Karl Popper’s critical rationalism An epistemological critique

Masoud Mohammadi Alamuti


As argued in Chapter 1, the main task of a theory of knowledge is to define a process of knowing which addresses how the knower uses a set of premises to infer a conclusion logically, i.e. achieve objective knowledge. The epistemology of justified true belief offers a justificational theory of knowledge arguing that ‘objective knowledge’ is attained when the knower uses infallible premises, either sense experiences or self-evident principles, to produce a justified true belief as its conclusion. Sceptic epistemology, on the other hand, argues that conclusion of such a knowing process is not justifiable by its premises since all premises and forms of reasoning are fallible; hence objective knowledge is unattainable.

Karl Popper recognizes that the dispute between the dogmatists and the sceptics and their error in addressing the question of objective knowledge originate in the definition of knowledge as justified true belief. Nevertheless, Popper's theory of science is mainly concerned with the demarcation between science and nonscience. An understanding of the epistemological problem is a prerequisite for a discourse on Popper's critical rationalism. Hence, it is no wonder that I pay great attention to the epistemology of critical rationalism in Sections I and II. In short, this chapter argues that Popper uses a non-justificational approach to address the objectivity of scientific hypotheses, but does not extend the non-justificational logic of science to the philosophy of critical rationalism. Instead, Popper takes a justificational approach, defining critical rationalism as moral faith in openness to criticism.

Section I: Popper’s epistemology: problem situation

To understand Popper's theory of knowledge, we first need to understand the problem it intends to solve. To this end, this section proceeds in three stages: (a) a brief review of the Humean problem of induction and of Kant's unsuccessful attempt at solving it, (b) Popper’s reading of the epistemological problem and (c)

Popper’s formulation of the problem of knowledge on the basis of his critique of the epistemology of justified tme belief.

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