Theory of Anything Episode 41: The Problems of Refutation & Popper Without Refutation (part 1)

Over the years Bruce collected a series of ‘problems’ with the Popperian concept of refutation. Or so he thought. A chance encounter with Popper scholar Danny Frederick led to him re-evaluating Popper’s writings and realizing that Popper sometimes uses terms (such as ‘refutation’, ‘falsification’, and even ‘theory’) in idiosyncratic ways that aren’t quite how most people would understand those terms. This leads to both Popper’s opponent and fans alike sometimes misreading him. It turns out that the ‘problems of refutation’ that many philosophers cite as disproof of Popper are actually due to misunderstanding Popper due to his specialized vocabulary. 

In this episode, we cover Bruce’s list of ‘problems of refutation’ (which he know believes are all pseudo-problems) and explains his encounter with Danny Frederick and how it led to him re-imagining Popper’s epistemology in different terms that were easier for laymen (and philosophers) to understand. 

Blog Post Series on The Problems of Refutation

  1. A Summary of Deutsch’s Epistemology
  2. The Problems of Refutation
  3. Popper Explains The Asymmetry Between Refutation and Verification
  4. Do Deutsch and Popper Disagree Over Refutation?
  5. There is Nothing Wrong with the Language of Support
  6. Are Refutations and Verification Really Symmetrical Within A Theory Comparison?
  7. Demarcation: What Does it Mean to Be Empirical?
  8. But What If You Verify a Theory That Can Only Be Verified?
  9. The Two (or More) Kinds of Refutation
  10. How to Make Popper’s Epistemology More Clear

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