The Logic of Scientific Discovery

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Psychology Press, 2002 - Philosophy - 513 pages
Described by the philosopher A.J. Ayer as a work of 'great originality and power', this book revolutionized contemporary thinking on science and knowledge. Ideas such as the now legendary doctrine of 'falsificationism' electrified the scientific community, influencing even working scientists, as well as post-war philosophy. This astonishing work ranks alongside The Open Society and Its Enemies as one of Popper's most enduring books and contains insights and arguments that demand to be read to this day.
 

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Review by Greg Nyquist
This is the book where Popper first introduced his famous "solution" to the problem of induction. Originally publish in German in 1934, this version is Popper's own English
translation undertaken in the 1950s. It should go without saying that the book is a classic in philosophic epistemology--perhaps the most important such work to appear since Hume's "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." Popper argues that scientific theories can never be proven, merely tested and corroborated. Scientific inquiry is distinguished from all other types of investigation by its testability, or, as Popper put, by the falsifiability of its theories. Unfalsifiable theories are unscientific precisely because they cannot be tested.
Popper has always been known for his straightforward, lucid writing style. There are no books on epistemology that are as easy to read and understand than Popper's. Nonetheless, of all Popper's books, "Logic of Scientific Discovery" is easily the most difficult. I don't know whether it is because it was his first book or because it was originally written in German or because of all the technical problems in probability and quantum theory that are dealt within its pages. Whatever the reason, this book, despite its tremendous importance, cannot be recommended to those seeking an introduction to Popper's thinking (and Popper, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, is well worth getting to know). For those who merely want a rough overview of Popper's opinions, perhaps the best book is "Popper Selections," edited by David Miller. For those eager for more depth, I would recommend "Realism and the Aim of Science." Popper no where makes a better case for his epistemological views than in this eminently readable book. Further elaborations of Popper's views can be read in "Conjectures and Refutations" and "Objective Knowledge."
Popper has been severely attacked by philosophers who are offended by his bold fallibilism and anti-dogmatism. No philosopher attacked Popper more strenuously than David Stove. Stove's criticisms are interesting, but they are not as conclusive as one disparaging critic has suggested. Stove makes three main arguments against Popper: (1) Popper theories are bad because they lead to the epistemological relativism of Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend; (2) Popper's dismissal of induction is contrary to common sense and is therefore "irrational"; and (3) Popper's argument on behalf of "conjectural knowledge" is fallacious because the phrase "conjectural knowledge" is a contradiction in terms. All three of these arguments are logically fallacious. The first commits the fallacy of "argument ad consequentiam," which tries to refute the truth of a doctrine by associating it to its (alleged) consequences. This is, in a way, a sort of guilt by association argument. The second argument simply assumes the very point at issue. No where in his book on Popper does Stove attempt to prove that induction is rational. He simply assumes it is and denounces Popper on the basis of this gratuitous assumption. The last argument is merely verbal and proves only that Popper has violated common linguistic usage. But why should we assume that linguistic usage must always be philosophically right? Stove also makes a great fuss about Popper's assertion that a "falsifiability" is preferable to "irrefutability." Stove assumes that this is palpably absurd. How can a theory that is falsifiable possibly be better than one that is irrefutable? But Stove appears to have missed the whole point of Popper's theory. Falsifiability merely means "testability." Irrefutable, on the other hand, means simply "untestable." When looked at in this line, Popper's theory no longer seems so absurd. In fact, it is merely a great leap forward in the fight against dogmatism and close-mindedness.
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Review: The Logic of Scientific Discovery

User Review  - John Peralta - Goodreads

Karl Popper is a leading philosopher of science. In this book he introduced the concept of falsifiability. Put simply, no theory can be considered a scientific theory unless it can be scrutinized ... Read full review

