A Philosophy for the Third Millennium

Karl Popper on Critical Preference and Objective Knowledge

1985 Draft















This describes the major objectives and themes of the  book.


1.  To  describe how Popper has rescued the theory of rationality  by   detaching   it  from  a  number  of  theories   which have traditionally  been regarded as part and parcel  of  rationality, while in fact they have created crippling problems for it.  These theories are:

justificationism (the quest for certainty),

subjectivism (the subjective theory of knowledge),

essentialism (the need to define terms and clarify concepts),

determinism (the world is a clockwork machine),

reductionism (closely allied with determinism).

2.  To  destroy some arguments raise against humanists and social reformers,  in  particular  those that suggest that  attempts  to ameliorate the human condition are doomed to failure because;

people are not rational,

people are too stupid,

people are too selfish.

The two aims mesh because most of the arguments against reformers are  based on the theories under criticism by Popper,  listed  in the first aim.



The relative neglect of Popper

In 1973 Bryan Magee noted that Karl Popper is not yet a household name among the educated.  This is still  much the case, certainly in  Australia,  even  among liberal Humanists who  held  Bertrand Russell  in almost Godlike awe and would be expected to at  least admire  his  greatest  follower.  Some of the  reasons  for  this neglect will be briefly noted, among them:

* There has only been one non-technical introduction to his  work (Magee's   Fontana   Modern   Masters   Popper).   Other   recent interpretations  have been overtly hostile and misleading (Stove) or   seriously misleading without actually being  hostile  (Burke and O'Hear).

*  He  is not regarded as 'fashionable' in philosophical  circles due partly to common misreadings of his work (described in Chapter 9),  partly  to its genuinely revolutionary nature (described  in chapters 2 and 3).

* For some strange reason Marxism has been the mainspring of most youthful  idealism  in recent decades and Popper's  criticism  of Marx  in  The  Open Society and its Enemies  (1945)  has  largely denied  him  an  open-minded readership  among  idealistic  young people  where  one would expect his ideas to  make  the  greatest impact.

*  Some  of  his most brilliant students gave up  his  ideas  and turned  against him in strange and misleading ways (examples  are Lakatos and Feyerabend.

*  Most  of  his ideas are advanced in the  context  of  vigorous polemics.  This tends to obscure the systematic nature of his work which  has not yet been expounded in depth,  partly because it is still  developing  and partly due to the loss  of  followers  who should be doing some of the work.

Chronological account of Popper's Life   and Work

Born 1902, in Vienna of cultured middle-class parents. As a child he  showed signs of the compassion and hatred of human  suffering that activated much of his life's work.

'I was taken to a kindergarten,  and there was a beautiful little girl who was blind.  My heart was torn,  both by the charm of her smile  and by the tragedy of her blindness.  It was love at first sight.  I have never forgotten her,  though I saw her only  once, and  only for an hour or two.  I was not sent to the kindergarten again, perhaps my mother noticed how much I was upset'.

'The  sight  of  abject poverty in Vienna was  one  of  the  main problems  which  agitated me when I was still a small child - so much so that it was almost always at the back of my mind...But we children could not help.  We could do no more than ask for a  few coppers to give to some poor people'.

As  a teenager he discovered a major philosophical problem  which he  later named "essentialism".  This is the obsession  with  the essential meaning of words and with the definition of terms which afflicts  large areas of the social sciences and the  humanities. He  criticised this method at length in The Open Society and  its Enemies.

Also  as  a  teenager  he  had  a  flirtation  with  Marxism  and socialism,  and   for  a  short time considered himself to  be  a communist.

At  the  university  he  studied  psychology,   physics,   maths, philosophy and literature though he did not have plans due to the unsettled social conditions in post-war Vienna.

Probably under the influence of ideas from Tolstoy he apprenticed himself  to  a  cabinet-maker,  for a time  worked  as  a  manual labourer  and helped Alfred Adler as a voluntary social worker in the slums.

While a student at the Pedagogic Institute (teaches college),  he met his wife who became a tireless co-worker .

'She was one of my fellow-students,  and was to become one of the severest judges of my work. Her part in it ever since has been at least  as strenuous as my own.  Indeed,  without her much  of  it would never have been done at all'.

In  1928 he obtained his doctorate and later he graduated to be a school teacher.  He continued working privately on the philosophy of  science; he was not a member of the Vienna Circle  of  logical positivists  though he was interested in similar problems and had some  contact with members of the Circle,  one of  whom,  Herbert Feigl, suggested that Popper should put his ideas in book form.

