|Edited by Stefan Amsterdamski
Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1996
World 3 is set aside, not as non-existent but as irrelevant to the mind-body problem. The article then considers the bearing of Popper’s Darwinism on his Cartesian dualist interactionism. It focuses on the “Spearhead Model”, which put in a brief appearance in Objective Knowledge and was then allowed to fall into neglect. The aim here is to revise and rehabilitate it, since it is of considerable interest and value. For one thing, it helps to overcome the difficulty for Darwin’s theory that variations will be either too large to be favorable or slight to catch on. It involves a control/motor dualism, the two sides being assumed genetically independent. Its message is that in evolution developments in control systems pave the way. Unlike excess motor power, excess control capacity is assumed to be virtually cost-free.
The original model was in trouble because of its tacit reliance on an all-or-nothing notion of control. This led to infringements of the principle of continuity. A Mk II model is developed, in the light of a thought-experiment involving variable control capacity C and variable motor power M. This revised model differs from its predecessor in that (i) unilateral increases of M away from M‘s optimum value for a given value of C reduce fitness but non-abruptly, and (ii) unilateral increases of C bring actual as well as potential benefit, and hence will be favored by natural selection.
This model is then brought to bear on the mind-body problem, and on the conflict in The Self and its Brain between Popper’s evolutionist Cartesianism an Eccles’s classical Cartesianism. It clears up one major difficulty (the “sure-touch” problem). And when coupled with the fact of a threefold increase in the size of hominid brains over the last three million years, it helps to explain something which Descartes remarked, namely that other animals often exhibit afficulty (the “sure-touch” problem). And when coupled with the fact of a threefold increase in the size of hominid brains over the last three million years, it helps to explain something which Descartes remarked, namely that other animals often exhibit a superhuman specialized dexterity, whereas we enjoy a versatile ability to foster and develop different dexterities.
Karl Popper has been accused (by Feyerabend) of having been implicitly committed in his theory of three worlds to a Hegelian thesis about “the cunning of reason.” This is wrong, since the Hegelian Objective Spirit is ontically primary relative to Subjective Spirit and Nature, while their Popperian counterparts, Worlds Three, Two, and One, have the same ontological status. The accusation ignores the objective of Popper’s theory: to provide a theory of rationality without assuming the (perfect) rationality of the human agent. Thus Popper’s theory involves some tacit idealizations. Assuming these idealizations, World Three is expected to evolve in such a way as if the cunning of reason were at work. I suggest that the idealizations in question concern the operation of society (world two-and-a-half?)
The public relations of science are a complex affair, run by all sorts of popularizers of science, including academic philosophers and historians and sociologists of science. They usually exaggerate claims for science allegedly for the sake of improving its public image for the common good. They oppose the more balanced views of science as self- correcting; Popper’s view of science, which is very balanced and commonsensical, is thus rejected out of hand, as their conduct clashes with his refusal to endorse any authority, including scientific authority; they are unfriendly to his suggestion to replace all authority with moral and intellectual autonomy.
The paper discusses three problems concerning the Popperian philosophy of science: (1) Is it possible not to be a relativist when it is claimed that all facts are interpretations of empirical data on the grounds of some background knowledge? (2) Why did Popper in his Epistemology without a Knowing Subject advance the conception of the logic of scientific discovery as a mechanism of evolution of World Three and abandon his previous interpretation of it as a reconstruction of actual thought processes? (3) Was Popper right in believing that the biological (Darwinian) interpretation of the evolution of knowledge protects epistemology against relativism and is in conformity with Tarski’s theory of truth? In the conclusion of his paper the author claims that interpretation of the evolution of scientific knowledge can avoid neither biological nor historical relativism.
Popper’s distinction between prophecies and predictions has the double significance. Firstly, it is of interest for philosophy of science. Secondly, it is inherently connected with Popper’s criticism of historicism and enemies of open society. This second task is certainly more famous and important; it is not difficult to demonstrate that the diagnosis of a statement about the future as an element of historistic ideology disqualifies it or at least makes it very suspicious. This paper deals basically with prophecies as a methodological category, although it also critically touches on Popper’s refutation of historicism Preface to the second edition of Poverty of Historicism). Popper uses the word “prophecy” in several contexts, related but different. First, he simply contrasts predictions and prophecies. Second, he contrasts prophecies as predictions of unpreventable events with technological predictions. Third, he contrasts scientific predictions with unconditional historical prophecies. Fourth, he contrasts scientific conditional predictions with historical prophecies. Now, if we compare the meanings of the word “prophecy” derived from these contrasts, the results are not equivalent. In particular, we do not know whether Popper admits conditional historical predictions as a species of scientific conditional predictions.
Popper himself suggests an analysis of prediction in terms of the well-known deductive model of explanation on which there is a symmetry between explanation and prediction. It seems that if this model is assumed, then any historical prediction, even conditional, may be regarded as theoretical in nature. On the other hand, radical skepticism about small-scale historical conditional predictions as capable of rational justification is not correct. This suggests that we should distinguish at least three categories of statements about future events: prophecies (un-)conditional or quasi-conditional predictions,ale historical conditional predictions as capable of rational justification is not correct. This suggests that we should distinguish at least three categories of statements about future events: prophecies (un-)conditional or quasi- conditional predictions, theoretical predictions (conditional ex definitione) and conditional historical predictions. we should contrast prophecies and scientific predictions, and then divide scientific into theoretical and historical.
As far as the matter concerns Popper’s refutation of historicism, it seems too weak, because even if science strongly influences the development of society, it must be proved that there is no other more dominant factor.