Review: Misreading Popper


Great book. Got a chance to read it this morning.

[I] do not know if it is fair to say that people misread popper, or that popper failed to make his case, but that he failed to reduce his ideas to general assertions that obviate the need to sympathetically (intuitively) agree with him in the first place in order to understand his case. Popper attempts to speak analytically at times, but he remains (as Alex Naraniecki has pointed out) a cosmopolitan author. The Popperian work that needs to be written is the one that this one ALMOST is, and that is to construct assertions that render the criticisms unnecessary.

The historical parts of this book are exceptional and contextual, and in my view the best to date. A few of Rafe’s insights are in the book and they are insights that I learned from him years ago. The most important of which was the project to develop a philosophy of the social sciences, and the multiple authors who failed to succeed at that project, and the consequences for all of us, not so much scientifically, but politically an economically , precisely because they failed to succeed in that project.

However, of those authors, Popper appears, perhaps not so well as Hayek did with law, but better than Mises with his pseudoscience of praxeology, to have come closer to articulating general universal statement of epistemology than anyone else. None the less, all of these authors failed to complete the project. (I think I understand why now.)

So, Popper did not, like Hume (or Kant who I despise) take us across the finish line. And I suspect, that as Rafe points out in the book, it is because he did not lay out his project, because he was unsure of what it was. He wanted to criticize a prevailing trend, and he succeeded in that criticism. But a criticism in itself is not a positive assertion reducible to analytic terms describing an analogy to experience: a usable theory.

CR/CP can be reduced to a list of assertions. Falsification is not the central proposition, but a contingent one, and as Rafe points out, an unfortunate choice of words. The scientific method can be generalized as the universal epistemological method, independent of purpose. And perhaps solve the problem of the social sciences. However, that project is incomplete. Given that Popper was largely correct, and that Hayek was largely correct, ( do not value the other authors terribly much), it should be possible to complete this project. But as yet, no one has.

So again, I think it is an unjust burden to place the error of interpretation upon readers, and instead, to place the failure to organize, prosecute, and articulate the program and his solution to it.

It is instead, proper I think, to state that Popper made correct assertions, in CR/CP, left his effort at falsification incomplete, and failed to complete the program he intuited but could not articulate. Most of this I believe, is a problem of language and culture. He had the right pieces. But our minds are structured by the language we use, and the culture that we live in, and he could no more escape his than we ours.

Hopefully someone will write that book. Hopefully the person who writes that book will complete the program. As someone who tries to complete the overarching program myself – although I do not see it as Popperian but as a general problem of false distraction by extant platonic concepts, and the near magical results of the mathematical program despite its platonic concepts and language – legitimizing Popper is not terribly interesting to me. Nor is further promotion of his work as it stands. Nor is suppressing the absurdly persistent human cognitive bias toward justification. The matter at hand is to complete the research program. Hero worship is for priests. Some of us are out working in the mines. And the answer lies there not in hermeneutic interpretation of Popper’s extant works, or those of his successors.

Great book. I wouldn’t have given it this much thought if it wasn’t.

Misreading Popper

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