The Logic of Scientific Discovery

By Karl R. Popper | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE PROBLEM OF THE EMPIRICAL BASIS

WE have now reduced the question of the falsifiability of theories to that of the falsifiability of those singular statements which I have called basic statements. But what kind of singular statements are these basic statements? How can they be falsified? To the practical research worker, these questions may be of little concern. But the obscurities and misunderstandings which surround the problem make it advisable to discuss it here in some detail.


25. Perceptual Experiences as Empirical Basis: Psychologism.

The doctrine that the empirical sciences are reducible to sense- perceptions, and thus to our experiences, is one which many accept as obvious beyond all question. However, this doctrine stands or falls with inductive logic, and is here rejected along with it. I do not wish to deny that there is a grain of truth in the view that mathematics and logic are based on thinking, and the factual sciences on sense-perceptions. But what is true in this view has little bearing on the epistemological problem. And indeed, there is hardly a problem in epistemology which has suffered more severely from the confusion of psychology with logic than this problem of the basis of statements of experience.

The problem of the basis of experience has troubled few thinkers so deeply as Fries.1. He taught that, if the statements of science are not to be accepted dogmatically, we must be able to justify them. If we demand justification by reasoned argument, in the logical sense, then we are committed to the view that statements can be justified only by statements. The demand that all statements are to be logically justified (described

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1
J. F. Fries, Neue oder anthropologische Kritik der Vernunft ( 1828 to 1831)

-93-

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