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Karl Popper (Philosopher)

If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories...
Karl Popper hate
Whenever aappears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
Karl Popper you
We are social creatures to the inmost centre of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.
Karl Popper past
may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.
Karl Popper art
The genuine rationalist does not think that he or anyone else is in possession of the ; nor does he think that mereas such helps us achieve new ideas. But he does think that, in the sphere of ideas, only critical discussion can help us sort the wheat from the chaff.
Karl Popper ideas
Trueis not the absence of , but the refusal to acquire it.
Karl Popper true
You can choose whatever name you like for the two types of . I personally call the type of government which can be removed without violence "", and the other "".
Karl Popper men
Piecemeal social engineering resembles physical engineering in regarding theas beyond the province of . (All that technology may say about ends is whether or not they are compatible with each other or realizable.)
Karl Popper technology
If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might beto our pet theories. In this way it is only too easy to obtain what appears to be overwhelming evidence in favor of a theory which, if approached critically, would have been refuted.
Karl Popper hate
Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
Karl Popper you
Before we as individuals are even conscious of our existence we have been profoundly influenced for a considerable time (since before birth) by our relationship to other individuals who have complicated histories, and are members of a society which has an infinitely more complicated and longer history than they do (and are members of it at a particular time and place in that history); and by the time we are able to make conscious choices we are already making use of categories in a language which has reached a particular degree of development through the lives of countless generations of human beings before us. . . . We are social creatures to the inmost centre of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.
Karl Popper time
Appealing to his [] way of expressing himself in theological terms, I said: If God had wanted to put everything into the universe from the beginning, He would have created a universe without change, without organisms and evolution, and without man and man's experience of change. But he seems to have thought that a live universe with events unexpected even by Himself would be more interesting than a dead one.
Karl Popper change
There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions. … It obviously endangers the freedom and the objectivity of our discussion if we attack a person instead of attacking an opinion or, more precisely, a theory.
Karl Popper faith
Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification — the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit.
Karl Popper art
It seems to me that I may be living too long. Indeed: my nearest relations have all died, and so have some of my best friends, and even some of my best pupils. However, I do not have a reason to complain. I am grateful and happy to be alive, and still be able to continue with my work, if only just. My work seems to me more important than ever.
Karl Popper work
I think so badly of philosophy that I don't like to talk about it. ... I do not want to say anything bad about my dear colleagues, but the profession of teacher of philosophy is a ridiculous one. We don't need a thousand of trained, and badly trained, philosophers — it is very silly. Actually most of them have nothing to say.
Karl Popper philosophy
I appeal to the philosophers of all countries to unite and never again mentionor talk to another philosopher who defends Heidegger. This man was a devil. I mean, he behaved like a devil to his beloved teacher, and he has a devilish influence on Germany. ... One has to read Heidegger in the original to see what a swindler he was.
Karl Popper love
Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.
Karl Popper art
Philosophers should consider the fact that the greatest happiness principle can easily be made an excuse for a benevolent dictatorship. We should replace it by a more modest and more realistic principle — the principle that the fight against avoidable misery should be a recognized aim of public policy, while the increase of happiness should be left, in the main, to private initiative.
Karl Popper happiness
True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.
Karl Popper knowledge
...no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.
Karl Popper man
The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.
Karl Popper science
We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.
Karl Popper fate
If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes; and as the book tries to show, some of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization depends, and to divide them. The responsibility of this tragic and possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken in our criticism of what admittedly is a part of our intellectual heritage. By reluctance to criticize some of it, we may help to destroy it all.
Karl Popper hope
If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
Karl Popper society
What a monument of human smallness is this idea of the philosopher king. What a contrast between it and the simplicity of humaneness of , who warned the statesmen against the danger of being dazzled by his own power, excellence, and wisdom, and who tried to teach him what matters most — that we are all frail human beings. What a decline from this world of irony and reason and truthfulness down to 's kingdom of the sage whose magical powers raise him high above ordinary men; although not quite high enough to forgo the use of lies, or to neglect the sorry trade of every shaman — the selling of spells, of breeding spells, in exchange for power over his fellow-men.
Karl Popper truth
We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.
Karl Popper freedom
The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.
Karl Popper intelligence
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life.
Karl Popper life
No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.
Karl Popper men
I do not overlook the fact that there are irrationalists who love mankind, and that not all forms of irrationalism engender criminality. But I hold that he who teaches that not reason but love should rule opens up the way for those who rule by hate. (, I believe, saw something of this when he suggested that mistrust or hatred of argument is related to mistrust or hatred of man).
Karl Popper love
... the attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell. It leads to intolerance. It leads to religious wars, and to the saving of souls through the inquisition. And it is, I believe, based on a complete misunderstanding of our moral duties. It is our duty to help those who need help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intentions.
Karl Popper war
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as heroes.
Karl Popper life
The spirit of Hitlerism won its greatest victory over us when, after its defeat, we used the weapons which the threat of Nazism had induced us to develop.
Karl Popper spirit
Address to Institut des Arts in Brussels, Belgium (1947); later published The Hibbert Journal 46 (1948), and in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)
Karl Popper knowledge
A rationalist, as I use the word, is a man who attempts to reach decisions by argument and perhaps, in certain cases, by compromise, rather than by violence. He is a man who would rather be unsuccessful in convincing another man by argument than successful in crushing him by force, by intimidation and threats, or even by persuasive propaganda.
