critical rationalism


  • Especially the view that a theory is better if it is less likely to be true is in direct opposition to the traditional positivistic view, which holds that one should seek
    theories that have a high probability.

  • Justificationism is what Popper called a “subjectivist” view of truth, in which the question of whether some statement is true is confused with the question of whether it
    can be justified (established, proven, verified, warranted, made well-founded, made reliable, grounded, supported, legitimated, based on evidence) in some way.

  • [6] That it is the least probable theory that is to be preferred is one of the contrasting differences between critical rationalism and classical views on science, such as
    positivism, which holds that one should instead accept the most probable theory.

  • However, this contrastive, critical approach to objective knowledge is quite different from more traditional views that also hold knowledge to be objective.

  • If retained, further differentiation may be made on the basis of how much subjection to criticism they have received, how severe such criticism has been, and how probable
    the theory is, with the least probable theory that still withstands attempts to falsify it being the one to be preferred.

  • Supposed positive evidence (such as the provision of “good reasons” for a claim, or its having been “corroborated” by making successful predictions) does nothing to bolster,
    support, or prove a claim, belief, or theory.

  • Critical rationalism holds that knowledge is objective (in the sense of being embodied in various substrates and in the sense of not being reducible to what humans individually
    “know”), and also that truth is objective (exists independently of social mediation or individual perception, but is “really real”).

  • The lower probability theory is favoured by critical rationalism because the greater the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information
    a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false.

  • But they conclude (wrongly, according to the critical rationalist) that there is therefore no rationality, and no objective distinction to be made between the true and the

  • Related to the point above, David Miller,[11] attacks the use of “good reasons” in general (including evidence supposed to support the excess content of a hypothesis).

  • And it is not belief either, because scientific knowledge, or the knowledge needed to, for example, build an airplane, is contained in no single person’s mind.

  • Critical rationalism rejects the classical position that knowledge is justified true belief; it instead holds the exact opposite: that, in general, knowledge is unjustified
    untrue unbelief.

  • It is not meant as a concession to justificatory epistemology, like assuming a theory to be “justifiable” by asserting that it is highly unlikely and yet fits observation.

  • The rationale behind this is simply to make it as easy as possible to find out whether the theory is false so that it can be replaced by one that is closer to the truth.

  • For criticism is all that can be done when attempting to differentiate claims to knowledge, according to the critical rationalist.

  • Non-justificationism William Warren Bartley compared critical rationalism to the very general philosophical approach to knowledge which he called justificationism, the view
    that scientific theories can be justified.

  • Popper and David Miller showed in 1983[10] that evidence supposed to partly support a hypothesis can, in fact, only be neutral to, or even be counter-supportive of the hypothesis.

  • [5] Criticism, not support Critical rationalists hold that scientific theories and any other claims to knowledge can and should be rationally criticized, and (if they have
    empirical content) can and should be subjected to tests which may falsify them.

  • Critical rationalism is an epistemological philosophy advanced by Karl Popper on the basis that, if a statement cannot be logically deduced (from what is known), it might
    nevertheless be possible to logically falsify it.

  • Knowledge and truth still exist, just not in the way we thought.

  • They are naïve rationalists, and thinking that their knowledge can indeed be founded, in principle, it may be deemed certain to some degree, and rational.

  • Even a highly unlikely theory that conflicts with a current observation (and is thus false, like “all swans are white”) must be considered to be better than one which fits
    observations perfectly, but is highly probable (like “all swans have a color”).


