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The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 21 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (21 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8130908115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278447
  • ASIN: 0415278449
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 209,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'One of the most important documents of the twentieth century.' – Peter Medawar, New Scientist

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
A scientist, whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements, or systems of statements, and tests them step by step. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By boggisbitesvampires on 11 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
Most of the working scientists I've talked to know about falsification. Fewer have heard of Popper and most of those who have know him solely as Mr Falsification. A very small number have actually read him and there appear to be two reasons - beyond simple ignorance of his existence - why many haven't. First, they think that falsification is the be all and end all of his philosophy. Second, because it *is* a philosophy and philosophy is a synonym for hair splitting, irrelevant word play and deliberate obfuscation. (A third group think that there's no need to read Popper because Kuhn.)

Before anything else, it helps to get these two things straight. There's a lot in the book besides falsification and Popper's writing style is exceptionally clear. It is an example of what philosophy can be at its best: rich with ideas so clearly stated they seem self evident. Popper himself was rightly scathing of some of the nonsense that masqueraded as philosophy in the 20th century and sought to write as clearly as possible. He largely succeeded. To clear up the third point, you'd best read the book.

Popper points out that science is a kind of accelerated evolutionary process. He argues that there need not be any sure process for generating `true' theories because human imagination is fertile enough that we can generate theories of such abundance and ingenuity that as long as we have some process for winnowing out the wrong, we might eventually find the right. The engine of this process is the simple logical observation that although we can never know for certain that a theory is correct, we can know that it is not. Consequently, it is the job of scientists to do their damndest to falsify their theories.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S. Meadows on 17 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably Popper's most famous work, in which he lays out his philosophy of science, focusing on the question of epistemology.

The book begins in a surprisingly accessible manner. I was expected some very high level philosophy that would be difficult to understand, but the translation is very easy to follow. Where he gets a little more obscure, he brings it back down-to-earth with examples that help to put his argument in context. I would describe the argument that Popper creates as being cumulative; that is, there are lots of references to earlier sections and, in particular, definitions.

For this reason, I would not recommend reading this book over a long period of time. I think it demands to be read quite intensively in as short a time as possible in order to ensure that one may follow it all.

The main thrust of Popper's argument is to say that theories are never verified, they can only be falsified. He dismantles the positivist point of view which led to empiricism and shows empiricism reduces to mere psychologism. From here, he then needs to discuss the degree of falsifiability. He considers a theory to be less likely the more ways it can possibly falsified. From here, what I think he should have done would then be to talk about corroboration and how a theory stands up to attempts to falsify it. Unfortunately, he leaves this to the end and instead goes off on a rather long and tortuous talk about probability.

This quite long section was the downside for me, as his discussion (and in particular, notation) was quite obscurantist, making it difficult to follow and quite oblique. From here, he moves on to talk about quantum mechanics and in particular the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

This brings me to my last point.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brian Flange on 22 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Read this book in conjunction with Popper's collection of essays 'Conjectures and Refutations' and you'll have acquired the best grounding in the philosophy of science that it's possible to achieve. Popper's account of scientific methodology begins from inverting the traditional inductivist method associated with (e.g.) Francis Bacon and emphasising instead the importance of science offering testable, quantitative conjectures that can be proven wrong through experiment and observation. Sounds simple enough in a nutshell but it's one of the few truly big ideas that philosophy of science has ever given us and it led Popper on to propose revolutionary (at least for philosophers) ideas about how science functions. I suspect Popper got closer than any other philosopher to capturing how science might actually work. One of the best things about Popperean philosophy of science is its thoroughgoing anti-authoritarianism - it's not who proposes a theory that determines whether or not it's scientific but rather how the theory may be tested. Ironically, the anti-methodological philosophies of science proposed by noted Popper critics like Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend lend themselves much more readily to authoritarian interpretations than Popper's falsificationism ever did. (Mark ye well, any postmodernist readers.) Perhaps contrary to popular belief (or caricature more like), Popper was pro-freedom, pro-intuition and pro-creativity in science - a refreshing set of beliefs. Granted, a lot has happened since Popper and I don't think Popper is beyond criticism - for example, he didn't really solve Hume's problem of induction and Darwinian natural selection is far more of a falsifiable theory than Popper seemed to realise - but then even Einstein isn't beyond criticism and Popper did do a heroic job of explaining and justifying scientific method. Now, what's the word for someone who achieves that kind of success again? Oh yes: "genius"; Karl Popper was (like it or not) a genius.
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