In 1934 Logic der Forschung (imprint 1935) was  published,  later translated as The Logic of Scientific Discovery.  In 1937 he took a   post  as  lecturer  in  philosophy  at  Canterbury   College, Christchurch,  New  Zealand.  In 1938,  on hearing of the  German invasion of Austria,  began his war effort,  The Open Society and its  Enemies,  a major review of moral and political  philosophy.
This appeared in 2 vols (800 pages) in 1945.

After  the  war he moved to the London School  of  Economics.  He almost  came to Sydney where he was offered a position but  while some  acrimonious  debate  went on in Sydney  about  employing  a foreigner, an offer came from London.

In 1957 The Poverty of Historicism appeared as a book (previously published as articles in Economica 1944/45).

During the 1950s Popper resolved to bring out Logik der Forschung in  English,  with  a companion volume to be  titled  Postscript: After  Twenty Years.  This postscript ran to almost 800 pages but was  held  up at the proof stage for various  reasons  until  the 1980s  when  it  appeared in three  volumes,  edited  by  William Bartley.

1959 Logic of Scientific Discovery (500 pages).

1963  Conjectures  and Refutations,  collection of  articles  and essays (400 pages).

1972 Objective Knowledge essays and articles, (400 pages).

1974  The  Schilp  Library of Living  Philosophers  Karl  Popper, containing   an   intellectual  autobiography  and   replies   to approximately 30 commentators and critics.(1,300 pp.)

1976 Unended Quest,  an intellectual autobiography,  based on the autobiography in the Schilp volume.

1977 The Self and its Brain with J.C. Eccles

1982 The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism and Quantum Theory  and the  Schism in Physics,  volumes II and III  of  the Postscript to The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

1983 Realism and the Aim of Science vol I of Postscript.

This  section  will outline some of the main themes  of  Popper's work in the theory of knowledge,  language and mind.  The purpose is to provide some background to the two themes selected for this book,  namely the theory of critical preference and the theory of objective  knowledge.  To indicate the scope of Popper's work  it may  be  desirable to briefly mention his contributions  to  some more   technical  areas  such  as  the  foundations   of   logic, probability  theory,  physics,  and  the  exegesis  of  the  Pre-
Socratics and Plato.

Some Metaphysical Themes

In  addition  to  the relatively clearly  defined  problems  that Popper  has  (tentatively) solved he has made a  contribution  to some  problems  that  are less obvious.  Beneath the  surface  of western  thought   there  is a  set  of   metaphysical  dualisms, clearly articulated by Plato,  following the Pythagorean table of opposites.  These  dualisms  are  like  geological  strata  which outcrop in strange ways:  they come to the surface in the form of tensions  between  classes of things that need not exist  in  any sort of antagonism. The confusion of thought and action caused by these  dualisms can be described as a devastating  self-inflicted wound  in the Western psyche.  It is self-inflicted because these tensions do not exist in the order of things,  they exist in  our
way  of thinking about them.  Once we become aware of these modes of  thought  we can systematically eliminate them by  adopting  a more productive approach.

Examples  of  these  pairs of "opposites" are  male  and  female, reason and imagination, the individual and society. In the social sciences  there is a long-running argument between  the  conflict and the consensus models of society. The notion of contradictions is enshrined as a central principle of Marxist metaphysics.  Good and   evil  are  the  primary  metaphysical  principles  of  many religions.

Another  example  is provided by  Czeslaw  Milosz,  Polish  Nobel prizewinner, describing his reaction to his role as a poet.

'An insoluble contradiction appears,  a terribly real one, giving no  peace  of mind either day or night.  It is  the  contradiction between being and action...Such was the contradiction at the very core  of the conflicts of the twentieth century and discovered by poets.

In  paying  tribute to his namesake Oscar  Milosz  he  wrote:  'I listened  to him as a prophet who loved people,  as he says "with old  love worn out by pity,  loneliness and anger" and  for  that reason  tried  to  address  a warning to a  crazy  world  rushing towards a catastrophe.

'He saw deeper causes in an erroneous direction taken by  science in  the eighteenth century,  a direction that provoked  landslide effects.  Not unlike William Blake before him, he announced a New Age,  a  second  renaissance  of imagination now  polluted  by  a certain type of scientific knowledge, but, as he believed, not of all  scientific knowledge,  least of all by science that would be discovered by men of the future.

