Logical objections to popper

Logical objections focus on:

  • the empirical status of basic observations (potential falsifiers)
  • the role of potential falsifiers in deductive falsification


!Potential falsifiers

20th November 2020

First logical objection

This logical objection concerns the quantity of potential falsifiers: any theory admits of an indefinite, if not infinite, number of potential falsifiers.
When dealing with more than one theory, on the basis of falsifiability, which one can I identify as the better one, thus the more corroborated?

A limited number of tests can be performed at a time t, and by picking one theory over another, a projection is necessarily made. I’m making a projection on the basis of what I can see here and now.
By doing so, an inductive step is performed in order to make a deductive process work.

Popper knows this may be a problem and he defends his thesis by stating that the degree of corroboration is not forward-looking:

the degree of corroboration at the time t […] says nothing about the future— for example […] [about] a time later than t.

Popper, Logic of scientific Discovery, pp.18-19

Still, why a theory should be preferred over a second theory?
A positive statement is required, while all of Popper’s system of falsification is based on the negation of statements.

Given this, what do we have to be able to assess which of two or more theories is better to adopt?


Second logical problem

why should we trust that our basic statements and our falsifiers actually work? How can we accept a basic statement as true?

From a logical point of view, the testing of a theory depends upon basic statements whose acceptance or rejection, in its turn, depends upon our decisions. Thus it is decisions which settle the fate of theories.

K. Popper, Logic of Discovery, p.109

I must have good reasons to believe that what I’m experiencing is actually what it’s true; I’m using experience as positive evidence to reach this conclusion. This is both something Popper wouldn’t include in his theory and an inductive procedure.

The empirical basis of objective science has nothing ‘absolute’ about it. Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or ‘given’ base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.

K. Popper, Logic of Discovery, p.111

Popper strongly promotes the arbitrarity of experiences; but he ultimately agrees that basic statements aren’t grounded conjectures; nevertheless he points out that it’s the best conjecture you can make; and the scientific community agrees on that. ???


Third logical problem

Trust in observation: back to the argument of experience.
Since conjectures always come first, are we really saying that we’re actually dealing with experience or an interpretation of experience?

I’ll never be sure if what I experience having conjectured something before, by having a theory, that my experience won’t be distorted by my theory’s point of view.
Positivists and empiricists always struggle on this point: If I base all of my knowledge on observations, I should completely trust them.

The only solution may be to completely separate theories and practical measurements; we can agree on some phenomena, but attribute several different theories to the same phenomena. Nevertheless, we need to objectively agree on every phenomenon.



Next topic: Historical objections to Popper

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