Two Articles

In fallibilism on 03/10/2011 at 6:39 am

Isaiah Berlin and His Groupies.

How the Scientist Got His Ideas.


  1. Point taken re groupies. Berlin was B grade and we can be grateful for his good works without inflating his standing.
    Popper was A grade although the falsification criterion was over-emphasised, mainly because the major opposition kept trying to make too much out of verification.
    Popper often failed as an advocate of his own cause but a mitigating circumstance was the persistent and virulent misrepresentation of his ideas.
    I didn’t think the Popperians were too bad, though it was a pity about the guy who jumped on you over Freud.

    The Just So stories are among the great memories of my childhood. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Thanks for the feed on Michael Ruse (the “you”) who was jumped on by the raging Popperian, surely Bryan Magee, rather surprising, I thought he had better manners and a more nuanced take on Popper.

    See Maggee’s beautiful chapters on Popper and Russell.



  3. Not on point, and maybe old-hat to you, but I enjoyed Quantum Man by Lawrence Krauss. It’s a biography of Feynman’s science more than his life, with sidebars on what Feynman thought constitutes science an what was worth doing.

    I liked a little throw-away line along the lines of, “A scientific theory is a hypothesis with internal logic that has been somewhat supported by empirical evidence and not falsified.” That is far humbler than the popular conception and the conception offered by those who use science in political arguments.

    • Marriner,

      I would go one step further than Krauss (I’m assuming that’s who you quoted) and say that a scientific theory need not even have empirical support or be unfalsified. In fact, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ’empirical support’ at all, not even for existential statements (Bartley and Miller’s work had a large influence on me, natch); furthermore, scientific theories do not lose their status as theories qua theories if we should learn that they are false.

  4. Feynman, like Einstein had a thoroughly Popperian take on science, though I am not aware that he knew anything about Popper. It is easy to spend a lifetime in academia and not meet someone who can give a straight feed on critical rationalism.

    • Rafe,

      My feeling, upon reading and watching videos of Feynman, was that he was a natural (albeit naive) Popperian. Perhaps even one of the few people that fit Lakatos’ bill as described in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Take this video, for instance, or this one.

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