Karl Popper success
We all remember how many religious wars were fought for a religion of love and gentleness; how many bodies were burned alive with the genuinely kind intention of saving souls from the eternal fire of hell. Only if we give up our authoritarian attitude in the realm of opinion, only if we establish the attitude of give and take, of readiness to learn from other people, can we hope to control acts of violence inspired by piety and duty.
Karl Popper love
There are many difficulties impeding the rapid spread of reasonableness. One of the main difficulties is that it always takes two to make a discussion reasonable. Each of the parties must be ready to learn from the other. You cannot have a rational discussion with a man who prefers shooting you to being convinced by you.
Karl Popper art
Do not allow your dreams of a beautiful world to lure you away from the claims of men who suffer here and now. Our fellow men have a claim to our help; no generation must be sacrificed for the sake of future generations, for the sake of an ideal of happiness that may never be realised.
Karl Popper happiness
"On Freedom" (1958; 1967) essay republished in Alles Leben ist Probleml
Karl Popper freedom
We do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves.
Karl Popper freedom
The true Enlightenment thinker, the true rationalist, never wants to talk anyone into anything. No, he does not even want to convince; all the time he is aware that he may be wrong. Above all, he values the intellectual independence of others too highly to want to convince them in important matters. He would much rather invite contradiction, preferably in the form of rational and disciplined criticism. He seeks not to convince but to arouse — to challenge others to form free opinions.
Karl Popper war
Although I consider our political world to be the best of which we have any historical knowledge, we should beware of attributing this fact to democracy or to freedom. Freedom is not a supplier who delivers goods to our door. Democracy does not ensure that anything is accomplished — certainly not an economic miracle. It is wrong and dangerous to extol freedom by telling people that they will certainly be all right once they are free. How someone fares in life is largely a matter of luck or grace, and to a comparatively small degree perhaps also of competence, diligence, and other virtues. The most we can say of democracy or freedom is that they give our personal abilities a little more influence on our well-being.
Karl Popper life
It is wrong to think that belief in freedom always leads to victory; we must always be prepared for it to lead to defeat. If we choose freedom, then we must be prepared to perish along with it. Poland fought for freedom as no other country did. The Czech nation was prepared to fight for its freedom in 1938; it was not lack of courage that sealed its fate. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 — the work of young people with nothing to lose but their chains — triumphed and then ended in failure. ... Democracy and freedom do not guarantee the millennium. No, we do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. Whether we realize its possibilities depends on all kinds of things — and above all on ourselves.
Karl Popper freedom
Our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.
Karl Popper knowledge
I believe it is worthwhile trying to discover more about the world, even if this only teaches us how little we know.
Karl Popper world
Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths.
Karl Popper criticism
There are all kinds of sources of our knowledge; but none has authority ...
Karl Popper knowledge
The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance — the fact that our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.
Karl Popper knowledge
The history of science, like the history of all human ideas, is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, and of error. But science is one of the very few human activities — perhaps the only one — in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected. This is why we can say that, in science, we often learn from our mistakes, and why we can speak clearly and sensibly about making progress there.
Karl Popper science
It is often asserted that discussion is only possible between people who have a common language and accept common basic assumptions. I think that this is a mistake. All that is needed is a readiness to learn from one's partner in the discussion, which includes a genuine wish to understand what he intends to say. If this readiness is there, the discussion will be the more fruitful the more the partner's backgrounds differ.
Karl Popper art
It seems to me certain that more people are killed out of righteous stupidity than out of wickedness.
Karl Popper people
As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: "And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold."
Karl Popper art
There are all kinds of sources of our knowledge; but none has authority ... The fundamental mistake made by the philosophical theory of the ultimate sources of our knowledge is that it does not distinguish clearly enough between questions of origin and questions of validity.
Karl Popper knowledge
Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you.
Karl Popper you
Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program.
Karl Popper sea
Popper later retracted his criticisms:
Karl Popper criticism
All things living are in search of a better world.
Karl Popper world
The belief in a political Utopia is especially dangerous. This is possibly connected with the fact that the search for a better world, like the investigation of our environment, is (if I am correct) one of the oldest and most important of all the instincts.
Karl Popper belief
Our aim as scientists is objective truth; more truth, more interesting truth, more intelligible truth. We cannot reasonably aim at certainty. Once we realize that human knowledge is fallible, we realize also that we can never be completely certain that we have not made a mistake.
Karl Popper truth
There are uncertain truths — even true statements that we may take to be false — but there are no uncertain certainties.Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.
Karl Popper truth
Why do I think that we, the intellectuals, are able to help? Simply because we, the intellectuals, have done the most terrible harm for thousands of years. Mass murder in the name of an idea, a doctrine, a theory, a religion — that is all our doing, our invention: the invention of the intellectuals. If only we would stop setting man against man — often with the best intentions — much would be gained. Nobody can say that it is impossible for us to stop doing this.
Karl Popper religion
Every discovery contains an irrational element or a creative intuition.
Karl Popper men

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