Monday, September 10, 2012

Karl Popper on Head to Head

Head to Head is a BBC Radio 4 series in which Edward Stourton revisit broadcast debates from the archives, exploring ideas, the great minds behind them and echoes of the arguments today.

This morning's programme - which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next week - dealt with an encounter between the philosopher Sir Karl Popper and the neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles.

It was not exactly a debate, as the two were in agreement, but it examined Popper's idea of falsifiability as a criterion for what is or is not science.

As a young man Popper had been greatly impressed by the way that Newton's theories, which seemed the most secure example of scientific knowledge, were shown to be inadequate by the work of Einstein. He contrasted this with the work of Freud, which seemed impossible to refute. From this he concluded that Newton's work was science and Freud's was not.

For a fuller discussion of Popper, which pays attention to his political philosophy, try this edition of In Our Time for 2007.

One good thing about this edition of Head to Head is that Stourton is respectful of both Popper and Eccles. So he does not laugh down his nose at them, as he has a habit of doing in the series.

When he does it, he sounds exactly like Martin Jarvis makes Hubert Lane sound in his readings of the Just William books.

No comments: