The Moral Underpinnings of Popper's Philosophy

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    Popper's writings in both philosophy of science and political philosophy are sprinkled with exhortations: “Severely test your hypotheses!” or “Change society through piecemeal engineering!” But his famous books do not present a systematic moral philosophy. However, in the collections of talks and occasional papers published posthumously Popper speaks more openly about the ethical foundations of his philosophy. Perhaps, it is not surprising to find that he says: “The idea of truth as the fundamental regulative principle … can be regarded as an ethical principle.” But he also elaborates on less obvious moral virtues such as modesty and optimism. This paper comments on the relevance of Popper's moral philosophy for our contemporary attempts to provide a normative sociology of science.