Popper, Sir Karl Raimund

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Popper, Sir Karl Raimund,

1902–94, Anglo-Austrian philosopher, b. Vienna. He became familiar with the Vienna circle of logical positivists (see logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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) while a student at the Univ. of Vienna (Ph.D., 1928). He taught at Canterbury Univ., New Zealand (1937–45), and then at the London School of Economics, retiring in 1969. Popper's thought develops from his view of knowing as an individual, unpredictable act of genius, not acquired by induction, as empiricists hold, nor limited to verifiable statements, as the logical positivists hold. Like the logical positivists, Popper worked with the distinction between scientific knowledge and pseudoscience, but he understood the two to be related as well as distinct: pseudoscience or "myth," as he sometimes termed it, can inspire or grow into science, or overlap with it (as in the case of psychologypsychology,
science or study of the thought processes and behavior of humans and other animals in their interaction with the environment. Psychologists study processes of sense perception, thinking, learning, cognition, emotions and motivations, personality, abnormal behavior,
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). He rejected the certainty of knowledge, whether secured on empiricist or rationalist ground.

Popper also questioned historicism (the doctrine that there are general laws of history) because history, as he saw it, is influenced by the growth of knowledge, and, since knowing is a matter of unpredictable insight, neither the growth of knowledge nor its historical consequences can be systematized. In the political arena he was perhaps best known for his contention, set forth in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), that communismcommunism,
fundamentally, a system of social organization in which property (especially real property and the means of production) is held in common. Thus, the ejido system of the indigenous people of Mexico and the property-and-work system of the Inca were both communist,
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 and fascismfascism
, totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life. The name was first used by the party started by Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 until the Italian defeat in World
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 were philosophically linked, and his works, along with those of Milton FriedmanFriedman, Milton
, 1912–2006, American economist, b. New York City, Ph.D. Columbia, 1946. Friedman was influential in helping to revive the monetarist school of economic thought (see monetarism).
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 and Friedrich von HayekHayek, Friedrich August von
, 1899–1992, British economist, b. Vienna. He was raised and educated in Austria and taught at the London School of Economics in the 1930s, where he gained attention for his criticism of Keynes.
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, provided the theoretical underpinnings for the conservative program of British Prime Minister Margaret ThatcherThatcher, Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, Baroness,
1925–2013, British political leader. Great Britain's first woman prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising political stance, Thatcher served longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th
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. Popper was knighted in 1965. His other works include The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935), The Poverty of Historicism (1957), Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (1972), The Self and Its Brain (rev. ed. 1978), and Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery (3 vol., 1981–82).


See studies by I. C. Jarvie (1972), B. Magee (1973), W. Berkson and J. Wetterman (1984), N. DeMarchi (1988), and M. H. Hacohen (2000).