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Chemical Common Sense

Miroslav Holub, 4 July 1996

The Same and Not the Same 
by Roald Hoffmann.
Columbia, 294 pp., $34.95, September 1995, 0 231 10138 4
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... cave paintings, and, in the chapter ‘The Salieri Syndrome’, T.S. Eliot’s lines next to Karl Popper. I don’t remember any other professional scientist who is so at home in ‘the first culture’. In Hoffmann, the science/poet combination brings with it, above all, an aptitude for metaphoric rendering and representation (the title of the book ...

Memories of New Zealand

Peter Campbell, 1 December 2011

... were also the Dronkes, the Steiners, the people who founded the chamber music society. There was Karl Popper. Mostly they were reduced to doing jobs nothing like as responsible as those they had left. Popper, at Canterbury, objected to teaching basic logic, but he and others, like Peter Munz who worked at the ...

The other side have got one

Ian Gilmour: Lady Thatcher’s Latest, 6 June 2002

Ideologies of Conservatism: Conservative Political Ideas in the 20th Century 
by E.H.H. Green.
Oxford, 309 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 820593 7
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Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 486 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 00 710752 8
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... ideal form of political institutions.’ In addition, if some name-dropping may be forgiven, Karl Popper wrote to me when my book on Conservatism was published in the late 1970s. After saying that there were a few points he did not agree with, the great man wrote: ‘I think one can have a theory which is not ideological, and I think you have such a ...

‘Screw you, I’m going home’

Ian Hacking, 22 June 2000

Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction Versus the Richness of Being 
by Paul Feyerabend, edited by Bert Terpstra.
Chicago, 285 pp., £19, February 2000, 0 226 24533 0
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... into abstract structures between which mutual translation or adaptation had been engineered out. Karl Popper long inveighed against ‘the myth of the framework’, of which incommensurability is a special case. There is no arrangement of ideas and practices so rigid that it extinguishes human creativity. Paradigms may begin with achievements, and end ...

Unmaking mysteries

Mark Ridley, 1 September 1983

Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... others) call the hypothetico-deductive philosophy of science. His main source for it is Sir Karl Popper. Medawar is well-known as Popper’s leading disciple; his superlatives have even been emblazoned on the cover of Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery to lubricate ...

Lab Lib

M.F. Perutz, 19 April 1984

Rutherford: Simple Genius 
by David Wilson.
Hodder, 639 pp., £14.95, February 1984, 0 340 23805 4
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... working hypothesis of the atom before their totally unexpected result. I once held this up to Sir Karl Popper as an argument against the hypothetico-deductive method, which postulates that scientists advance by first formulating hypotheses and then designing experiments to test them, rather than by the inductive method which consists in deriving theories ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... The Ancient Economy, first published in 1971, struck a chord. Constructed on models derived from Karl Polanyi and Max Weber, both of whom had exercised a strong influence on Finley in his early career, the book aimed to demonstrate that the economic behaviour of the ancient Greeks and Romans was determined not, as we instinctively assume, by concepts derived ...


Ian Hacking, 4 February 1988

The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy, Vol. I 
by David Pears.
Oxford, 202 pp., £19.50, September 1987, 0 19 824771 0
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Wittgenstein’s Nephew 
by Thomas Bernhard.
Quartet, 120 pp., £8.95, February 1987, 0 7043 2611 6
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... of growth’. And far from agreeing with Magee’s astounding opinion (derived perhaps from Sir Karl Popper) that the thread that connects the earlier and later work was a concern ‘to demarcate talk that made sense from talk that did not make sense’, Pears has a rather unusual thread of his own: solipsism. Solipsism is the doctrine that only ...

Getting Even

Adam Phillips, 19 September 1996

Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon 
by John Kerrigan.
Oxford, 404 pp., £40, April 1996, 0 19 812186 5
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Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Oxford, 110 pp., £20, June 1996, 0 19 818371 2
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... contexts. But what he opts for is a plausible, and recognisably contemporary, mix of Aristotle and Popper – ‘I think the cleverest thing Sir Karl Popper ever said was his remark that our hypotheses “die in our stead”.’ Because when we are in the theatre enjoying a tragedy we are involved in a ...

What do clocks have to do with it?

John Banville: Einstein and Bergson, 14 July 2016

The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time 
by Jimena Canales.
Princeton, 429 pp., £24.95, May 2015, 978 0 691 16534 9
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... for the objects themselves.’ He is not alone in holding this view. Here, for instance, is Karl Popper, in the significantly titled Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics: We owe to Kant the first great attempt to combine a realistic interpretation of natural science with the insight that our scientific theories are not simply the result of a ...

History’s Postman

Tom Nairn: The Jewishness of Karl Marx, 26 January 2006

Karl Marx ou l’esprit du monde 
by Jacques Attali.
Fayard, 549 pp., €23, May 2005, 2 213 62491 7
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... in a Radio 4 poll who they thought was the most important philosopher for today’s world replied Karl Marx – he was easily the winner, ahead of Hume, Plato, Karl Popper and others. Asked to comment, Eric Hobsbawm said he thought that the fall of Soviet Communism had at last allowed people to disentangle Marxism from ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke, 12 October 1989

The Time of My life 
by Denis Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... as ‘an eclectic pragmatist’ when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, he comments: ‘Karl Popper played a far more important role in my thinking than Karl Marx-or Maynard Keynes, or Milton Friedman.’ Perhaps he was wise, however, not to have declared a Popperian policy as his objective. As Defence ...

Propellers for Noses

Dennis Duncan: The Themerson Archive, 9 June 2022

The Themerson Archive Catalogue 
edited by Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley.
MIT, three vols, 1000 pp., £190, November 2020, 978 1 9162474 1 3
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... comp copies to anyone who might be interested. Kathy Acker, Gaston Bachelard, Graham Greene, Karl Popper: all responded appreciatively on receiving a Gaberbocchus in the post. Admirers were as likely to be eminently establishment as anti-establishment. Jean Dubuffet invited the Themersons for tea in Provence; the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe ...

An Example of the Good Life

Steven Shapin: Michael Polanyi, 15 December 2011

Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science 
by Mary Jo Nye.
Chicago, 405 pp., £29, October 2011, 978 0 226 61063 4
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... and liberal society, between free enterprise and central planning, between (as the Austrian Karl Popper put it) the open society and what were taken to be its enemies. Many Hungarian intellectuals of that generation passed through double exile. After the 1914-18 war, and the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, their geographically challenged ...

The Superhuman Upgrade

Steven Shapin: The Book That Explains It All, 13 July 2017

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow 
by Yuval Noah Harari.
Vintage, 528 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 78470 393 6
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... the telling of human history as the working-out of inexorable laws – that writers like Karl Popper judged so impoverished, historians now overwhelmingly confine themselves to knowing what they can about unique pasts, leaving unknowable futures to seers and fools. There are genres of ‘environmental history’ which project human futures on ...

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