Clearly,  in my opinion,  Popper's philosophy of science  answers the  need  for  the  philosophy of a New  Age  by  purging  those elements  of determinism and reductionism that have poisoned  the post-Newtonian poetic imagination.  In addition, his theory finds a  place  for  poetic inspiration in science after  the  myth  of induction  seemed to have banished creativity from the scientific

Various  other  misleading  'dualisms'  are  put  to  flight,  as indicated in appropriate chapters below.


As noted  in  the  Introduction,   Popper  has  challenged   the prevailing  Western  tradition of "justification of  belief".  In this  chapter  I  will  explain  how  his  theory  of   "critical preference"  can  be used to argue with a person who  denies  the reality of the world;  to resolve some problems in the philosophy of  science;   and  to  formulate  theories  of  rationality  and objectivity  that  avoid  difficulties  that  irrationalists  and
subjectivists have exploited in the past.

1.  The  problem  of  arguing against the person who  denies  the existence  of  material bodies such as tables and chairs  on  the grounds that "the world is our dream".

The  line  of  attack  here is to  ask  the  doubter  to  produce arguments   and  theories  to  account  for  the  appearance  and behaviour  of the world and to critically examine those  theories in comparison with our theories.  The aim is to force the sceptic to  examine  the comparative credibility of realism  versus  "the world is our dream".  The alternative, and more usual approach, is to take up the challenge and try to establish a justification for our view.  This response plays into the hands of the sceptic  who can  sustain the attack     and force us into an infinite regress  by repeatedly demanding justification for our latest statement.

2.  In the philosophy of science; the theories to attack here are on  the  one  hand  induction and on  the  other  the  irrational elements of the theories of Lakatos, Feyerabend and Kuhn.

The line of approach here is to outline Popper's  general-purpose format for solving problems:

1. Formulate the problem.

2. Propose tentative solutions.

3. Criticise the solutions.

4.  Confront  the  next set of problems that will emerge  in  the course of the third step.

Popper's  theory  of  scientific  knowledge is  not  just  a philosophers  plaything  unlike most of the theories  produced  by inductivists.  It can be related to the activities of the working scientist,  the technologist (from moon shots to plumbing)    and for problem-solving of all kinds,  ranging from cosmology to what to have for lunch.

The  theory of critical preference can be illustrated by the example  of  choosing  a motor car  from  the  range   available, constrained  by considerations of cost and our needs,  likes  and dislikes.  In  working  on this problem a number  of  discoveries should be made:

We  will  clarify the proposed uses of the vehicle  and  our initial conception of our needs and of our likes and dislikes may be severely modified.

We  may find no suitable vehicle,  or we may find more  than one  that are more or less equal.  In each case we should be able to  specify  with great precision what would count  as  a  better vehicle than any of models currently available.

Shifting   back   to  the  philosophy   of   science,   this understanding  of  what counts as a good solution to our  problem enables us to form a critical preference among competing theories and,  equally important,  it enables us to assess the credentials of a new theory or a revamped version of an old one.

This section will show how Popper's theory gets over  Hume's problem  of induction,  thereby salvaging both the empirical base of science and its rationality,  all this without even the merest whiff of induction.

3. The problems of rationality and objectivity.

Space permitting,  it could be desirable to sketch the theory  of critical  rationalism  from Popper's account in The Open  Society and  its Enemies and from William Bartley's paper on  rationality which links rationality with "non-justificationism".

It could also be desirable to outline how Popper's theory of knowledge  shifts  the  problem of objectivity  from  a  personal matter requiring that the individual scientist be "objective" and "unprejudiced"  to  a  social and institutional  matter  for  the scientific community.



"That knowledge involves true belief, is a pretty orthodox view" (David Armstrong)

This chapter takes up the second challenge that Popper has thrown out  to Western orthodoxy.  It describes Popper's  "three  world" theory  which  states  that there is a form  of  knowledge  which cannot  be  reduced to subjective states of mind or  to  physical brain  states.  His  theory has been criticised as an attempt  to rehabilitate Plato's theory of Ideal Forms or Ideas but  Popper's formulation  is  decisively  different.   It  forms  part  of  an
evolutionary  theory to explain the development of the brain,  of human language, and of our capacity to generate and interact with objective knowledge.

Quoting Popper:

'By "world 1" I mean what is usually called the world of physics, of rocks, and trees and physical fields of forces. By "world 2" I mean the psychological world,  the world of feelings of fear  and of hope,  of dispositions to act,  and of all kinds of subjective experiences'.

'By "world 3" I mean the world of the products of the human mind. Although  I  include  works of art in world 3  and  also  ethical values  and  social  institutions  (and  this,   one  might  say, societies)  ,  I  shall  confine myself largely to the  world  of scientific libraries,  to books,  to scientific problems,  and to theories, including mistaken theories'.

