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Perhaps, one of the finest and most fascinating phenomena that have ever greeted the human history was the overture of the modern scientific culture and its unmitigated growth and development. The ascendance of this strand of cultural emancipation and spectacular civilization did not just take place ‘at the drop of a hat or two from the leaning tower of Pisa.’ It was rather subversive and gradual, yet impressive. It had had its shadow cast during the ancient period exemplified more or less in the Democritian atomism and most especially in the Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic system. Its resonance was again heard in the thirteenth century, typified by the various posits of Robert Grosseteste and the ‘Doctor Mirabilis’- Roger Bacon. With Copernicus’ hypothesis and postulations as is found in his De Revolutionibus Orbium[1]-his conservatism and his extravagances not withstanding- a jolt was given to the hitherto extant scientific paradigms. A new scientific framework became anticipated. This new science as it were, became inevitable when it was given a profound impetus as Galileo turned his telescope up to the skies, which culminated in the ‘Scientific Revolution’ popularly associated with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries[2] when the stage became set for the new science to flourish and blossom. It was during this period that the world witnessed the emergence of towering intellects in the scientific world, viz: Galileo Galilei, the Danish astronomer-Tycho Brahe, Johaness Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, whose scientific trajectories consummated the scientific enunciations of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo; Robert Boyle, William Harvey, Albert Einstein, the Jewish brain whose actions led to the production of the first atomic bomb which was then couched in the garb of THE MANHATHAN PROJECT,[3] among others. These and more laid great foundations in physics- mechanics, hydrostatics, astronomy, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology, to mention but a few.


Ever since then science has registered such a reverberating and resounding success that it has enjoyed among all ranks and files outstanding accolade and so has almost always raised its head high, reigning supreme more or less in its general principles and methodology. In fact the rise of the classical science of the renaissance and post renaissance era and the progress recorded therein have been so pronounced and profound that no less a number of people and departments of life have been influenced by it and its method. It has exercised a handsome effect on life and thoughts of various peoples and nations, “opening up to them new vistas of knowledge and directing them to new interests.”[4] In particular, it has influenced philosophers and the mode of their philosophic analysis. For instance, the major part of Cartesian philosophical edifice was erected on a mathematical model as well as mechanics; mechanics occupied a position of prominence in the Hobbesian reflections[5]; Historical science relatively held sway in the Hegelian philosophical expose[6]; while Bergson drank something of Biology and the evolutionary hypothesis.[7] More still, Kant’s criticism of metaphysics had the scientific progressive discovery and adventure as its referential point. His defense and justification of the synthetic a priori form of judgement seems also to be informed by this.


Science became thus, the form and prototype of all genuine disciplines. Edmund Husserl even tried to make philosophy a science! It is not a far reaching assertion to say that almost all the philosophical posits without prejudice to other influential elements, at the twilight of the renaissance period, through the modern and even extending up to the contemporary period have been scientifically motivated and oriented. Special note must be taken of the Logical positivists. These were so held spell bound by the paraphernalia of successes evident in the scientific arena that they could not recognize as the latter Wittgenstein did, that life and language are too supple and variable to make them fit into the strait-jacket of a single method.[8] They rather worked for the unity of science, and making a mountain out of a molehill, they transposed the Baconian method into a theory or criterion of meaning in their dogma of verification principle. With this they launched an unwholesome broadside on metaphysics, which metamorphosed into a wholesale rejection of the later, refusing metaphysical propositions any cognitive meaning or literal significance.

With this the climate was set for the genius of Sir Karl Raimund Popper, who rejected the above position of the Logical positivists, popularly known as the Vienna Circle, to make a thorough intellectual leap into the scientific terrain. Having distinguished between (natural) science and non-science in his demarcation principle, a principle bereft of any tone or assignation of criterion of meaningfulness, Popper articulated a systematic study of the nature of science, with regards to its methods, its concepts and its presuppositions. In all his submissions, he had the growth of science in view.

