*  ESSAY *

Popper does better in the Index of this volume (compared with one entry and three pages in Vol 1). Here we find pages 63, 201, 235, 237, 238-9 and 461-3.

The favourable impression is not supported by the content.

On page 63 in The Philosophy of Psychology, re Freudian psychology we read “Others, notably Karl Popper (1963) have rejected its claims to scientific status on the grounds that it is not falsifiable”.

That is a common view, based on Popper’s reaction to Freudians (and Marxists) who adopted an uncritical approach. Nothing in principle prevents Freudian theorists from adopting a critical approach which would of course mean reformulating the contents of the theory. It certainly had a high metaphysical or mythical content in its original form and due to the political pressures for conformity in the movement, the critical approach was a long time coming (see Suttie’s critique and radical revision).

The references to Popper in John Worrall’s chapter on Philosophy and the Natural Sciences are quite eccentric. That partly comes from way he laid out the issues.

1. Rationality, Revolution and  Reason - the subsections being Kuhn’s impact, the Bayesian account of rational belief, and scientific revolutions & realism.

2. Naturalized philosophy of science.

3. Philosopical problems or current science (measurement in quantum physics and Darwinian theory).

From  the top: In 1 there is a degree of obsession with Kuhn’s challenge, presumably because it was too big to ignore), and then with technical issues of probability theory.

There is no sense of the evolving problem situation from the early positivists, how it changed with Popper’s challenge and then the challenge to Popper by Lakatos and others. Hence there is no attention to the merits of  Popper (and his various “turns”) in relation to Lakatos,  Kuhn and any other rivals like the Bayesians and the sociology of knowledge.

Worrall’s references are either passing comments (with no information or arguments) or inconsequential (the verisimilitude  incident)

p. 201 “Although Karl Popper had been emphasizing the importance of revolutionary changes in science for many years beforehand, it was Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book that really brought radical theory change centre-stage in philosophy of science”.

No further information, comparison or arguments.

P 235 under the heading of ‘Arguments for scientific realism’ -  “it has been suggested – long ago by Feigl and Popper for example – that the realistic view of theories has proved itself heuristically the more fruitful view”.

No further arguments of references, for example to the chapter in OK where Popper has elaborate arguments in favour of realism, or  his lifelong battle for realism in quantum theory.

P 237-239  Under the heading of ‘The Problem of Approximate Truth’, a recapitulation of Popper’s excursion into measuring verisimilitude.

Interesting to see three pages on a sideshow of Popper’s thinking (and a failure) with nothing at all on anything that makes Popperism exciting, different and helpful.

In the section on current problems there could have been some attention to Popper's travails over the nature of natural selection, along the lines being debated on the CR email list, but not a word, as though evolutionary epistemology and Popper's contribution did not happen.

Moving on to David-Hillel Ruben on The Philosophy of the Social Sciences

461-463     under Methodology: Paradigms and Research Programs.

He has apparently not read The Poverty or OSE, or anything that Popper actually wrote about the social sciences.  Nothing by Popper was cited and he refers to Alan Chalmers (1980) for “a fuller account” (though AC did not refer to PH or OSE in that  book). He then advises:

Popper’s criterion of scientificity was not convincing. The work of  Duhem and later Quine…showed what was wrong with Popper’s simplistic proposal.

Thus recycling invalid criticisms of work that he apparently never read. Interesting that this comes from the analytical school that is supposed to be setting new standards of precision and accuracy in thought and analysis. That normally calls for reference to the primary sources. As Grayling wrote:

Analytic philosophy is not so much a school of thought as a style or method. It is a style of philosophizing which seeks to be rigorous and careful.

The date of the Chalmers book is 1982 as well, but what the heck!

For what it is worth, Quine in his contribution to the Schilpp volume on Popper endorsed the logic of falsificationism.

Alan Ryan on Political Philosophy

Possibly the most surprising neglect of Popper occurs in the 70 pages by Alan Ryan on Political Philosophy. Ryan was well aware of Popper, having referred to him frequently over several decades in books on the methods of the social sciences and especially in a paper for the Popper Centenary Conference in Christchurch where he wrote about Popper’s liberalism. On that occasion when he was “singing for his supper” he talked about Popper but when he writes for postgraduate students at London University he does not, though there are pages of commentary on Plato’s Republic.

If there is a single book that is more important than The Open Society and its Enemies in addressing the full range of issues covered by Ryan in this chapter, I would like to know about it.