For example a book,  as a physical object,  belongs to world 1.  It  contains  information  which  belongs  in  world  3.  Two identical  books  are two world 1  objects  containing  identical world  3 contents.  When read by two people they give rise to two sets  of  world  2  events which are  each  quite  distinct  (and private).  If they attempt to communicate their understanding  of
the  book in a spoken or written form then the contents of  their speech  or  writing belong in world 3.  (The  communication  will involve world 2 in the form of thoughts and intentions, and world 1  in  the form of the sound waves or the marks  on  paper).  The contents  of the communication may be different from the original contents of the book (due to imperfect understanding).  Even  so,
there   will  be  objective  relationships  between  the  original contents and the modified contents.

One  of the vitally important features of this world  3,  as  distinct  from earlier versions of similar ideas such as  Plato's theory  of Forms,  is that Popper's version is both man-made  and autonomous,  at first sight a hopeless contradiction.  As he puts it:

'I  suggest that it is possible to accept the reality or  (as  it may be called) the autonomy  of the third world,  and at the same time  to  admit that  the third world originates as a product  of human activity.  One can even admit that the third world is  man-made and, in a very clear sense, superhuman at the same time . It transcends its makers.  (We must beware, however, of interpreting
these  objects  [of  thought] as  the thoughts  of  a  superhuman consciousness  as did,  for  example,  Aristotle,  Plotinus,  and Hegel)'.

This chapter will sketch the three world theory with some of the  counter-arguments against critics who claim that world 3 can be  explained in subjective terms.  It may also be  desirable  to sketch   his   recently   formulated  theory   of   "evolutionary epistemology"   which  is  a  biological  approach  to   personal (subjective) knowledge.



Someone  once prepared a light hearted "philosophers lexicon"  in which  To  Popper was 'to philosophise in a tone  of  high  moral seriousness'.  The  converse was impopper.  There is many a  true word  spoken in jest but the truth in this joke did not carry  to the moral philosophers who generally ignore Popper.  One exception is Hare in The Langauge of Morals but here Popper is invoked, not in  connection with moral principles but with some fine points of
logical inference.

This chapter will pursue the following arguments:

1.  The  central problem of moral and political philosophy is  to formulate  and criticise standards which,  when adopted,  act  as regulatory standards or principles, or "rules of the game". These can  be  informal traditions as in codes  of  personal  behaviour (examples  are standards of politeness and manners).  They can be more formal traditions that are  embodied in social and political institutions;   these  are  used  to  set  the  goals  of   these
institutions  and  to  criticise  them when they  fall  short  of certain  standards.  Examples are the traditions  of  alleviating human  suffering,   avoiding  tyranny  and  promoting  tolerance. Possibly  the  most formal rules are those that are  codified  in legal rules and regulations.

2.  "Rules  of the game" occur in all social groups.  Indeed they can  be  used to identify social groups.  They  may  be  enforced informally  or by due process of law but in any case the question confronting  us is not whether we will have rules but whether  we will  try  to improve them by critical discussion and  trial  and error.

3. Individual rules of this nature cannot be positively justified beyond rational criticism and the possibility of improvement  any more  than scientific knowledge can be positively  justified.  As explained  in Chapter 2 (Critical Preference) this does not imply that  they  are arbitrary or relative any  more  than  scientific knowledge is arbitrary or relative.

4.  Our  aim should be to formulate the problems that we want our moral and political principles to solve,  then propose  tentative solutions and critically discuss them. We start with our existing social and political problems and the rules,  laws and traditions that we have inherited.

5.  In  science we may have a critical preference for one  theory rather  than  another  while  we know that  both  fall  short  of perfection.   Similarly   in  any  concrete  moral  or  political situation  we  may have to settle on a policy  or  practice  that appears to be the lesser of evils rather than a perfect solution.

The  importance  of  world  3 in this  context  is  that  it provides  a  location for our values beyond our states  of  mind. Thus  we  can  form critical preferences for one  set  of  values rather  than  another,   and  we can criticise our  values  using consequences, (or likely consequences) and higher order values as regulatory  principles.   Like  our  scientific  theories,  moral standards  become  objects of critical scrutiny  and  subject  to rational  discussion,  rather than expressions of  our  emotions, irrational  commitments  or matters of fact to be discovered  in nature or human nature.

