Karl Raimund Popper’s View on Social SciencesJune 27, 2021
According to Popper, the rules of methodology can be applied to both the natural sciences and the social sciences. Popper never spoke of a single science in the sense that all sciences deal with basically the same kind of phenomena. On the other hand, it believes in the applicability of the same methodology in all sciences, provided that it remains at a relatively abstract level. According to him, the thesis that social events are more complex than natural events is not always valid.
Popper also has some special views on the science of history: According to him, scientific explanations, tendencies and preconceptions about the succession of events are not laws. If something is to be tried for sure, it is an orientation. Contrary to the law, orientation cannot be used as a basis for scientific presuppositions in general. Popper’s reasons are:
1. The flow of human history is severely affected by the increase in human knowledge.
2. We cannot foretell the future increase of our scientific knowledge, by rational or scientific methods.
3. For this reason, we cannot predict the future course of human history.
4. This means that we must reject the possibility of a theoretical history, that is, a social science with a history that corresponds to theoretical physics. There can be no scientific theory of historical development to serve as the basis for the historical prediction.
5. Therefore, the main target of historicist methods has been misunderstood; and thus historicism collapses.
In this case, according to Popper, there cannot be a theoretical discipline of history, such as theoretical physics. History shows that social reality is completely different. The course of historical development, however perfect, can never be shaped by theoretical constructions.
For if such a new scientific social calendar were to be made and made known to others (such a thing would not have been kept secret for long, since it could, in principle, be rediscovered by anyone), this would undoubtedly presuppose this effect. would lead to disruptive actions. For example, let’s say stock prices are predicted to rise for three days and then fall. It is clear that everyone involved in the market would sell their stocks on the third day, thus causing prices to fall from that day, thus falsifying the aforesaid prediction. In short, the idea of a precise and detailed calendar of social events is self-contradictory and therefore precise and detailed scientific predictions are impossible. So how is history written? First, it is decided to look at history from a certain point of view; and then events that are valid from this point of view in history are described. Popper calls this point of view the understanding of history and argues that history cannot be written without an understanding of history. Those who say that they do not have an understanding of history also have such an understanding, even if they are not aware of it. Their understanding of history cannot be tested and therefore cannot be said to be true or false.