He affirms this when he asserts:

…my problem is the growth of knowledge. In which sense can we speak of the growth or the progress of knowledge, and how can we achieve it?[9]


Sir Karl Raimund Popper, who became famous as a result of his theory of scientific method and his anti-sympathetic view of determinism, was a British philosopher of science born in Vienna- Austria in the year 1902. He received a doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) from the University of Vienna in 1928. Popper’s major contribution to philosophy of science was his characterization of the scientific method. The principal aim of his Logik der Forschung[10] (1934; transl. 1959 into English) was to debunk the deficiencies of the prevailing view that science is fundamentally inductive in nature. Proposing a criterion of falsifiability for scientific validity, Popper highlighted the hypothetico-deductive character of science. Popper left Vienna during the Nazi persecution of the Jews for New Zealand where he taught at the University of Canterbury and later for London where he became a professor in Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. He died on September 17, 1994.



The unassuaged desire and quest for the progressive growth of science enkindled in that 21stC great philosopher of science, Sir Karl, the urge to postulate and defend a theory of science which has an analogical relation to the structure of what is today known in the history of Philosophy as Kantian Copernican revolution. There was in Popper a shift from the extant explanatory paradigm, a departure from the statusquo ante. This anti-current stand was further strengthened immediately he perceived clearly the destructive road along which the reigning ‘ideologies’ would stir the scientific rudder, should the man of science adopt and appropriate them. Yet the thought that the rationality and the empirical nature of science-, which are tantamount to the existence of the said science,[11] are deeply dependent on its progressive advancement had earlier on fascinated him. It thus became imperative for Popper to break the dead lock by turning the table as it were. He thus faulted with the thesis that science is fundamentally inductive in nature as well as with the verification principle of the Logical Positivists and in general made a shift from the class of the exponents of that age-long epistemological optimism which purports to assert the theory of manifest nature of truth. He introduced in their stead, his Hypothetico-deductive model in which he emphasized the asymmetry of verifiability and falsifiability in their relation to empirical evidence. Observations can falsify but not verify a given hypothesis, which he maintains, is in all evolution of knowledge an a priori application. He saw in the history of science, like the history of all human ideas, a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy and of error. With this verisimilitude (i.e. nearness to the truth), instead of verification (in as much as the later entails assignation of truth values to scientific theories), became in Popper’s scheme the highlighted concept and the aim of science.



How successful was Popper in ensuring the growth of science in his account of scientific method and procedure? Whether or not he accomplished successfully this task in his model, and to what extent, is the major concern of the present researcher in engaging in this worthwhile venture of expounding the Popperian strategy for the growth of science.



Great are the intellectual exploits of Sir Karl. He made wonderful contributions in Epistemology, the nature of authentic polity, philosophy of science, e.t.c. It is with the later that we are concerned. But I do not hope to explore all his submissions in this regard, for his philosophical legacies in this area are in no less a measure great. Only those submissions of his, which explicitly or implicitly make assertions about the model of scientific growth, are offered admittance into the confines of the present research.



The conceptual and methodological tools of exposition, analysis and critical evaluation are the prisms through which the subject matter is viewed and explored. The critical evaluation has both the historical and ahistorical dimensions.



The whole write-up, which has five chapters, begins with an introduction that articulates in a striking manner a general overview of the thesis, and presents the method employed as well as lays bare the purpose and the scope of the essay. Chapter one delineates the climate within which the Popperian strategy evolved. The fundamentals of the Popperian scheme and its subsidiary aspects are respectively the main constituents of the second and third chapters. While chapter four gives a critical historical and ahistorical test of the scheme; the last segment presents a brief evaluation of a general nature as well as a short conclusion.