This  approach  eliminates  the  problem  of   psychological motivation  from ethics (motivation is treated in Chapter 6).  It also  by-passes  the question of human nature  which  is  usually posed  in  the  form  of false alternatives  derived  from  rival essentialistic  schools  of thought (i.e.  people  are  basically rational  versus people are basically rational,  or,  people  are basically selfish versus people are basically altruistic).

Space permitting the method of critical preference can be applied to  issues of public policy.  This will mean  sketching  Popper's theory  of the protective state,  his non-contradictory theory of democracy  and  a proposed set of principles of public  policy  - avoiding tyranny, minimising suffering and promoting tolerance.

                         CHAPTER FIVE


It can fairly be said that the theory of literature and  literary criticism  have  fallen  among  thieves and it  would  be  a  bad Samaritan who did not cross the road to lend assistance. This may be  done for the sake of literature alone and those who love  her would be pleased to help without need of further reasons.  It may also  be done with wider issues in mind  such as the need to keep alive  the  finest  traditions  of  morality,   civilisation  and culture.  These traditions are clearly not a major  preoccupation of  many  writers,  certainly not popular ones (the  name  Robert Ludlum springs to mind). But it must be emphasised that humans do not  live  by bread and technology alone;  we live by  myths  and traditions  that are carried most powerfully and persuasively  by imaginative  literature and art generally (including the  popular culture  of  film,  music and television).  In the words of  Yvor
Winters,  "It  behooves  us to discover the  nature  of  artistic literature,  what  it  does,  how  it does it,  and how  one  may evaluate  it.  It  is  one  of the facts of  life  and  quite  as important a fact as atomic fission".

There is a continuing crisis in meaning, purpose and values in literature,  largely due to the Romantic reaction against the Newtonian mechanical universe. This century the Romantic reaction has been fuelled by common misconceptions  of   Einstein's relativity and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.  In the  light
of  Popper's theories it can be shown that Newton,  Einstein  and Heisenberg  have  been thoroughly misundestood by writers who  use the  alleged  theories of modern science to  abandon  traditional standards and values.

There  is also a crisis in the theory of the literary  text:  is it an autonomous literary object to be judged solely in  terms of  literary criteria,  or is it a social product to be explained and  judged in terms of external criteria?.  This formulation  of the problem tends to lead to two polarised camps: on one hand the social  reductionists,  (usually Marxists or Structuralists)  who regard  the test as a product of external  determinants.  On  the other hand are the "practical critics",  New Critics and possibly
the  Deconstructionists  who argue that criticism should  concern "what  is in the text and nothing else" with the text  inhabiting an autonomous world of its own. 

This  chapter will use the theory of objective knowledge  to get  a  grip on the nature of the text.  The theory  of  critical preference  will be applied to the problem of literary and  moral valuation of the text.

In  the light of the theory of objective knowledge (world 3) the   following  aspects  of  the  text  can  be  saved   without inconsistency. The alternative theories (Marxists, Structuralists and  so on) cannot adequately account for all these features  and so  has to deny the existence of one or more of them.  1.  It  is produced  by  an  individual  with some  degree  of  freedom  and creativity.  However  it  cannot be completely explained  by  the intentions or the psychological state of the author. 

2.  It is a social product,  influenced by a wide range of social forces,  particularly  the  traditions  of  language,  value  and meaning  assimilated  by  the  author.   However  it  cannot   be completely  explained by these factors either,  if the writer has any degree of originality.

3.  In its turn the work is a vehicle of some traditions while it significantly challenges others.

4.  It  is also a vehicle of various kinds of truths  and  values which  can  to  some extent be understood or grasped  by  readers though  the full content of a great work (perhaps any work)  will never be fully grasped or understood.

5.  It says something about the world or human  experience.  This statement  can be paraphrased but the paraphrase does not account for  the  power  and impact of good  work.  This  is  the  theory expounded by Yvor Winters In Defense of Reason (1947).

6.  It can be criticised and evaluated from a particular point of view,  and rational reasons can be advanced to justify a critical preference  for  some judgements rather than  others,  from  that point  of view.  Judgements can alter in a rational manner either in response to criticism or as more of the contents of the object are grasped.

7.  It  can be criticised and evaluated from many points of  view and  reasons  can be given for some points of view  being  better than  others.  One may concede to the Deconstructionists  that  a work  of literature is sufficiently rich in potential meanings so that the ingenuity of the critic is the only limit on the  number of  possible  interpretations but at the same time one can  argue
that of the infinity of interpretations,  some make a great  deal more  sense  than  others and some are mutually  exclusive  (i.e. strongly reductive theories).


