A CRITIQUE OF POPPER'S STRATEGY FOR THE GROWTH OF SCIENCE
A CRITIQUE OF POPPER'S STRATEGY FOR THE GROWTH OF SCIENCE
1.0 IN THE DIRECTION OF establishing THE BACKGROUND OF
POPPERIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE.
1.1 CAN FACTS CONSTITUTE THE TERMINUS A QUO OF SCIENCE? (THE INDUCTION PROBLEM)
One of the fundamental canons of empiricists, positivists of all kinds, and the entire circle of inductivists is that the ladder of science can only be climbed by collecting and combining our experiences.
To put it another way, scientific knowledge necessitates principally and fundamentally the collecting of protocol statements. The following statement expresses the induction principle:
If a significant number of A's have been observed under a wide range of situations, and if all of those A's have the property of B without exception, then all A's have the property B.1.
Thus, if different types of metal expanded when heated at different times, one can deduce that all metals expand when heated.
This is essentially an inductive process, which until the time of Popper was considered a necessary additional for empirical sciences by its proponents.
This principle of induction, which states that scientific knowledge grows through a progressive movement from specific statements (i.e. statements about facts) to general (universal) statements, which are essentially the form in which scientific theories appear, is regarded as crucial for scientific discovery and advancement.
As a result, Reichenbach boldly asserts that removing this principle from science's core structure deprives science of its ability to assess the truth or untruth of its beliefs. As a result, science will be in need of a reliable method for establishing the accuracy of her theories.
There is no longer any intellectual distinction between scientific hypotheses and the lyrical genius's whimsical, arbitrary inventions.2
Nonetheless, Popper maintained the unworkable nature of this inductive technique, despite the fact that the principle of induction is unqualifiedly recognised by the entire scientific community and acquiescing to the possibility of universal error.
This sceptical viewpoint can be found in Hume and Kant, but only as forerunners, as there are significant distinctions between these and Popper's.
Popper argued that the induction principle is a muddle and unnecessary. For him, it lacks a solid foundation because it is riddled with innumerable logical inconsistencies and is torpedoed by confusion.3
Scientific laws are always expressed in the form of what philosophers call universal statements, in the sense that they refer to all events of a specific type. The issue arises in the face of observation statements, which purport to provide evidence for general scientific laws.
The former are specific claims regarding a state of affairs made at a certain period. They are referred to as singular (or basic) statements or protocol phrases by philosophers. Popper observed that there is no logical justification for inferring the truth of universal statements from the singular, despite the numerical strength of the latter.
This is due to the fact that there is no guarantee that the opposite will not occur in the future. This is fundamentally an impossible endeavour because any account of experience can only be a singular statement, not a universal one. General scientific laws invariably extend beyond the limited amount of observable evidence available to support them.
As a result, these evidences can never be established as efficient progenitors of general scientific laws. The latter cannot be deduced logically from the existing evidence.
Any link between singular and universal statements that serves to authenticate the veracity of the latter is thus an illogical connection that impinges on the acceptance of the inductive inference.
This is the logical problem of induction, which is complicated by the fact that, as previously stated, it is impossible to justify a law by observation or experience because it transcends experience;
that science proposes and employs laws at all points and times despite the scarcity of observed instances upon which the laws are founded; and by the fact of the principle of empiricism, which states that in science, only observation and experience may decide upon the truth.4
But what is the point of this type of inference? The issue at hand necessitates the establishment of an induction principle, one that provides “a statement by which we should be able to put inductive inferences into a logically accepted form.”5
How will the principle of induction be proven? We've seen that this is logically impossible. All that remains is an appeal to experience. Popper argued that any attempt to justify the method of induction by an appeal to experience necessarily lead to an unending regress.
The induction principle must be a universal statement. Its justification is based on a number of successful individual applications. As a result, inductive inference is employed.
As a result, using an appeal to experience to justify induction involves assuming what one is attempting to prove, i.e. begging the question. It is entirely unsatisfactory because it is all about justifying induction by appealing to induction.6
Popper thought Hume's attempt to provide a psychological basis for the principle of induction was flawed. It contradicts the principle of transference, because what is false in logic, as we have seen, becomes true in psychology. Immediately Hume struck bargain with the psychological explanation of induction, he became an exponent of an irrationalist epistemology.
Popper was uncomfortable with his psychological explanation of induction in terms custom or habit. If we follow Hume, having established before now that inductive reasoning lacks any force as an argument to assert that this sort of reasoning dominates our cognitive life or our understanding, it means the exaltation of irrationalism for it is obvious then that argument or reason plays only a minor role in our understanding.
Our knowledge is therefore not only depicted as being of the type of belief but also of intellectually indefensible belief- of irrational faith.7
It is odd, Popper contends to explain our predisposition to expect regularities in terms of repetition. Events would continue to be isolated until man has the categories that connect them. Popper submitted on logical reasons that repetition presupposes a point of view, ‘such as a system of expectations, anticipations, assumptions or interests.'8
It is only inside this atmosphere of thought that the concerns of infinite regress or irrationalism are delivered a final blow. This, Popper says, portrays the scientific procedure.
1.2 THE VIENNA CIRCLE'S ATTACK ON metaphysics
The logical positivists in the spirit of inductive tradition argued that science is fundamentally based on the gathering of facts. However they made a dogmatic extension by holding a naïve and naturalistic notion of meaning in their verification principle.
