Karl Raimund Popper (1902-1994)

Karl R. Popper is “the outstanding philosopher of the twentieth century” (Bryan Magee), even “the greatest thinker of the [twentieth] century” (Gellner). He felt affinity with thinkers of the Age of Reason and developed a new version of rationalism: critical rationalism. As a champion of science and of democracy he was the most influential philosopher of the post-WWII era. He was a close follower of Bertrand Russell and of Albert Einstein in that all three advocated problem-oriented fallibilism (during the peak of the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein who did not), valued commonsense, taking its theories to be approximations to the scientific truths of the day, and considered scientific truths as series of approximations to the absolute truth [Agassi, 1981, 112-16]. In particular, all three viewed science as the bold flight of the imagination checked and tempered by experience [Russell, 1931, 102]; [Einstein, 1949, 680]. Insofar as Russell adumbrated Popper’s philosophy, it may be fair to consider the latter a streamlined version of the former (the way both Berkeley and Hume deemed their philosophies streamlined versions of Locke’s [Hattiangadi, 1985]; [Wettersten, l985]. Russell raised the level of rational discourse in philosophy while remaining within the empiricist tradition; Popper continued and consolidated Russell’s achievements, adding a broad modification of the rationalist tradition [Popper, 1945, Ch. 24], thus forging new ways of philosophizing [Lakatos, 1978, 10]. Many sought a via media between rationalism and irrationalism, between individualism and collectivism, as well as between radicalism and traditionalism. Many sought a via media between empiricism and intellectualism. Popper’s philosophy is the only viable comprehensive rationalist suggestion in these directions (although it is open to modifications, of course), being thoroughly fallibilist and reformist, thus achieving a new and intensified commonsense philosophy, the only one that is integrated..
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Nicholas Maxwell (2002). Karl Raimund Popper. In Leemon McHenry, P. Dematteis & P. Fosl (eds.), British Philosophers, 1800-2000. Bruccoli Clark Layman. pp. 176-194.
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