Works Cited

[‘Popper, Karl (2002) [1959]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (2nd English ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Classics. ISBN 0-415-27844-9. OCLC 59377149.
2. ^ Popper, K., The Open Society and Its Enemies, Princeton University Press, 2013, p.435.
3. ^
Popper, K., Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, Routledge, 2014, p. 34.
4. ^ Popper, K., Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography, Routledge, 2005, p. 132.
5. ^ Popper, K., The Myth of the Framework: In Defence
of Science and Rationality, Routledge, 2014, p. xii.
6. ^ Jump up to:a b c Popper, Karl (2002) [1959]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (2nd English ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Classics. ISBN 0-415-27844-9. OCLC 59377149., section 43, especially
footnote *1 and *2
7. ^ Miller, David (1994). Critical Rationalism: A Restatement and Defence. Chicago: Open Court Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 0812691970. OCLC 30353251.
8. ^ “Karl Popper and Critical Rationalism”. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
9. ^
David Miller, “Critical Rationalism: A Restatement and Defense, Open Court Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0-8126-9198-9
10. ^ Nature 302, April 21, “A Proof of the Impossibility of Inductive Probability”
11. ^ In his Critical Rationalism: A Restatement
and Defence, Chapter 3 “A Critique of Good Reasons”
12. ^ Bunge, Mario, ed. (1999) [1964]. Critical Approaches to Science & Philosophy. Science and Technology Studies. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0765804271. OCLC 38389855.
13. ^
See, for example:
 Bunge, Mario (1983). “Systematizing”. Epistemology & Methodology I. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 5. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 323–376 (368). doi:10.1007/978-94-009-7027-4_10. ISBN 9027715114. OCLC 9412962.
Because of all these differences between law statements and empirical generalizations, the empiricist epistemology, which favors the latter and mistrusts or even rejects the former, does not fit the facts of scientific practice. Nor does critical
rationalism, for which all hypotheses are groundless, none being better than any others except that some resist better the attempts at refuting them (Popper, 1959, 1963, 1974).
 Bunge, Mario (1983). “Producing Evidence”. Epistemology & Methodology
II: Understanding the World. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 6. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 59–113 (70). doi:10.1007/978-94-015-6921-7_2. ISBN 902771634X. OCLC 9759870. Critical rationalism (e.g. Popper, 1959) agrees that experience is a
test of theories (its only concern) but claims that only negative evidence counts (against), for positive evidence is too easy to come by. True, unsuccessful attempts to refute a theory (or discredit a proposal or an artifact) are more valuable than
mere empirical confirmation. However, (a) the most general theories are not refutable, although they are indirectly confirmable by turning them into specific theories upon adjoining them specific hypotheses (Bunge, 1973b); (b) true (or approximately
true) predictions are not that cheap, as shown by the predictive barrenness of pseudoscience; (c) positive evidence for the truth of an idea or the efficiency of a proposal, procedure, or artifact, does count: thus the US Food and Drug Administration
will rightly demand positive evidence for the efficiency [efficacy] of a drug before permitting its marketing.
14. ^ See, for example, among secondary sources:
 Quintanilla, Miguel A. (1982). “Materialist Foundations of Critical Rationalism”.
In Agassi, Joseph; Cohen, Robert S. (eds.). Scientific Philosophy Today. Boston Studies in the Philosophy Of Science. Vol. 67. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 225–237. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-8462-2_14. ISBN 902771262X. OCLC 7596359. I will endeavor
to demonstrate that Popper’s theory of the three worlds is unacceptable, that Popper’s arguments against materialism do not affect Bunge’s ontology, and that starting from this ontology the foundations of rationality can be framed in a more consistent
and more ‘critical’ manner.
 Pickel, Andreas (June 2004). “Systems and Mechanisms: A Symposium on Mario Bunge’s Philosophy of Social Science”. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 34 (2): 169–181. doi:10.1177/0048393103262549. S2CID 144665982.
While his philosophy shares a great deal of common ground with the critical rationalism of Karl Popper (which Bunge [1996b] dubs ‘logical negativism’), he is adamant that criticism, refutation, and falsification should not be overrated. Bunge, along
with others (e.g., Bhaskar 1975; Keuth 1978; Trigg 1980; Rescher 1987; Lane 1996; Kukla 1998; Brante 2001), is advocating scientific realism as an alternative to both positivist and antipositivist approaches.
 Agassi, Joseph; Bar-Am, Nimrod
(2019). “Bunge contra Popper”. In Matthews, Michael R. (ed.). Mario Bunge: A Centenary Festschrift. Cham: Springer-Verlag. pp. 263–272. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16673-1_15. ISBN 9783030166724. OCLC 1089222139. S2CID 199318101. On three items, Bunge sharply
criticizes Popper: on confirmations, on social institutions and on the mind-body problem. […] Nevertheless, we need some sense of proportion. Seeing that Popper and Bunge are generally allies, in comparison with most philosophers around, we may
then go into detail and try to contrast their views as best we can, starting with the most important disagreement.
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