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    Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 33 (2002)

    Between autobiography and reality: Poppersinductive years

    Michel ter Hark Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen, A-weg 30, 9718 CW Groningen, The Netherlands

    Received 27 April 2001


    On the basis of his unpublished thesis Gewohnheit und Gesetzerlebnis in der Erziehung(19267) a historical reconstruction is given of the genesis of Poppers ideas on induction anddemarcation which differs radically from his own account in Unended quest . It is shown notonly that he wholeheartedly endorses inductive epistemology and psychology but also that hisdemarcation criterion is inductivistic. Moreover it is shown that his later demarcation thesisarises not from his worries about, on the one hand, Marxism and psychoanalysis and, on theother hand, Einsteins physics, but rather from his urgent preoccupation with providing peda-gogy with a psychological foundation, which has its sources in Karl Bu hlers cognitive psy-chology as well as, surprisingly, Adlers Characterology. Aside from Adler some lesser knownpsychologists, such as Karl Groos, will also be seen to have played a formative role on Pop-pers early thinking. 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Pedagogy of labour; Dogmatic thinking; Denkpsychologie ; Adler; Anxiety

    Despite having written an intellectual autobiography, the picture of the writerswhose work probably contributed most signicantly to the development of Poppersthought remains rather sketchy. In particular, Poppers early years as a pedagogueand psychologist remain wrapped in mist. As we know from the autobiography, theyoung Popper co-operated with the psychologist Alfred Adler in his clinics for chil-dren and young people in the working-class districts of Vienna. It is also knownthat Popper wrote a doctoral dissertation in psychology under Karl Bu hler, Zur

    Methodenfrage der Denkpsychologie (1928). Poppers denigrating comments on thisearly work (a kind of hasty last minute affair) have induced historians and commen-tators to ignore it completely. Still, as I have shown in an earlier article, Poppers

    0039-3681/02/$ - see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.PII: S 0039-3 681(01 )00030 -9

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    80 M. ter Hark / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 33 (2002) 79103

    dissertation is invaluable for a better and historically more informed understandingof the genesis of his ideas on the human mind and (scienti c) knowledge. 1 One of the most surprising things to be learnt from this dissertation is the importance of the Denkpsychologie of the rather unknown, indeed much neglected, Jewish psychologistOtto Selz. Aside from Karl Bu hler, Selz was the most important precursor of Pop-per s ideas on mind and (scienti c) knowledge. What I have not yet considered (andto my knowledge no one else has either) is another and slightly earlier unpublishedmanuscript. It is a thesis under the title Gewohnheit und Gesetzerlebnis in der Erzie-hung submitted by Popper to the Institute of Education of the City of Vienna in1927 (and referred to by him as On habit and belief in laws ).2 In contrast to thedissertation of 1928, Popper s retrospective accounts of Gewohnheit und Gesetzer-lebnis are fairly positive. He even refers to this manuscript as an important sourcefor his solution of the problem of induction, in which he rejects Hume s approachand proposes an alternative theory.

    In this article I concern myself with a reconstruction of the genesis of Popper sideas between 1926 and 1928. The most surprising result of this reconstruction willbe that, in contrast to what he urges us to believe, Popper had neither arrived at hiscriticism of induction in this period nor formulated his criterion of demarcation.Instead of being involved in abstract epistemological and methodological problems,Popper in this period attempted to nd his way in the different elds of psychology.The general picture that emerges is that a signi cant shift occurred in Popper s viewsabout psychology between 1926 and 1928. Judged by Popper s autobiographical

    essay in Conjectures and refutations (1963, hereafter C&R ), the thesis is concernedwith psychological phenomena of both dogmatic and critical thinking. To sketch theensuing scenario in advance: in 1926, Popper developed a view of dogmatic thinkingclosely linked to the individual psychology of Alfred Adler, the personalistic psy-chology of William Stern and the introspective psychology of Karl Bu hler. Two yearslater, under the in uence of Bu hler and especially of Otto Selz, Popper favoured abiological and genetic approach to individual and scienti c cognition. Not until1930 1933 did he become aware of a possible connection between a Selzian biologi-cally oriented Denkpsychologie and his earlier theory of dogmatic versus criticalthinking. The full development of this theory, however, would have to wait until

    1948, the year in which he published his theory of the Searchlight. In this brilliantmetaphor, Popper s ideas on dogmatic thinking and the method of trial and errornally came together.

