Logic of research

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Logic of research. On the epistemology of modern natural science (imprint 1935, actually 1934) or The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959) is the main epistemological work of Karl Popper . In it he characterizes empirical science using the delimitation criterion of falsifiability and takes the position that it should use falsification as a method.


Popper's learning theory or the theory of knowledge acquisition, which he develops in the logic of research , follows Kant's primacy of theoretical thinking. As a memory-endowed, learning organism, humans actively develop expectations that are gradually corrected through trial and error . In his epistemological main work, Popper turns this learning psychology into a logical investigation of scientific research into a methodology , whereby his presentation is mainly aimed at the then dominant philosophy of science of the Vienna Circle .

In the English tradition of epistemology, from Bacon to Locke to Hume and John Stuart Mill , attempts are made to guarantee the truthfulness of scientific claims by deriving legal statements from individual empirical observations (so-called inductive method ). According to Popper, the induction problem inherent in this method is logically unsolvable. In contrast to this, it is logically feasible to refute general statements through special statements. Accordingly, Popper advocates his deductive method of trial and error verification.


In dealing with logical positivism , Popper sets himself the task of finding a criterion to distinguish empirical science from mathematics and logic, but also from metaphysics . For this he suggests the falsifiability of a hypothesis that can be derived from a theory by means of basic sentences.

After this introduction to the basic problems of the logic of knowledge, the indispensability of stipulations within methodology is emphasized, in contrast to a naturalistically conceived methodology that only describes how science is actually carried out.

Theories, their different degrees of verifiability and simplicity and the empirical basis as a touchstone for their falsifiability are analyzed as building blocks of a theory of experience. In addition, chapters are devoted to questions of probability and probation as well as quantum mechanics.

The book was published several times and the author added additional appendices until shortly before his death in 1994.

The two basic problems of epistemology

There is a close connection between the logic of research and the book The Two Basic Problems of Epistemology , which Popper had previously written, but which was published much later. While Popper himself stated that the logic of research is mainly an abbreviated version of the second volume, Malachi Haim Hacohen made some arguments for the thesis that the book was created independently. Substantial parts of the manuscript of the basic problems are missing - either because they were used for the manuscript of logic , if one follows Popper's view, or because (in Hacohen's view) they never existed.


Popper has expressly protested against the following misunderstandings and misinterpretations:

  • That the original publication in a series of books by the Vienna Circle suggested that he was himself a positivist (see, inter alia, the positivism dispute ).
  • That he would have represented the ultimate refutability of scientific theories in the logic of research .
  • That he wanted to introduce falsifiability as a criterion for meaning.
  • That he wanted to find criteria for the dynamic totality of the theories generally accepted according to the state of research , instead of a static criterion for all - true and false - empirical-scientific theories.
  • That the method described in the book emerges exactly from the history of science.
  • That his epistemological considerations were significantly influenced by his studies of psychology (in the traditional line of Oswald Külpe - Würzburg School - Karl Bühler ) and that his "attacks against the positivists [...] can then be understood as a direct continuation of the attacks that Koffka and Bühler had already directed against association psychology ”.

In addition, Popper noted that the book had been criticized by people who had clearly not read it.


  • Herbert Keuth (Ed.): Karl Popper. Logic of research . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-05-004085-8 ( interpret classics , vol. 12).
  • William Berkson, John Wettersten: Learning from error. The meaning of Karl Popper's learning theory for psychology and the philosophy of science. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1982, ISBN 3-455-09278-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. In this context, Hans Albert speaks of "construction and criticism". The view is similar to that of Kant, who, in agreement with Galileo's Discorsi e dimonstrationi matematichi intorno a due nuove scienca , demanded that reason, with its principles in one hand, and with experiment in the other hand, must approach nature and force it on nature Answer questions the researcher puts to her based on these principles.
  2. LdF , 11th edition, editor's afterword.
  3. Against the big words .
  4. Misunderstood, for example, by Joan Robinson : According to Popper's criterion, "an assertion must be refutable by evidence" if it is to belong in the field of empirical science ( Doktrinen der Wirtschaftswwissenschaft. 3rd edition. Munich 1972, p. 9). See also naive falsificationism .
  5. In the introduction to the publication of the basic problems , Popper commented on his intention to develop a delimitation criterion with the words: “The goal of delimitation [was] completely misunderstood and it was assumed that I wanted to characterize the currently accepted theories of empirical science; while it was my intention to distinguish all empirically-scientifically debatable theories, including the outdated or refuted, i.e. all true and false empirical theories, from pseudo-scientific theories, but also from logic, pure mathematics, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy in general ”. Troels Eggers Hansen (ed.): The two basic problems of epistemology. Based on manuscripts from 1930–1933. Tübingen 1979, p. XXVII.
  6. ^ William Warren Bartley : The Austrian school reform as the cradle of modern philosophy . In: Club Voltaire IV, ed. by Gerhard Szczesny, Hamburg 1970, ISBN 3-499-65086-X , p. 360. Karl Popper: Some remarks about the Viennese school reform and its influence on me [1970]. In: Troels Eggers Hansen (ed.): Early writings . Mohr, Tübingen 2006, pp. 497, 543 ( editor's afterword ).