Contents

Causality Explanation and the Deduction of Predictions
12
Strict and Numerical Universality
13
Universal Concepts and Individual Concepts
14
Strictly Universal and Existential Statements
15
Theoretical Systems
16
On the Problem of a Theory of Scientific Method
27
Logical Ranges Notes on the Theory of Measurement
37
Some Possibilities of Interpreting a System of Axioms
51
Infinite Sequences Hypothetical Estimates of Frequency
154
An Examination of the Axiom of Randomness
159
ChanceLike Sequences Objective Probability
163
6o Bernoullis Problem
164
The Law of Great Numbers Bernoullis Theorem
168
Bernoullis Theorem and the Interpretation of Probability Statements
171
of the Fundamental Problem of the Theory of Chance
176
The Problem of Decidability
181

Levels of Universality The Modus Tollens
54
Falsifiability
57
2O Methodological Rules
61
Logical Investigation of Falsifiability 22 Falsifiability and Falsification
66
Occurrences and Events
68
Falsifiability and Consistency
72
The Problem of the Empirical Basis
74
Concerning the SoCalled Protocol Sentences
76
The Objectivity of the Empirical Basis
79
Basic Statements
82
The Relativity of Basic Statements Resolution
86
Friess Trilemma
87
3o Theory and Experiment
88
Degrees of Testability
95
How are Classes of Potential Falsifiers to be Compared?
97
Degrees of Falsifiability Compared by Means of the Subclass Relation
98
The Structure of the Subclass Relation Logical Probability
100
Empirical Content Entailment and Degrees of Falsifiability
103
Levels of Universality and Degrees of Precision
105
Degrees of Testability Compared by Reference to Dimensions
110
The Dimension of a Set of Curves
115
Two Ways of Reducing the Number of Dimensions of a Set of Curves
116
Simplicity
121
Elimination of the Aesthetic and the Pragmatic Concepts of Simplicity 42 The Methodological Problem of Simplicity
122
Simplicity and Degree of Falsifiability
126
Geometrical Shape and Functional Form
128
The Simplicity of Euclidean Geometry
129
Probability
133
The Problem of Interpreting Probability Statements
134
Subjective and Objective Interpretations
135
The Fundamental Problem of the Theory of Chance
138
The Frequency Theory of von Mises
139
Plan for a New Theory of Probability
141
Relative Frequency within a Finite Class
143
Selection Independence Insensitiveness Irrelevance
145
Finite Sequences Ordinal Selection and Neighbourhood Selection
147
nFreedom in Finite Sequences
148
Sequences of Segments The First Form of the Binomial Formula
152
The Logical Form of Probability Statements
183
A Probabilistic System of Speculative Metaphysics
188
Probability in Physics
190
Law and Chance
198
The Deducibility of Macro Laws from Micro Laws
200
Formally Singular Probability Statements
202
The Theory of Range
204
Some Observations on Quantum Theory
209
Heisenbergs Programme and the Uncertainty Relations 74 A Brief Outline of the Statistical Interpretation of Quantum Theory
211
A Statistical ReInterpretation of the Uncertainty Formulae
218
An Attempt to Eliminate Metaphysical Elements by Inverting Heisenbergs Programme with Applications
224
Decisive Experiments
232
Indeterminist Metaphysics
243
Corroboration or How a Theory Stands up to Tests
248
Concerning the SoCalled Verification of Hypotheses
249
Criticism of Probability Logic
252
Inductive Logic and Probability Logic
261
How a Hypothesis may Prove its Mettle
264
Corroborability Testability and Logical Probability
268
Remarks Concerning the Use of the Concepts True and Corroborated
273
The Path of Science
276
APPENDICES
281
Definition of the Dimension of a Theory
283
The General Calculus of Frequency in Finite Classes
286
Formula
290
Examination of an Objection The TwoSlit
297
Remarks Concerning an Imaginary Experiment
305
i Two Notes on Induction and Demarcation
312
ii A Note on Probability 1938
319
iii On the Heuristic Use of the Classical Definition
325
vii Zero Probability and the FineStructure
374
viii Content Simplicity and Dimension
392
Statistical Tests
402
x Universals Dispositions and Natural
440
xi On the Use and Misuse of Imaginary
464
xii The Experiment of Einstein Podolsky and Rosen
481
INDICES compiled by Dr J Agassi
489
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