    1. The unpublished manuscripts

    We see from the Unended quest that the notion of dogmatic thinking arose in thecontext of a critical appraisal of Hume s theory of induction. Popper characterizes

    1 See ter Hark (1993).2 Recently the thesis has become available for scienti c consultation thanks to the Hoover Institution

    Archives. Popper s thesis has been catalogued under the Collection title K. Popper, Box 12, folder 11.

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    dogmatic thinking as the expectation of nding regularities everywhere and theattempt to nd them even where there are none. Moreover, we stick to our expec-tations even when they are inadequate and we ought to accept defeat (Popper, 1963,p. 49). Hume s theory of inductive learning has it that the strength of a belief orexpectation is a product of repetition and, hence, grows with experience. Accord-ingly, Popper attributes to Hume the idea that the strength of a person s beliefs variesinversely with the degree to which he is a primitive person. Popper s ndings in1926 7 suggest that: dogmatic thinking, an uncontrolled wish to impose regularities,a manifest pleasure in rites and in repetition as such, are characteristic of primitivesand children; and increasing experience and maturity sometimes create an attitudeof caution and criticism rather than of dogmatism (Popper, 1963, p. 49).

    In a similar passage in Unended quest , Popper goes on to say that his theory of

    dogmatic thinking made him reject Hume s epistemological theory of learning byinduction and that it also led him to see that there is no such thing as an unprejudicedobservation. All observation is an activity with an aim . . . There is no such thingas passive experience; no passively impressed association of impressed ideas. Experi-ence is the result of active exploration by the organism, of the search for regularitiesor invariants (Popper, 1974, pp. 51 52). He concludes that he solved the problemof induction in 1926 by the simple discovery that induction by repetition did notexist . . . the alleged inductive method of science had to be replaced by the methodof (dogmatic) trial and (critical) error elimination (ibid., p. 52).

    After this sketch of the genesis of his epistemological ideas, Popper goes on tocomment, in the autobiographical essay of C&R , that there is a point of agreementbetween his distinction between dogmatic and critical thinking and psychoanalyticaccounts of neuroses. A neurosis is a personal set pattern adopted very early in lifeand maintained throughout, and every new experience is interpreted in terms of it;verifying it, as it were, and contributing to its rigidity (Popper, 1963, p. 49). Thisreference to psychoanalysis is not meant as a part of Popper s autobiographicalsketch, but rather as an independent and later insight. So the impression is reinforcedthat the notion of dogmatic thinking was primarily elaborated in the context of acritical appraisal of Hume s theory of induction. However, scrutiny of Popper s thesisof 1926 7 reveals the reverse: the psychoanalytic and, more particularly, Adlerianview of dogmatic thinking came rst, and the epistemological view later and inany case later than 1926 7; hence Popper s famous epistemological theory is absentin his pedagogical-psychological thesis. Popper s thesis of 1926 7, Gewohnheit undGesetzerlebnis in der Erziehung , is a psychological attempt to answer some urgentpractical pedagogical questions, rather than an abstract treatment of the problem of induction. Indeed, it is clear from the rst sentences of the Preface that induction isnot a topic of (critical) discussion at all:

    The work at hand, although in its main parts highly theoretical, has yet arisen outof practical experience and has nally to serve practice again. Its method, there-fore, is essentially inductive . (Popper, 1927, p. 3; my italics)

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    This remark clearly con icts with Popper s autobiographical contention of havingsolved the problem of induction in 1926 7.

    Perhaps this claim is too hasty. In a section of Die beiden Grundprobleme der Erkenntnistheorie (The possibility of a deductive psychology of knowledge ), writ-ten between 1930 3, Popper speaks of a lost second part of Gewohnheit und Gesetz-erlebnis : This work is no longer to be found and must be regarded as lost . Theoryof the intellect was the theoretical part of Gewohnheit und Gesetzerlebnis in

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