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Popper’s World

John Maynard Smith, 18 August 1983

The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism 
by Karl Popper, edited by W.W. Bartley.
Hutchinson, 185 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 09 146180 4
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... Karl Popper is perhaps the only living philosopher of science who has had a substantial influence on the way scientists do what they do. I say ‘perhaps’ because the same claim might be made for Thomas Kuhn. However, Kuhn seems to me a perceptive sociologist of science, but a poor philosopher. Also, in so far as he has had an effect on the way scientists behave, it has been pernicious: to be a great scientist, according to Kuhn, you must do revolutionary science, and the best evidence that you are doing it is that you are so obscure and inconsistent in your statements as to be wholly incomprehensible to others ...

Under threat

Frank Kermode, 21 June 1984

Tributes: Interpreters of our Cultural Tradition 
by E.H. Gombrich.
Phaidon, 270 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 7148 2338 4
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... him, for he simply used the interior of the Sheldonian as an image source, and voyaged on, with Karl Popper, as usual, his pole star, into very difficult waters: the relations of synchronic and diachronic in art history, the problems of canonicity and value. These are questions which continue to exercise him as he pays his tributes to scholars who ...

Tocqueville anticipated me

Katrina Forrester: Karl Popper, 26 April 2012

After ‘The Open Society’: Selected Social and Political Writings 
by Karl Popper, edited by Jeremy Shearmur and Piers Norris Turner.
Routledge, 493 pp., £16.99, August 2011, 978 0 415 61023 0
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... for the nastier things he does when he’s not being a philanthropist. His teacher and mentor, Karl Popper, might have seen this as an example of the paradox of unintended consequences. Soros’s actions also illustrate one of the central puzzles of Popper’s liberalism. Like Soros, ...

Blite and Whack

Paul Seabright, 19 January 1984

A Pocket Popper 
edited by David Miller.
Fontana, 479 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636414 4
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The Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery. Vol. I: Realism and the Aim of Science 
by Karl Popper, edited by W.W. Bartely.
Hutchinson, 420 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 09 151450 9
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The Philosophy of Popper 
by T.E. Burke.
Manchester, 222 pp., £16, July 1983, 0 7190 0904 9
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In Pursuit of Truth: Essays in Honour of Karl Popper’s 80th Birthday 
edited by Paul Levinson.
Harvester, 337 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0424 5
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Science and Moral Priority 
by Roger Sperry.
Blackwell, 135 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 9780631131991
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Art, Science and Human Progress 
edited by R.B. McConnell.
Murray, 196 pp., £12.50, June 1983, 0 7195 4018 6
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... is often difficult for them even to show their colleagues where the nub of the problem lies. Sir Karl Popper, who was 80 in 1982, is probably the philosopher outstandingly associated in the public mind with showing that such disputes do matter, that the enterprise of science, which aims to discover the truth about the universe we live in, is continually ...

Mitteleuropa am Aldwych

Ian Hacking: The Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence, 20 January 2000

For and against Method: including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence 
by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, edited by Matteo Motterlini.
Chicago, 451 pp., £24, October 1999, 0 226 46774 0
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... by ideas brought to it by refugees. In the first wave, England got the Austrians, including Karl Popper and Otto Neurath (not to mention Wittgenstein), and later got Paul Feyerabend from Vienna and Imre Lakatos from Budapest. The United States got the Germans, including Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach. The famous Vienna Circle, or Wiener ...

The Burden of Disproof

Stephen Mulhall, 10 June 1993

In Search of a Better World: Lectures and Essays from Thirty Years 
by Karl Popper.
Routledge, 245 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 415 08774 0
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... of undermining the vantage-point from which the sceptic poses the question. What distinguishes Sir Karl Popper as a philosopher of science is that he accepts both the cogency of the sceptical critique of induction and the legitimacy of the scientific endeavour, and accordingly devotes himself to the Herculean task of characterising the methodology of ...

Science and the Stars

M.F. Perutz, 6 June 1985

The Limits of Science 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 108 pp., £7.50, February 1985, 0 19 217744 3
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... of science, or mostly the lack of them, as perceived by great thinkers from Francis Bacon to Karl Popper and himself. His arguments are couched in largely epistemological terms which do not arouse my passions, but they stimulated me to think about those limits that affect laymen’s attitudes to science, about the practical limits scientists face in ...

Diary

Jenny Diski: A Looking-Glass Land of Sorts, 23 February 1995

... time before that, but this time) it’s an irretrievable disaster. And my loved ones yawn as if Karl Popper had never lived. There’s very little leeway for temperament round here. I think of a long-ago lover who stormed out of my distracting bedroom with his manuscript under his arm, saying, ‘I have to concentrate on my work,’ leaving me ...

In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... the only thinkers to survive Gray’s bombardment without a scratch are Michael Oakeshott and Karl Popper. Gray even pays Oakeshott the compliment of quoting him twice: ‘In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed ...

English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... of Bravery, it has been saluted as part of the historian’s craft by many different figures from Karl Popper to Arthur Marwick. Yet in this matter as in others the English are not as tolerant as they would like to be thought. Marxist blooms in particular have been summarily attacked as weeds. The hot temper of so many responses to Edward Thompson’s ...

Writing the History of Middle Earth

Colin Kidd: Edward Gibbon, 6 July 2000

Barbarism and Religion Vol 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737-64 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 339 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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Barbarism and Religion Vol 2: Narratives of Civil Government 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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... prewar academia there, the teenage Pocock, the son of a classicist, could observe such notables as Karl Popper and an offensive visitor from Australia, the young professor of Greek at Sydney, Enoch Powell. Trained as a historian in New Zealand and by Herbert Butterfield at Cambridge, Pocock has since the mid-1950s woven a spell over the history of early ...

Dr Küng’s Fiasco

Alasdair MacIntyre, 5 February 1981

Does God exist? 
by Hans Küng, translated by Edward Quinn.
Collins, 839 pp., £12, November 1980, 0 00 215147 2
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... to be found in The Spirit of Catholicism, a book by one of Dr Küng’s predecessors at Tübingen, Karl Adam. To blame the Catholic Church for not abandoning these conceptions in its dealings with Dr Küng is a little like chiding the Third International for not adopting the principles of John Stuart Mill in its dealings with Lukacs. And when therefore John ...

Koestlerkampf

A.J. Ayer, 20 May 1982

Koestler 
by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... is widespread among contemporary philosophers, with some notable exceptions, such as that of Karl Popper, I myself have still not been converted to it. Koestler’s most ambitious work in the domain of the philosophy of science is The Act of Creation, which appeared in 1964. It relied very much on the all-purpose concept of ‘bisociation’, which ...

Let the cork out

John Bayley, 26 October 1989

Foucault’s Pendulum 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 641 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 436 14096 9
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The Open Work 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Anna Cancogni.
Radius, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 09 175896 3
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... from behind, like champagne bottles. Eco’s chapters have epigraphs, one of which is from Karl Popper: ‘the conspiracy theory of society comes from abandoning God and then asking: “Who is in his place?” ’ This goes with the heading of the final chapter, which comes from Giordano Bruno, who was burnt by the Inquisition in the Roman ...

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 ...

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