What Would Karl Popper Think Today?

Karl PopperThe German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach was born on this day in 1804. He is most famous for theological work, the main piece of which George Eliot (Yes, that George Eliot!) translated into English as The Essence of Christianity. He took an anthropological approach to religion. It seems to me a weak critique, however it completely explains religion as it is practiced by the vast majority of Americans.

Writer and illustrator, best know for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter was born in 1866. Idealism philosopher Ernst Cassirer was born in 1874. Feminist Lucy Burns was born in 1879. Painter Marcel Duchamp was born in 1887. He painted one of my favorite modernist works, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. Singer Rudy Vallee was born in 1901.

Nude Descending a StaircaseTupperware inventor Earl Tupper was born in 1907. Although that is pretty cool, Tupper was your typical businessman. Most of his success was due to Brownie Wise, who invented the unique sales strategy. Tupper dumped all over her. Later in life, he got rid of his US citizenship to avoid taxes. Typical “patriotism” of the conservative class! He bought an island off the coast of Mexico before dying.

Novelist Malcolm Lowry was born in 1909. Conductor Carmen Dragon was born in 1914. Producer David Brown was born in 1916. I don’t know why, but I have a great fondness for the man. He did produce (along with Darryl Zanuck) some fun films like Jaws and The Sting. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born in 1929. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield was born in 1943. Keyboardist Richard Wright was born in 1945. And Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was born in 1954.

Poet John Ashbery is 86 today. Garfield creator Jim Davis is 68. For the record: I’m not a fan. But he’s good at what he does. Actor Sally Struthers is 66. And Michael Hitchcock is 55.

The day, however, belongs to Karl Popper who was born on this day in 1902. Popper was a philosopher of science—and one of the greatest. But he did this primarily be being very practical. I don’t find his work all that interesting because his insights are largely obvious and not terribly deep. But they were a refreshing push back against, for example, Roland Barthes, even if I have found Barthes to be far more insightful regarding the real world. There is much to be said for verifiable science, but it is a mistake to think that it is the only valid way to pursue the truth.

What is most interesting about Popper is how he is a hero of the conservative intellectual movement for reasons that are anathema to the modern conservative movement. Popper was disillusioned with the communist movement specifically because of it disregard to facts. As a result, he became a big proponent of liberalism along with Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman. It would be nice to think that Popper, looking at the facts as we know them today, would modify his position. But that clearly didn’t happen to Friedman, who was also a great thinker. In his case, he simply came up for more and more rationalizations for his own extreme take on liberalism. So who can say with Popper, although he was never the kind of true believer that those three were.

Happy birthday Karl Popper!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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