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Introductory Reading on Popper's Philosophy

(Last revised: 27th August, 2000)

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An afternoon's read + 3 cups of Java
By the Master Populariser of Philosophy

Philosophy and the Real World: An Introduction to Karl Popper, Bryan Magee, [1985/1994], Open Court, Chicago. ISDN: 0-87548-436-0

A marvelously clear and unpretentious introduction. Appetisingly short (90 pages) but accurate. Little criticism, but great exposition, weaving deftly between the abstract principles and concrete examples. Magee shows the unity of Popper's views, especially the connection between Popper's views of scientific method and political philosophy and his advocacy of The Open Society. From here you will know your next port of call in the intellectual adventure that is Popper's work. The book was endorsed by Popper.

--- Ray


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A week's read + 15 cups of Java
A Remedy for Kuhnians and their ilk

The Myth of the Framework, Karl Popper, [1994], editor: Mark Notturno, Routledge.
ISDN: 0-415-11320-2

The Myth of the Framework is named after the delusion that we can be trapped inside conceptual or theoretical frameworks that differ so radically that we cannot understand one another and that in fact there is no way of learning to communicate with one another. These "incommensurable" frameworks infest all areas of life: politics, art and even science. Wittgenstein with his "forms of life" and Kuhn with his "paradigms" are perhaps the key propagators of this pessimistic philosophy. Rational discussion, they say, is possible only if we have a common set of assumptions. Otherwise, we have to agree to scorn one another.
Popper upholds the power of rational discussion to further understanding, cooperation and, in general, civilised life. Through mutual criticism we can break out of our frameworks. I think this is an important book because many people think argument is impotent. The way many people leap to the use of new laws (of force), voting and demonstrating (without rational discussion), and to ostracism and ridicule, testifes to their sad conception of a social life devoid of the optimistic use of sound argument.


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The Myth of the Framework
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2 week's read + 25 cups of Java
Encounter the Man

Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography, Karl Popper, [1974], Fontana.

Filled with tasteful and detailed glimpses of Popper's intellectual development, covering his interest in art, politics, science and ethics. Well referenced and footnoted. Here we are getting a little deeper into the details of Popper's arguments.

Contents by Chapter:

Ch. 1. Omniscience and Fallibilism Ch. 21. The Approaching War; The Jewish Problem
Ch. 2. Childhood Memories Ch. 22. Emigration: England and New Zealand
Ch. 3. Early Influences Ch. 23. Early Work in New Zealand
Ch. 4. The First World War Ch. 24. The Open Society and the Poverty of Historicism
Ch. 5. An Early Philosophical Problem Ch. 25. Other Work in New Zealand
Ch. 6. My First Philosophical Problem:
The Problem of Essentialism
Ch. 26. England: At the London School of Economics and Political Science
Ch. 7. A Long Digression Concerning
Essentialism: What Still Divides me From Most
Contemporary Philosophers
Ch. 27. Early Work in England
Ch. 8. A Crucial Year: Marxism; Science and Pseudoscience Ch. 28. First Visit to the United States. Meeting Einstein
Ch. 9. Early Studies Ch. 29. Problems and Theories
Ch. 10. A Second Digression: Dogmatic and Critical Thinking; Learning Without Induction Ch. 30. Debates with Schrödinger
Ch. 11. Music Ch. 31. Objectivity and Criticism
Ch. 12. Speculations About the Rise of Polyphonic Music: Psychology of Discovery or Logic of Discovery? Ch. 32. Induction; Deduction; Objective Truth
Ch. 13. Two Kinds of Music Ch. 33. Metaphysical Research Programmes
Ch. 14. Progressivism in Art, Especially Music Ch. 34. Fighting Subjectivism in Physics: Quantum Mechanics and Propensity
Ch. 15. Last Years at the University Ch. 35. Boltzman and the Arrow of Time
Ch. 16. Theory of Knowledge: Logik der Forschung Ch. 36. The Subjectivist Theory of Entropy
Ch. 17. Who Killed Logical Positivism? Ch. 37. Darwinism as a Metaphysical Research Programme
Ch. 18. Realism and Quantum Theory Ch. 38. World 3 or the Third World
Ch. 19. Objectivity and Physics Ch. 39. The Body-Mind Problem and World 3
Ch. 20. Truth, Probability, Corroboration Ch. 40. The Place of Values in a World of Facts

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Unended Quest
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Indeterminate cups of Java
A Student's Easy Reference to Some of
Popper's Key Articles and Book Chapters

Popper Selections, David Miller, [1985], Princeton. Now available in German (Popper Lesebuch; Mohr [Tubingen], 1995), Spanish (Popper: Escritos Selectos; Fondo de Cultura Economica [Mexico], 1995), and Swedish (Popper. Kunskapsteori, Vetenskapteori, Metafysik, Samhallsfilosofi; Thales [Stockholm], 1997).

For those who want a "Pocket Popper" this is the answer. It contains selections of Popper's important writings on nearly all areas of his thinking.


Part I Theory of Knowledge

  1. The Beginnings of Rationalism (1958)
  2. The Decline of rationalism (1945)
  3. Knowledge without Authority (1960)
  4. Knowledge: Subjective versus Objective (1967)
  5. Evolutionary Epistemology (1973)
  6. Two Kinds of Definitions (1945)
  7. The Problem of Induction (1953, 1974)
  8. The Problem of Demarcation (1974)

Part II Philosophy of Science

  1. Scientific Method (1934)
  2. Falsificationism versus Conventionalism (1943)
  3. The Empirical Basis (1934)
  4. The Aim of Science (1957)
  5. The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1960)
  6. Truth and Approximation to Truth (1960)
  7. Propensities, Probabilities, and the Quantum Theory (1957)

Part III Metaphysics

  1. Metaphysics and Criticizability (1958)
  2. Realism (1970)
  3. Cosmology and Change (1958)
  4. Natural Selection and Its Scientific Status (1977)
  5. Indeterminism and Human Freedom (1965)
  6. The Mind-Body problem (1977)
  7. The Self (1977)

Part IV Social Philosophy

  1. Historicism (1936)
  2. Piecemeal Social Engineering (1944)
  3. The Paradoxes of Sovereignty (1945)
  4. Marxs's Theory of the State (1945)
  5. Individualism verses Collectivism (1945)
  6. The Autonomy of Sociology (1945)
  7. The Rationality Principle (1967)
  8. Against the Sociology of Knowledge (1945)

To Order
From Amazon.com (US):
Popper Selections
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Popper Selections