For Popper’s Birthday: A little Popper self-test & reading from Conjectures and Refutations


28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994

Today is Karl Popper’s birthday. I’m linking to a reading from his Conjectures and Refutations[i] along with an undergraduate item I came across: Popper Self-Test Questions. It includes multiple choice questions, quotes to ponder, and thumbnail definitions at the end[ii].

Blog Readers who wish to send me their answers will have their papers graded (at least try the multiple choice; if you’re unsure, do the reading). [Use the comments or e-mail.]

[i] Popper reading from Conjectures and Refutations
[ii] I might note the “No-Pain philosophy” (3 part) Popper posts from this blog: parts 12, and 3.



Popper, K. (1962). Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. New York: Basic Books.



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11 thoughts on “For Popper’s Birthday: A little Popper self-test & reading from Conjectures and Refutations

  1. I recently finished re-reading the book “Wittgenstein’s Poker,” so this post is a nice follow-up …

    • Enrique: It’s a very fun book, with only a few distortions as I recall. Of course I heard a variety of secret renditions of what really happened (the night I won the Lakatos Prize in 1999)

      • I can’t wait to hear this “secret rendition” version … Maybe it would make a feat blog post (hint, hint). Back to this post, I just printed the quiz and will take it over the weekend. Hasta pronto!

  2. Here are my answers to the multiple choice part of the quiz: 1 = c; 2 = d; 3 = c.; (there is no question 4); 5 = d; 6 = b; 7 = c

    Essay coming soon

    • will grade you tomorrow

    • 5 out of 6 correct! The answer to #7 is (a). While it’s true that Popper denied you can infer a universal theory that has infinitely many instances–and I’m guessing that’s why you answered (c)–what he means here is (a).

  3. For the essay, I choose ii (Responding to a critic of Popper): If I were Popper, my response to this criticism would be as follows (in my own voice, not Popper’s):

    Popper should concede that the criticism in the passage is true at one level: there is no difference between the “corroboration” of a theory and its “confirmation” via a well-designed experiment or “severe test” (cf. Mayo, 1996). But what really matters to Popper are not the positive instances of a particular theory’s confirmation; what matters is the experiment or test itself: whether the theory was “tested” or put at risk somehow. All that Popper seems to be saying that confirmations of a theory resulting from a severe test or well-designed experiment carry greater weight than confirmations resulting from other methods. If we are interpreting Popper correctly, we would add that what matters to Popper is the mind set of the researcher or the experimenter: for Popper, to engage in “science” (as opposed to psuedoscience, religion, politics, law, etc.) the ideal researcher must do everything possible to attempt to refute his or her theories. If the researcher’s theories survive or “pass” the researcher’s multiple attempts of refutation, then (and only then) are we entitled to make a tentative inductive leap. Nevertheless, for Popper, this leap is a tentative one; it is open to further attempts at refutation. Herein lies the main difference between traditional induction and Popper’s approach to science.

  4. Christian Hennig

    Very nice and much appreciated! (No time to do anything quickly these days, but I’ll certainly use this to test myself.)

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