Error and better world

08 Sep

Karl Popper was concerned with science, with nature but mainly with ethics and error, and established twelve principles to be observed in his book “In search of a better world” (Popper, 1995), we only comment here some:

The first is to understand that our knowledge is conjectural, that is, “it always goes beyond what an individual manages to master, therefore there is no authority. This is equally valid when it comes to specializations ”, as authors warn about Transdisciplinarity, specialized knowledge can become a new type of obscurantism, say Edgar Morin, Barsarab Nicolescu and Lima de Freitas in the Arrábida Transdisciplinarity Letter.

A second principle that we highlight is that it is ‘impossible to avoid all mistakes or even all mistakes in themselves avoidable”, idealism and perfectionism lead people to disappointment because they do not consider this essential aspect of human nature.

The third principle states that one must try to avoid mistakes, even if creative scientists who follow intuition can and should avoid mistakes, but it is almost inevitable that they will make it.

Even the most confirmed theories, those that may seem perfect hide errors, this should be thought of for those who live in “bubbles”.

This should lead us to what Popper proposes as an “ethical-practical” reform that leads to a way of thinking that it is impossible to avoid all errors, which changes the old notion that it is possible to avoid errors by “scientific criteria”.

The sixth principle is that the “new basic principle is that in order to learn how to avoid mistakes as much as possible, we have to learn precisely from them”.

So it is healthier to look for mistakes, and the attitude of self-criticism and sincerity are consequences of this duty.

So accepting to understand and accept mistakes, even thanking others to warn us about them, Popper recalls that the greatest scientists made mistakes, and always bear in mind that we make mistakes, that is, not neglecting our vigilance, proposing the author.

We have to understand that we need others (and the rest of us) to be able to understand our mistakes, in particular those that have added with different ideas, but in different environments, which means increasing tolerance. Self-criticism is the best criticism, but criticism through others is the most necessary, according to Popper, as useful as self-criticism.

Here comes the crucial end point of Popperian ethics-practice, rational criticism must always be specific, it must indicate specific reasons why certain statements, certain hypotheses appear to be false and certain arguments cannot seem valid, rational criticism provides an approximation to the truth objective, in this sense it is impersonal, and although Popper does not say, it must be above beliefs and ideologies to be the basis of some ethical truth.

POPPER, Karl (1995). In Search of a Better World: Lectures and Essays from Thirty Years. NY: Routeledge.



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