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July 28: Karl Popper (1902)

Sir Karl Popper (1902)

Sir Karl Popper

It was on this date, July 28, 1902, that British philosopher Sir Karl Popper was born in Austria. He studied and taught in Vienna until the rise of the Nazis forced this son of Jewish parents to emigrate. He was sympathetic to the Vienna School of philosophy, though he was never a member. A professor of logic and the scientific method at the London School of Economics for 20 years, Popper insisted that since nothing can be absolutely proven true, the test should be whether a proposition is falsifiable.

His chief works were political as well as philosophical: The Logic of Scientific Discovery, The Open Society and Its Enemies, The Poverty of Historicism and so on. in a 1969 interview, reprinted 29 years later in Skeptic magazine, Popper admits his agnosticism and the reasons for his disbelief. In discussing his attitudes toward Judaism and Christianity, he also admits a respect for the moral teachings of both religions.

The moral decisions of others should be treated with respect, as long as such decisions do not conflict with the principle of tolerance. We have the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should tolerate even them whenever we can do so without running a great risk; but the risk may become so great that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury. (Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945)

Popper was knighted in 1965. He died on 17 September 1994 at age 92.

Originally published July 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer




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