This  chapter  explores the application of Popper's  three  world theory in human psychology. The major propositions advanced are:

1.  Human psychology needs to be revolutionised by regarding  the mind as an organ that interacts with world 3 objects.

2.  Something  like Cartesian body/mind dualism is asserted;  the mind is based on the brain (it is not disembodied) but it is  not reducible to brain processes.

3.  This  theory  has nothing to say about an immortal  soul  and provides   no   argument  in  favour  of  psychic  phenomena   or parapsychology.  Nor  does it provide any justification  for  the various  forms  of irrationalism and mysticism that  have  arisen from attempts to escape from the theory of 'the mechanical mind'.

The  utility of this  theory will be tested by its  capacity to  resolve the "Two Models of Man" dilemma described by  William D.  Hitt.  This  is not a paper of great weight or insight except that  some important conflicts are concisely sketched in  it.  He summarised  the  proceedings of a symposium in 1969  attended  by representatives  of  the two major rival schools  of  thought  in American  psychology,  the behaviorists and the phenomenologists. The  latter  group  may  also  be  described  as  humanistic   or existential  psychologists.  The  two  schools differ  on  several fundamental issues and he reported:

'The presentations dealt with two distinct models of man and  the scientific   methodologies  associated  with  each   model.   The discussions  following  each  presentation may  be  described  as aggressive,  hostile,  and  rather emotional;  they would suggest that there is little likelihood of a reconciliation between  the two schools of thought represented at the symposium'.

The contrasting views

a)  Man  can be described meaningfully in terms of his  behaviour versus  Man  can  be  described  meaningfully  in  terms  of  his consciousness.

b) Man is predictable versus Man is unpredictable.

c) Man is an information transmitter versus Man is an information generator.

d)  Man  lives  in  an objective world  versus  Man  lives  in  a subjective world.

e) Man is a rational being versus Man is an arational being.

f) One man is like each other man versus Each man is unique.

g)  Man  can  be described in absolute terms versus Man  must  be described in relative terms.

h) Human characteristics can be investigated independently of one another versus Man must be studied as a whole.

i) Man is a reality versus Man is a potentiality.

j) Man is knowable in scientific terms versus Man is more than we can ever know about him.

I  will  argue  that Popper's three world  theory  enables  these apparently opposite views to be harmonised (except in some  cases where one side or the other,  or both can be decisively rejected) though   the   protagonists  on each  side  may  not  like   the consequences. Behaviorists are unwilling to abandon their program of materialistic reduction (though they may admit that success is distant).  They will probably regard a retreat from  reductionism as a concession to mysticism and mumbo-jumbo. The  existentialists  may not like to accept the  notion  of objective  knowledge  in  world  3  as  a  determinant of  human behaviour,  on  the grounds that this violates the primacy of the individual's subjective sense of freedom and autonomy.  This fear is groundless in the light of Popper's  theory of rationality and freedom.  Space  permitting the theory will be used to  criticise and elaborate some  ideas in the book Plans and the Structure  of Behavior. Written by three leading psychologists all committed to the  reductionist program,  this book contains theories that  cry
out for translation into the "three world" theory.

Space   permitting  there  could  be  a  criticism  of   the Artificial   Intelligence  industry  or  research  program  which attempts  to  mimic human problem solving by  means  of  computer programs.  I  contend  that  this  will not  work  because  human intelligence  and learning involve error elimination by  critical discussion  of  world  3 objects.  New world  3  objects  (ideas,
theories,  arguments) are required to solve novel  problems,  and these  arise in the course of critical discussion.  But the  only world  3  things  in a computer are those either built  into  the hardware,  programmed  into  the  software or fed  in  using  the software.

It  follows  that computers will not really  simulate  human intelligence (however cleverly they may simulate some aspects  of mental  activity)  until  such  time as they  are  built  to  the complexity  and  specifications required to have a  consciousness (world  2) of their own which will enable them  to  independently interact with world 3 objects.

Feminism and the biology of destiny

The  psychological theory sketched here can be given a  practical application in the current debate about womens liberation and the biology of womens' destinies. My aim is to attack the notion that the  choice of occupation or role in life is strictly  determined by   genetics,   by  biology  and  specifically  by  maleness  or femaleness.  It is possible to distinguish three groups of  human
attributes   with  varying  degrees  of  biological  or   genetic determinism.

1.  Those  subject  to simple genetic determination such  as  eye colour and blood group.

2.  Those  where genetic and environmental factors interact,  for example height, weight and intelligence.

3.Those  where  genetics and the material  environment  have  a minimal to vanishingly small impact,  for example our ideas about human  evolution( and scientific theories generally),  our  moral values and our aims in life,  including our choice of occupation.

