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Critical Rationalism

James A. Anderson


Critical rationalism is, first of all, the solution proposed by Karl Popper to the epistemological problem of the growth of knowledge. Second, it has come to be one description of the method by which science progresses. And, third, it has become an ideological position which both continues the project of the Enlightenment and celebrates the role of communication in the field of knowledge. The essence of critical rationalism is contained in four steps: (1) Through intuition, ignorance, or other circumstance, even blind luck, “we stumble over some problem” ( Myth , p. 101). (2) We attempt a solution by boldly proposing a theory that entails material consequences that can be tested. (3) Our conjecture and tests are subjected to rigorous critical review and stringent testing by the scientific community. (4) The results of this process are used to refine our original understanding of the problem, and we return to step (1). Critical rationalism, therefore, represents several differences from what Suppe (1989) calls the “received view” of science. First, it changes the starting place, which was and often still is considered to be careful observation. Second, it encourages dicey hypothesizing ( Miller 1994 ). Third, it demands deductive rationalism as the basis of critique. Fourth, it requires both a review community and a community review. And last, it considers the process to be iterative ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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