falsifiability).

    In spite of all this, when someone as the professor of History of the Science Sanchez Ron questions the expositions of Popper, one also starts doubting. Sanchez Ron, in his “Dictionary of Science” (in the edition of 2006), assures that Popper’s explanation is incorrect since «ultimately always it is possible and allowed, besides frequent, to imagine explanations to “save” our theories of the uncertain verdict of the observations.» The professor and member of Spanish Royal Academy alludes also to the contradiction of the behaviours of the philosopher in his attempts of doing science and to the not widespread reputation of his methodological ideas in the scientific community.

    My intention is to offer another vision, which I cannot argue for my lack of formation but which is supported by Sanchez Ron, about Karl Popper’s thought and his repercussion and to open the debate.
    I hope that this webpage takes force. Cheer up!


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