The Logic of Scientific Discovery

By Karl R. Popper | Go to book overview
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THE question whether there is such a thing as a falsifiable singular statement (or a 'basic statement') will be examined later. Here I shall assume a positive answer to this question; and I shall examine how far my criterion of demarcation is applicable to theoretical systems-- if it is applicable at all. A critical discussion of a position usually called 'conventionalism' will raise first some problems of method, to be met by taking certain methodological decisions. Next I shall try to characterize the logical properties of those systems of theories which are fasifiable--falsifiable, that is, if our methodological decisions are adopted.

19. Some Conventionalist Objections.

Objections are bound to be raised against my proposal to adopt falsifiability as our criterion for deciding whether or not a theoretical system belongs to empirical science. They will be raised, for example, by those who are influenced by the school of thought known as 'conventionalism'.1 Some of these objections have already been touched upon in sections 6, 11, and 17; they will now be considered a little more closely.

The chief representatives of the school are Poincaré and Duhem (cf. La theorie physique, son objet et sa structure, 1906; English translation by P. P. Wiener: The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, Princeton, 1954). A recent adherent is H. Dingier (among his numerous works may be mentioned; Das Experiment, and Der Zusammenbruch der Wissenschaft und das Primat der Philosophie, 1926). *The German Hugo Dingler should not be confused with the Englishman Herbert Dingle. The chief representative of Conventionalism in the English-speaking world is Eddington. It may be mentioned here that Dubem denies (Engl. transl. p. 300) the possibility of crucial experiments, because he thinks of them as verifications, while I assert the possibility of crucial falsifying experiments. Cf. also my paper "'Three Views Concerning Human Knowledge'". in Contemporary British Philosophy, iii, 1956, and in my Conjectures and Refutations, 1959.


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