Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
Building a bridge between Popper’s philosophies
Karl Popper is regarded one of the greatest philosophers of his century. He had a major influence on the establishment of the philosophy of science and politics. Yet little research has been done on the interconnection of his theories’ elements. His philosophies are generally regarded unconnected. Therefore, we look for a link between his political and scientific theory. To what extent is his scientific and political philosophy interrelated? Popper’s philosophy of science and political theory are discussed before searching for a bridge between the various elements of his philosophy.
Popper holds that in the philosophy of science, demarcation is the central problem. Unlike the traditional view, he argues that there is no unique methodology specific to science. Instead, he uses falsifiability as criterion (critical rationalism): if a theory can be tested and falsified it is scientific; conversely, a theory which is compatible with all observations, is unscientific. Observation can never lead to confirmation of a claim because of the induction problem (Van Willigenburg 2008, p. 60). It is impossible to reach a sufficient level of confirmation of empirical claims. There are no absolute truths. All knowledge is hypothetical, provisional, and conjectural.
Popper, the herald of anti-totalitarianism, distanced himself from dogma and propaganda. He considered the general view on historicism to be the principal theoretical presupposition underpinning most forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism (Thornton 2009). Thus, he pleaded for the ‘Open Society’, in which critical discussion and argument are of vital importance. It is defined as ‘an association of free individuals respecting each other's rights within the framework of mutual protection, and achieving a growing measure of humane and enlightened life’ (Levinson 1953, p. 17). Popper proposed...