Francis Bacon vs. Karl Popper: The Fallacy of Observationalism

In my last post I argued that, contrary to popular belief, science is not actually about observation.

Here I wish to taken an aside and discuss two of the main competing schools of epistemology (i.e. the theory of how we gain knowledge). The traditional view of science was founded by Francis Bacon. This school of thought is (as Popper describes it anyhow) is as follows:

According to Bacon, the nature or essence of the method of the new science of nature, the method which distinguishes and demarcates it from the old theology and from metaphysical philosophy, can be explained as follows:

Man is impatient. He likes quick results. So he jumps to conclusions. Continue reading

Our Epistemology So Far

EinsteinThis is a reprint of the summary of my Wheat and Tares posts on epistemology. Just reprinting it here to make it easier to link to locally here and to add to the overall discussion. Personally, I feel this is my best posts.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground in past posts. The problem with this ‘Reason as a Guide to Reality’ series of posts is that they build on concepts from past posts. It’s easy to get lost in all the concepts. So let’s do a quick review of past ideas and build up the principles of finding truth/knowledge (i.e. Epistemology) that we’ve determined so far.

First, everything we thought we knew about science turned out to be false. Namely, science is not specifically about prediction, nor reductionism, nor holism, nor observation, nor falsification. All of those ideas are important to science, but they do not delineate a boundary for science.


Second, science is not justified by inductive thinking. The past does not determine the future. Instead, science (and all knowledge actually) is justified based on being our best explanations so far. No other justification is necessary and no other justification is possible. Continue reading

Myth of the Framework: Why Conflict Must Never Be Eliminated

In my last post, I mentioned that I subscribe to Karl Popper’s ideas about “The Myth of the Framework.” So what is this Myth about Frameworks anyhow?

The Myth of the Framework Defined

Karl Popper describes the “myth” like this – and please note that you’ve probably not only heard this before, but likely you’ve said it before:

The myth of the framework can be stated in one sentence, as follows. A rational and fruitful discussion is impossible unless the participants share a common framework of basic assumptions or, at least, unless they have agreed on such a framework for the purpose of the discussion. (Myth of the Framework, p. 34-35)

Right along with Popper, I’m going to pull out my “bull” (and by that I mean “baloney”) detector and it goes off right away.

Popper spares no expense talking about the sort of damage this pernicious belief has caused:

Some people… think that what I describe as a myth is a logical principle, or based on a logical principle. I think, on the contrary, that it is not only a false statement, but also a vicious statement which, if widely believed, must undermine the unity of mankind, and so must greatly increase the likelihood of violence and of war. This is the main reason why I want to combat it, and to refute it. (Myth of the Framework, p. 35)

Whoa! Strong words! Could this view of incommensurable frameworks really be that bad?

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The Myth of the Framework Introduction: What Your Philosophy?

Agellius once asked me what school of philosophy I most believed in. He wanted to try to understand where I was coming from better. (This is typical of Agellius. He is a very sincere guy.) It is well known that Agellius is a Thomist because he’s Catholic.

I wasn’t quite sure what to answer him. I am actually generally hostile to modern variants of ancient philosophies. My feeling is that just as scientific theories give way to better theories, we should let the ancient philosophies die out and only go with the newer ones that fit what we now know about the world.

This isn’t a slam on ancient philosophy at all. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the ancient philosophers for having created our modern world. But I would have as many concerns over a modern “Aristotlian” as I would over a modern “Newtonian.” [1] In light of our current knowledge about General Relativity, what the heck would a modern “Newtonian” even look like? And should we take him/her serious?

But, of course, I feel very differently about many modern philosophers. In particular, Agellius happened to ask me this question not long after I had discovered Karl Popper and had found that my worldview strongly matched with his philosophies of epistemology (i.e. theory of how we gain knowledge.)

So I told Agellius that I was a Popperian. I think this is actually the first time I had ever called myself a Popperian like that.

I’m still not sure if I regret it or not.

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