Popper K  The Logic of the Social Sciences

Many of the critical remarks about science arise from its focus on problems, its success, and its  'honesty, directness and simplicity'. The idea of  'pertinent criticism' lies at the heart of science, its attempts to refute, the purely temporary success of propositions even if they are unrefuted, the process of trial and error. There is an objectivity in this critical method which criticises everything, in principle. The main form which logical criticism takes -- the exposure of logical contradictions -- is also objective. It is this critical approach which is responsible for the spread of science not scientism (which means the uncritical borrowing of methods from the natural sciences, quite often inductive methods). Critical theorists reject scientism, but ignore Popper's rejection of it as well!

The scientific subjects or disciplines are best seen as a  'conglomeration of attempted problems and solutions, demarcated in an artificial way... [and located in]... scientific traditions' [rather similar to Kuhn on paradigms here?]. This is not to admit  'anthropology' [sociological relativism?]. These disciplines are based on observations of activity rather than philosophising. Again this provides an outsideness, and objectivity, an indifference to content, the upholding of impersonal standards and notions of validity (94).

Popper wants to reassert the claim to objectivity in terms of methods, rather than in the particular qualities of scientists, in a critical tradition, the scientific community. This in turn depends on the existence of certain social and political conditions, ones which favour competition or the persistence of tradition [so this is Popper's version of Adorno's 'totality'].

Scientists have to try to define and banish  'extra scientific interests'but also to keep relevance in mind. The purity of science is of course an ideal, but it is to be enshrined in discussion and critique [shades of the later Habermas on the ideal speech act?]. It may be impossible for individuals to keep to this ideal, or even undesirable for them to do so [because other motives actually keeps scientists doing science?]. Of course objectivity is a value, and the scientific community has to decide what it means in practice.

Deductive logic is the 'organon' of the critical method. It is to be used for example to test conclusions against premisses, in particular to examine the truth or falsity of premisses working back from conclusions. It is therefore implicit in all refutational criticism which goes from a test to the principle and vice-versa. The concept of truth is also important, if only to avoid error. For Popper, this involves a correspondence theory, the correspondence to facts -- and it is this that prevents relativism [there is a reference to Tarski here]. Causal explanation involves a logical connection between the explicandum and certain preconditions under general theory  (in social sciences, situational logic), and this provides an approximation to truth and explanatory power  (in terms of the number of hypotheses or conclusions derived from the theory).

All observations involve theory. In psychology, we must presuppose a social environment or context. In fact some grasp of the social environment is crucial, which leaves sociology as an essential subject. One of its triumphs is to expose unintended consequences. Social sciences also have an objective method, such as the situational logic of Economics which can predict action as objectively appropriate to the circumstances, regardless of anything subjective or psychological. Motives and so on are seen as elements of the situation (102)  [but would he go as far as JS Mill?]. Sociological propositions often have a lot of truth content even if they are actually false, and they do subscribe to the need to be rational and criticisable. Again, social institutions offer a presupposed context.

Overall, rational discussion is possible, even in social sciences. We need to be aware of the limits of our efforts, but we should not retreat into nihilism. We cannot prove what we suggest, but we can falsify and make progress [This is the main point that Popper makes, of course, that science should offer risky conjectures which can be tested, and ideally subject to falsification. It is that that separates science from pseudo-science, which tends to offer a series of conjectures which can never be tested to destruction in this way. Famously, Popper cites astrology as an example of pseudo-science -- but also marxism and Freudian psychology].

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