The Logic of Scientific Discovery

By Karl R. Popper | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION, 1934

The hint that man has, after all, solved his most stubborn problems . . . is small solace to the philosophic connoisseur; for what he cannot help fearing is that philosophy will never get so far as to pose a genuine problem. M. SCHLICK ( 1930).

I for my part hold the very opposite opinion, and I assert that whenever a dispute has raged for any length of time, especially in philosophy, there was, at the bottom of it, never a problem about mere words, but always a genuine problem about things. I. KANT ( 1786).

A scientist engaged in a piece of research, say in physics, can attack his problem straight away. He can go at once to the heart of the matter: to the heart, that is, of an organized structure. For a structure of scientific doctrines is already in existence; and with it, a generally accepted problem-situation. This is why he may leave it to others to fit his contribution into the framework of scientific knowledge.

The philosopher finds himself in a different position. He does not face an organized structure, but rather something resembling a heap of ruins (though perhaps with treasure buried underneath). He cannot appeal to the fact that there is a generally accepted problem-situation; for that there is no such thing is perhaps the one fact which is generally accepted. Indeed it has by now become a recurrent question in philosophical circles whether philosophy will ever get so far as to pose a genuine problem.

Nevertheless there are still some who do believe that philosophy can pose genuine problems about things, and who therefore still hope to get these problems discussed, and to have done with those depressing monologues which now pass for philosophical discussions. And if by chance they find themselves unable to accept any of the existing creeds, all they can do is to begin afresh from the beginning.

VIENNA, Autumn 1934.

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