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Karl Popper (1902-1994), one of world's greatest philosophers of science, applies the first non justificational philosophy of criticism in the history of science, the so called 'empirical falsification'. In Popper's opinion, a knowledge claim is scientific, not when it is true or proven, but when it is constantly subjected to systematic attempts to falsify it. This idea revolutionized the understanding of the nature and value of scientific knowledge. Nowadays, many economists are still very much attracted to Popper's philosophy of science. On the contrary, many have criticized Popper's falsificationism. Therefore, how could Popper's view of science be assessed? Does Popper's view fits International Business Studies as a science? As well as, what kind of views had the open, radical, democratic Kuhns and naturalistic Humes of this world on Popper's vision?
First of all, scientific laws are expressed by universal statements (for instance, "all A's are B's"). They are concealed conditionals-they have to be understood as hypothetical statements emphasizing what would be the case under certain ideal conditions. Popper's challenge to prove universal statements, like "all ravens are black", cannot be proved by any number of observations of black raven. We might have failed to spot a white raven somewhere, but it can be shown false by a single appropriate sighting of a white raven. Therefore, universal statements can never be conclusively verified, though it may be possible to falsify them.
Besides, the scientist David Hume (1711-1776) also criticized Popper's falsification theory on this part. He formulated a simple hypothesis according to the weather: "The sun rises every day". This statement has survived falsification yesterday, but is this a reason for believing that it cannot be falsify tomorrow? Popper was not able to answer this question along with his falsification theory.
Moreover, Popper's negative hypothesis theory was criticized by the emergence of Kuhn's vision of a democratic science that undermines the simplistic view of scientific knowledge as "factual". Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922-1996) claims that he differs with Popper in the methods that he uses to arrive at his conclusions. Kuhn says that if a line of demarcation is required between science and non-science, we shouldn't look for a 'sharp or decisive' one, since science is not objective.
Popper claims that the common answer to the problem of featuring between science and pseudo-science is that science uses an empirical method, deriving from observations and experiments. He believed that areas of studies like astrology are not real science, and he attempts to come up with a theory to prove it. Moreover, that is exactly the weakness of Popper's theory. Since Popper first made a statement what is science or what is non-science, and then someone has to come up and set out to prove that it is false.
According to Kuhn, when a scientific theory, like astrology, fails to explain a phenomenon, there is a new problem for scientists to study and learn from. Therefore, one should not make rules about how science should be done, but one should make suggestions. That is a much more broad-minded philosophy. Nevertheless, Popper wants to draw a line down the middle between science and non-science.
Additionally, Popper says that deductive logic, also known as the 'top down approach', is the only way to reason in science. In the deductive science one might begin with thinking up a theory about a topic of interest, then narrows that down into more specific hypotheses that could be tested. After that one collects observations to address the hypotheses. Testing the hypotheses with specific data leads to a confirmation (or not) of our original theory.
On the contrary, the inductive logic, also known as the 'bottom up approach', works the other way around. This logic moves from explicit observations to broader generalizations and theories. In inductive reasoning, it starts with explicit observations and measures, and the detection of patterns and regularities. Subsequently, hypotheses are made that can be explored and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories. Inductive logic is not allowed in science, according to Popper, because it is just a verification. The history of scientific practice shows that scientists are really falsificationists according to Popper. Though, there are always outside influences on a theory, theories are not tested in a vacuum. Therefore, observations could be very functional. Since falsification will not verify if a theory is applicable or not and it is hard to decide if it is the theory that is wrong, or the assumptions that the scientist made are wrong with regard to the observations.
It is hard to implement Popper's ideas of science in International Business Studies and management in general. Since, Popper is not fascinated by the theorizing phase, which is subject to personal factors; instead he concentrates on the theory's testing, which in his opinion has to be purely logical. Moreover, Popper excludes the psychological dimension from the science's demarcation, Popper does recognize this dimension but nevertheless denies its systematization.
Mostly noticed in business is the central Popperian theme of problem solving, which is a three staged model. When a problem arises in a business environment, that three staged model could be useful to solve a certain problem. In the first stage the problem arises when some kind of disturbance take place. The second stage consists of attempted solutions, that are efforts to solve the problem. The last stage is the elimination of unsuccessful solutions (D. Faran, n.d.). This model could be seen as an trial and error model and could be functional for business and management decision making and problem solving.
Though, the view of Kuhn is more favored in the business environment because of the centrality of induction in the managerial assumption. First, a certain problem is observed and afterwards general conclusions and assumptions are made. Not the other way around, what the deductive logic may suggest. In business it is more favored to have immediately the right solution for certain problems when these problems arise, since continuation of those problems might cause a considerable loss.
In conclusion, unlike other scientific theories, Popper's philosophy of science is still a well known living philosophy that it is still accepted and discussed in the current professional literature. Popper has addressed more than one generation of philosophers during his lifetime. However, we consider Popper's view on science not as the best one. As already mentioned once Popper said: "In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality". We discovered that his falsification theory is mainly focused on "gambling" and can only be proven by infinite "observations". This is the main reason why we disagree with Popper's falsification theory. Therefore, Kuhn's view on science is more favorable to us. We think that conclusions come from observations, and not the other way around. Besides, the inductive logic is much more suitable in a Business environment.
Philosophy of Science
"Popper's philosophy of Science"
Of course, making an essay requires a considerable amount of work. How did we come to the result of our essay? How did we work on our essay? Did we make a good planning? In this paper we describe the process of writing our essay.
One of the most important parts of the essay, is the "knowing" part. Do we exactly know what the teacher expects from us. Do we understand the theory of falsification? How did we deal with this? We followed every lecture of the course Philosophy of Science and tried to understand the different kind of theories, by reading the chapters in the book and looking for (library) papers about falsification.
What were we going to do after we knew the content of the assignment? Firstly, we decided to search (more) papers, sources, books, essay's, websites and so on, about the theory. Subsequently, we determined that we disagreed with the falsification theory of Popper.
The next step was to start with actually writing the body of the essay. We were looking for counterarguments and tried to underpin these arguments with our own opinions. After this, we comprehensively read the body again, discussed each argument and tried to improve (if necessary) the arguments in the essay. Sometimes, we had a long discussion about an argument or about principles of Popper's theory. One team member had to convince the other that his statement was correct and that it should belong in the essay.
After that, we had to write a paragraph about Popper's theory in practical business environment. To what extent did we think that Popper's view fits International Business Studies as a science. It was quite difficult to make from something 'soft' (Popper's view) something 'hard' (practical experiences).
Subsequently, we start writing the introduction. We tried to get the reader interested in our topic, by using a quotation of Popper. Besides, we wrote a short introduction about the theory and of course a brief description of what we are going to discuss in the essay. We would construct a high quality introduction that motivated the reader to read the full essay.
Later on, we summarized the results of the essay in the conclusion part. We tried to bring the whole process to a logical finish. In any case, it is necessary to reread the essay and we were able to detect and correct a few mistakes.
Finally, we provide a list of all references we have used (books, papers, articles, etc.) and make clear to what part of our essay the references are linked. That brings us to the result we have now. We are very satisfied about the result and we hope that we were able to write an interesting discussion about the falsification theory of Karl Popper.
Word count: 461
Philosophy of Science
"Popper's philosophy of Science"