Popper:Knowledge and Understanding the World

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Popper has a number of arguments – or theses as we academics like to call them – these 3 are his major ones and can underlay a number of other philosophical ideas – especially when we set out to research a new topic. I like to use them when discussing knowledge with my students and add them to the wonderful quote that Donald Rumsfeld mentioned about the things we know we know and the we know we don’t know, and of course the things we don’t know we don’t know – which are the ones that come to bite you…

1st Thesis: We know a great deal. And we know not only many details of doubtful intellectual interest but also things which are of considerable practical significance and, what is more important, which provide us with theoretical insight, and with a surprising understanding of the world.

2nd Thesis: Our ignorance is sobering and boundless. … with each step forward, with each problem which we solve, we not only discover new and unsolved problems, but we also discover that where we believed we were standing on firm and safe ground, all things are, in truth, insecure and in a state of flux.

3rd Thesis There is at least one philosophical problem in which all thinking men are interested: the problem of understanding the world in which we live; and the thus of ourselves (who are part of that world) and our knowledge of it.

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