4. It  must  be conceded that certain activities such as  childbirth depend  on the person being female but this concession  does  not damage  the argument that subsequent to birth the only  nurturing activity that is sex-determined is breast feeding which of course is optional.

At  this point we encounter the argument that these decisions  on roles  are influenced by another part of our environment,  namely the  climate  of ideas and customs which we assimilate  from  our culture  and our society by learning and imitation.  This  raises the issue of social determination of knowledge,  values and forms of life. In the next chapter I will argue that social determinism is  nowhere  near as strong as the social  determinists  like  to
think,  provided  that  we become conscious  and critical of  our ideas.

                         CHAPTER SEVEN


Social  determinists  shift the search for the  causes  of  human behaviour  from  individual factors to the social or perhaps  the historical  plane.  They  postulate that we  internalise  certain bodies  of  knowledge from our social environment (which  may  be described  as  'given'  by  a historical  process)  and  then  we interpret  everything in terms of those internalised maps  of  the
world.  These  maps  are "relative"  because different  societies
have different histories and so give rise to different maps.

    Three assumptions tend to be built into the model:

1.  The  maps come as a whole which means that we are not  really free to pick and choose among bits of the map,  we must take  the lot.

2. We cannot really understand or rationally criticise other maps because  they exist as a whole as well and unless we abandon  our map and take on the other we cannot really understand it.

3. These maps are forms of subjective knowledge.

    In opposition I will argue along the lines:

1'. Our personal maps are a mish-mash of conflicting elements and when  we  reach  the point of critical thinking we can  start  to criticise and evaluate our ideas in a piecemeal fashion.

2'. Similarly at the social level we have a mish-mash of cultural traditions. There is no need to explain diversity,  though we can speculate  about it.  Mixing and mingling of  cultures  maintains pluralism, as does the creation of new ideas.

3'.  These  traditions  exist as personal knowledge and they  also exist  in  world  3  where we can come  to  grips  with  them  as objective  entities  to be critically discussed and subjected  to continuous piecemeal improvement.

Explanation in the social sciences

Debate  continues  as  to  whether  explanatory  theories  should concern  individuals  or  groups.  At another  level  the  debate concerns  whether  the  things  to  be  explained  are  allegedly rational  goal-seeking  behaviours or the  functional  aspects  of social  systems.  And  at another level is the debate between  the "conflict"  and the "consensus" models of society.  The  conflict schools  claims that society is essentially an arena occupied  by
conflicting interest groups (the Marxist classes).  The consensus school  claims that society is essentially an organised whole  in which  conflicts are a special and interesting type of  deviation from the ideal steady state of the social system.

Popper's theory of the "logic of the  situation",  augmented by  his theory of objective knowledge can provide an  alternative to these conflicting models and theories.

A particularly obvious application of the three world theory in  classical  sociological theory is to  reformulate  Durkheim's "collective representations" as world 3 objects. These collective representations  (which  are  rather  similar  to  Wittgenstein's "forms  of  life")  have  proved difficult  to  interpret  - some translators  call  them the  "collective  conscience",  some  the "collective  consciousness".  They  have  been  dismissed  as  an attempt  to introduce a Group Mind into sociological theory which was certainly not Durkheim's intention.

Collective  representations  were designed to  indicate  the primacy  of  the  collective  as  a  moral  influence  over   the individual.  In  terms of the three world theory they are world 3 objects  embodied  in cultural traditions that we  assimilate  by learning  and  imitation.  Durkheim did not have  the  theory  of knowledge that he needed to make sense of his insights.  Durkheim
is  not generally regarded as a philosopher or an epistemologist, his  formulation of the defects in both classical empiricism  and classical rationalism is as good as any before Popper. Durkheim's response  to  this problem was to locate the basis  of  knowledge with  the  social collective,  internalised  by  the  individual.

Popper's  response was the non-authoritarian theory of  knowledge and subsequently his theory of objective knowlege.

Another  application in classical sociological theory is  to re-interpret   and   strengthen  Weber's  critique   of   Marxist historical   materialism.   Weber   claimed  that  the   critical determinant  in  the rise of capitalism in Europe was a  body  of ideas which appeared in Calvinism.  Sociologists who follow Weber nowadays  appear  to  be largely concerned  with  his  theory  of
bureaucracy.  Hence his crucial insight into the role of ideas in social change has not been consolidated,  possibly for lack of an adequate theory of knowledge.

