Just curious - the other day I gave a talk on the scientific method, and I was going over some of the icons that shaped the principles behind how science is done (like Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and good old Karl Popper).
I actually tried to paint a bit of a picture by imagining going for drinks with these three fellows, having read that Bacon was a bit of a know-it-all, Hobbes could be quite brash, and that Popper was very much about helping others (a socialist through and through). I thought those three would make the perfect "drinking buddy" companions.
And then, a grad student said that he had heard from a prof that Popper (having only passed away in recent history) was actually kind of a crank.
Which, of course, wouldn't necessarily make for a good drinking companion. So... I'm wondering, amongst readers here, do we have any other first hand interactions with this icon of science, Mr "you can't prove the truth" himself?
I did my thesis on the scientific method, and liked to find out about the subjects of my research too. My recollection is that Popper was arrogant. I personally don't think his doctrine of falsifiability is meaningful, either.
Newton, though he was a drug addict and a devotee of his own weird religion, did the most important work in method, IMHO.
In Brian Magees book, Confessions of a Philosopher, there is a whole chapter talking about Popper. Magee seemed to be a close friend to Popper. He describes Popper as both, hard to talk with and a fun guy to be around.
have written a book about my encounters with my teacher Karl Popper who was the most exciting person I have ever met and one of the most difficult.
A Philosophers Apprentice: In Karl Poppers Workshop.
by Joseph Agassi second edition (Hardcover - Nov 22, 2008)
I don't think Popper was arrogant, but hard to argue with. His foundations are deep and therefore most of your criticism and ideas would shatter on his bastion of mind.
He always complained that many a critic haven't read him at all, or only in excerptions.
I think that George Soros, who studied with Karl Popper and has remained one of his most faithful disciples would have a lot of first-hand things to say about him. Soros's Open Society Institute is a tribute to Popper.
In the Agee biography (I think it's the Agee book, I read it a long time ago) you can read how Popper threatened Wittgenstein with a poker while they were having an argument in front of an open fire. Of course Wittgenstein wasn't the easiest of people, Maynard Keynes did everything possible to avoid him too.
I read once that "The Open Society and its enemy" was how one wag referred to Popper himself in view of his robust argumentative style.
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Popper was a "genius", after a fashion, by using Darwin's theory of natural selection as his model for the scientific method. This is quite wrong, of course. He was trying to find a different model from Hume's, which complained about the concept of the scientific method using "induction".
But they were both wrong. Without "induction", SM is simply trial and error; even worse, without instruments. You can't design and use instruments in science because that would be acknowledging that the principles used to construct them are established science, you see?
And why on Earth did Popper think he could use the work of Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein as examples of the demarcation of real vs. pseudoscience? All science is tentative, and the philosophy used to develop something like the Special or General theories of Relativity, not to mention Quantum Electrodynamics, are surely exceptional theories in their own right. "Falsifiability", truthfully, demarcates no science that I know of. Dress up an actor as a doctor and let him dispense placebos. Tell me after he has cured you that he is a quack.
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