For them, the authentic character and the meaningfulness of any purported proposition is decided by its being a truth function of, or its being reducible to, elementary (or atomic) proposition reflecting observations or perceptions. Carnap articulates this rather skewed attitude of the positivists in an intriguing fashion:
It is certain that a string of words has meaning only if its derivability relations from protocol sentences (observation sentences) are given…that is to say, if the route to (its) verification… is known.9
The meaning of a statement is, thus, the technique of its verification they concluded, to use the language of Waisman.10 The outcome of this untenable attitude of the Positivists is that the metaphysical sentences stand revealed, by logical examination, as pseudo- sentences.
The concepts of metaphysics are discarded by them as non-sensical, and hence lack any relevance and force in the ensemble of gnoseological accomplishments. This is really a premeditated strategy towards a complete demolition of metaphysical principles.
They have become ipso facto acknowledged devotees at the temple of that Humean ideology in which metaphysics is considered as ‘nonsensical twaddle, sophistry and illusion,' having to be burned to the fire.11
Popper in his unpublished book entitled Die beiden Grund probleme der Erkenntnisthorie12, presented a rather extensive criticism of this idea of elimination or overthrow (ueberwindung) of metaphysics through meaning-analysis.
This anti-current activity was done, not from a metaphysical framework, but from the springboard of one whose interest is in science, and its unhampered growth and advancement.
Popper observed that this philosophy far from destroying the imagined adversary, brought the keys of the beleaguered city to the beck and call of the alleged enemy.13
The proponents were so much fixated in their determination to oust metaphysics from the circle of all informative discipline that they failed to realize that most of the scientific theories, which they purport to shield, have also fallen on the same scrap heap as the ‘meaningless' propositions of metaphysics.
Should this attitude of theirs be regarded in the least lightly, their efforts towards the drastic annihilation of metaphysics would also be an attempt towards the eclipse of science since most of the postulations of the later which have metaphysical elements would be eliminated concurrently.
It is a well-known fact that scientific rules and theories, which take the form of universal propositions, transcend experience and so cannot be rationally reduced to the most basic statements of experience.
If we accept the Positivists' criterion of meaning and apply it consistently, we will, in the end, remove natural laws, which are, as Einstein puts it, “the supreme task of the physicist,”14
from the realm of meaningful statements. They will never be accepted into the community of all true or acceptable assertions.
Since Bacon, the most frequently accepted belief has been that science is distinguished by its observational basis, whilst pseudo-sciences and metaphysics are distinguished by their speculative technique. Popper is not convinced by this viewpoint. Modern physics theories, particularly Einstein's theories, were very speculative and abstract.
They were a long way from what could be called their observational bases. Popper concluded that all attempts to demonstrate the opposite were ineffective.15
Most scientific hypotheses are based on myths. The Copernican theory, for example, arose from a Neo-Platonic worship of the Sun, who occupied the pride of place- the centre due to his nobility. Copernicus, it should be emphasised, studied under the Platonist Novara at Bologna.16
Atomism and the corpuscular theory of light, among other myths, have become crucial for physical sciences. It makes no sense, Popper observed, to claim that these beliefs were nonsensical at one point in their development before suddenly becoming relevant at another.17
When Parmenides of Elea said, “Out of non-being comes non-being,” he seemed to have nailed this sequence. There can never be'sense' from ‘non-sense'!
Furthermore, it is evident that many of the realities proposed by science are no more observable than metaphysical beings. If we must discuss gravity and various types of forces, Newtonian mass points—Popper refers to these as ‘occult metaphysical substances'18
to reflect their non-observable character. Can we also perceive time and space, which have created the foundations of scientific knowledge, among other things? Thus, if we follow the Positivists and eliminate these from all things meaningful, the scientific boat will be shaken and wrecked.
We've seen how the anti-metaphysicist's brush sweeps away much too much. The anti-metaphysicist's statement that metaphysical concepts are mere gibberish, though a bit exaggerated, sends science into a wasteland of desolation.
No wonder Popper had to first reveal the invalidity of this viewpoint in terms of science, for his blueprints for the growth of science would be meaningless if the stated science had been completely extinguished.
1.3 POPPER SETS OFF AGENDA FOR THE THEORY-DEPENDENCE OF SCIENCE
Popper is unequivocal in his belief that scientific progress cannot be explained by the accumulation of perceptual experiences through time. He believed that science could not originate from uninterpreted sense-perceptions, no matter how diligently we gathered and sorted them.
The canon of selection is always used in scientific observations. As a result, before embarking on any meaningful observation, a choice of object, definite task—all of which assume interests, issues, and points of view—are required.19
Given this, all observations require interpretation. Pure, untainted observational knowledge ‘would, if at all conceivable, be totally barren and futile.'20
Chalmers appears to share this viewpoint when he says:
How can we establish meaningful facts about the world through observation if we don't know what kind of information we're looking for or what problems we're attempting to solve?21
Uninterpreted data cannot be expressed in observation statements. They are rather assertions of facts in the context of theories. “How strange it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view,” Darwin observes.22
Nature must be scrutinised in light of the experimenter's theories, thoughts, and inspirations. Kant was, after all, correct when he stated that it is the experimenter's responsibility to question nature rather than waiting for nature to reveal her secrets.23
However, unlike Kant, who believes that our theories are valid a priori, Popper believes that they are simply guesses, doubts that must be tested empirically.
This is an elaboration of what he refers to as hypotheticism, which is a key component of his method. As a result, he maintains:
Our sole method of interpreting nature; our only organon, our only instrument for grasping her, are bold conceptions, unwarranted expectations, and speculative mind.24