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By Karl Popper

Conjectures and Refutations is one in every of Karl Popper's such a lot wide-ranging and well known works, impressive not just for its acute perception into the best way clinical wisdom grows, but in addition for utilising these insights to politics and to heritage. It presents one of many clearest and such a lot available statements of the elemental concept that guided his paintings: not just our wisdom, yet our goals and our criteria, develop via an never-ending means of trial and mistake.

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So I can only hope that I have ____________________ 1 Descartes and Spinoza went even further, and asserted that not only ignorance but also error is 'something negative'--a 'privation' of knowledge, and even of the proper use of our freedom. (See Descartes' Principles, Part I, 33-42, and the Third and Fourth Meditations; also Spinoza Ethics, Part III, propos. ; and his Principles of Descartes' Philosophy, Part I, propos. g. Ethics, Part II, propos. 41) also of the 'cause' of falsity (or error).

Yet for the Socrates of the Apology, wisdom consisted in the awareness of our limitations; in knowing how little we know, every one of us. It was this doctrine of an essential human fallibility which Nicolas of Cusa and Erasmus of Rotterdam (who refers to Socrates) revived; and it was this 'humanist' doctrine (in contradistinction to the optimistic doctrine on which Milton relied, the doctrine that truth will prevail) which Nicolas and Erasmus, Montaigne and Locke and Voltaire, followed by John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell, made the basis of the doctrine of tolerance.

IV It is a disturbing fact that even an abstract study like pure epistemology is not as pure as one might think (and as Aristotle believed) but that its ideas may, to a large extent, be motivated and unconsciously inspired by political hopes and by Utopian dreams. This should be a warning to the epistemologist. What can he do about it? As an epistemologist I have only one interest--to find out the truth about the problems of epistemology, whether or not this truth fits in with my political ideas.

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