                         CHAPTER EIGHT



Under the heading of Method this chapter will criticise "mindless"  historical  research (endless fact gathering in the belief that the facts will somehow speak for  themselves) and "one-eyed" theories of history such as McQueen's "all history is the history of class conflict".

Clearly,in the light of the arguments about knowledge and explanation in the social sciences contained  in  the  previous chapters, there is no special method of history, no secret key to unlocking the mysteries of the past (or the  future). The historians, in company with all other scholars should formulate their problems clearly, propose tentative solutions and criticise them using empirical evidence as much as possible.  Of course the selection  of  problems  can be criticised just as  much  as  the results;  there  are  no doubt some lines of work that  are  less fertile than others and some methods of approach such as  Marxism can be shown to be defective.


As to the question of Meaning; the thesis here, following Popper, is  that meaning is not found,  it is given or created.  "We  can bestow  a  meaning upon our lives through our work,  through  our active conduct,  through our whole way of life,  and through  the attitude  we  adopt  towards our friends and our fellow  men  and  towards the world" (From "Emancipation Through Knowledge" in  The Humanist Outlook ed. Ayer 1968).

This   section   will   canvass   issues   such   as   moral responsibility, rationality and human freedom in the light of the principles sketched in previous chapters.

                         CHAPTER NINE

                    HOW NOT TO READ POPPER

This  chapter  refutes some common misunderstandings of  Popper's ideas.  Some of these may not be as widespread as they have  been in  the  past  but they have all contributed to the  neglect  and  misreading of his work.

a) Popper is a positivist.

This  is a common Marxist view and perhaps the  standard  Marxist interpretation  of Popper.  It is a little difficult to work  out what it means because Marxists rarely tackle Popper head-on. This would  require  them  to  read  some of  his  books  which  might encourage other people to do the same.

The 'positivist' label may mean that Popper is regarded as a typical logical positivist of the Vienna Circle,  a view that  is not  consistent with Popper's efforts over fifty years to  refute some central components of the positivists' program (as described below).  It  may  mean that Popper is allegedly committed to  the view  that  the structure of the social world is  in  some  sense
"given"  and the role of a positive social science is to passively describe  that  structure,  in contrast with the Marxist  aim  of changing it. This is a highly perverse interpretation, given that the  whole  of  The Open Society and its Enemies  is  devoted  to refuting various doctrines of social determinism which argue that rational  human intervention to alleviate suffering,  tyranny and injustice are either wicked or impossible.

b)  Popper  shared  the logical  positivists'  preocupation  with "meaning" and formulated a different criterion (falsification) to replace the positivists' criterion (verification).

In  fact Popper was never concerned with meaning as a  major problem,  beyond  the  need to write clearly so that  people  can understand what you mean.

c)  Popper's  theory,   by  rejecting  grounds  of  authoritative knowledge, means that we cannot know anything at all.

This is not true because Popper has shown that we can reject the  notion of certainty without giving up the search for  better and better theories.

d)  Popper  has been superseded by T.S.  Kuhn and his  theory  of scientific revolutions.

This  belief cannot be sustained by critical reading of  the arguments (especially in Realism and the Aim of Science, 1983).

e) Popper has attempted to degrade and diminish Plato by unfairly labeling him an enemy of the open society.

In   fact  Popper  pays  tribute  to  Plato's   overwhelming intellectual  achievement.   However  Popper  has  attempted   to eliminate  errors  in our thinking that can be traced to  Plato's work and its authoritative status over a period of 2,000 years or so.

f) Popper has attempted to degrade and diminish Marx.

In  fact  Popper pays tribute to  Marx's  achievement  while attempting  to  eliminate  errors in it  which  prejudice  Marx's humanitarian  intentions.  Popper attributed the highest possible motives  of  reason  and humanitarianism  to  Marx  (subsequent studies cast doubt on his interpretation).  But  regardless  of Marx's  motivation,  Popper  perceived  the need  for  relentless creative  criticism  of  the ideas due to  their  remarkable  and profoundly  ambivalent moral impact.  By profoundly ambivalent  I mean that Marx's ideas have provided the rationale for turning  a third  of  the world into a large prison  cell,  while  elsewhere great  numbers of intelligent and humanitarian people claim  Marx as  the  authority for their efforts to improve our part  of  the world and the other bit as well.

g)  Popper  is politically a reactionary in the mould  of  Burke, hating  any change and worshipping the authority of tradition and the status quo.

In  fact  Popper has explicitly criticised  Burke's  attitude towards  tradition  and the whole of his criticism of  Plato  was directed  against theories that attempt to arrest all  change  in society.