 It is one of the fundamental canons of the empiricists, the positivists of all sorts and in fact the entire circle of the inductivists, that the ladder of science can only be climbed through the collection and assembling of our experiences. Put in another way, it is the case that scientific knowledge requires primarily and basically the collection of protocol sentences. The principle of induction can be expressed in the following statement:

If a large number of A’s have been observed under a wide variety of conditions, and if all those A’s without exceptions possess the property of B, then all A’s have the property B.1

Thus if various forms of metal expanded when heated at various occasions, one can conclude that all metals expand when heated. This is essentially an inductive process, which until the time of Popper was in the eyes of its exponents, a non-optional extra for empirical sciences. This principle of induction, the principle that scientific knowledge grows through the progressive movement from the particular statements (i.e. statements about facts) to the general (universal) statements, which are essentially the form in which, scientific theories appear, is considered of supreme importance for scientific discovery and advancement. Hence, Reichenbach makes bold to assert that the elimination of this principle from the foundational structure of science is tantamount to divesting science of its power to determine the truth or otherwise the falsity of its theories. Science will, therefore, be in want of a veritable means by which the veracity of her theories is established. There is no longer any intellectual difference between the scientific posits and the fanciful, arbitrary inventions of the poetic genius.2

Yet, Popper despite the fact that the principle of induction is unreservedly accepted by the whole of science and acquiescing to the possibility of universal error maintained the untenable nature of this inductive procedure. This skeptical view was already found in Hume and Kant, but only as precursors, for there are remarkable differences between these and Popper’s. Popper contended that this principle of induction is a muddle and is superfluous. For him it is destitute of a strong basis as it is torpedoed by confusion and riddled with untold logical inconsistencies.3


Scientific laws are always cast in the form of what the philosophers term universal statements in the sense that they make reference to all events of a particular kind. The problem emerges in the face of the observation statements, which allegedly provide evidence for the general scientific laws. The former are specific claims about a state of affairs that are recorded at a particular time. They are what philosophers call singular (or basic) statements or protocol sentences. Popper noted that there is no logical justification for inferring the truth of the universal statements from the singular, the numerical strength of the later not withstanding. This is because there is no guarantee that the contrary will not be the case in the future. This is fundamentally an impossible endeavour for any account of experience can primarily and essentially be only a singular statement and not a universal one. General scientific laws invariably go beyond the finite amount of the observable evidence that is available to support them. The corollary is that these evidences can never be established as the efficient progenitors of the general scientific laws. It is impossible to logically deduce the later from the available evidence. Any link, therefore, between singular and the universal statements in which the former serve to authenticate the veracity of the later is an illogical connexion, which impinges on the acceptance of the inductive inference. This is the logical problem of induction and is made more complex by the fact that it is impossible to justify a law by observation or experience as highlighted above since it transcends experience; that science proposes and makes use of laws at every point and time despite the paucity of the observed instances upon which the laws are founded; and by the fact of the principle of empiricism which asserts that in science, only observation and experience may decide upon the acceptance or the rejection of scientific statements including laws and theories.4


But what is the raison d’ etre of this sort of inference. The issue raised here demands foremost that a principle of induction be established – a principle which provides “a statement by means of which we should be able to put inductive inferences into a logically accepted form.”5 How is the principle of induction to be vindicated? We have seen that this is impossible logically. What is left is an appeal to experience. Popper observed that any attempt to justify the practice of induction by an appeal to experience must lead to an infinite regress. The principle of induction must be a universal statement. Its justification is based on a number of individual instances of its successful application. Thus, use is made of inductive inference. Hence the justification of induction by an appeal to experience involves assuming what one is trying to prove i.e. begging the question. It is all about justifying induction by appealing to induction and so is totally unsatisfactory.6


Hume’s attempt to give a psychological basis of the principle of induction was in Popper’s estimation mistaken. It flies in the face of the principle of transference, for what is false in Logic as we already saw becomes true in psychology. Immediately Hume struck bargain with the psychological justification of induction, he became an exponent of an irrationalist epistemology. Popper was dissatisfied with his psychological explanation of induction in terms custom or habit. If we follow Hume, having established before now that inductive reasoning lacks any force as an argument to assert that this sort of reasoning dominates our cognitive life or our understanding, it means the exaltation of irrationalism for it is obvious then that argument or reason plays only a minor role in our understanding. Our knowledge is therefore not only depicted as being of the nature of belief but also of rationally indefensible belief- of irrational faith.7 It is bizarre, Popper argues to explain our propensity to expect regularities in terms of repetition. Events would continue to be isolated unless man has the categories that connect them. Popper submitted on logical reasons that repetition presupposes a point of view, ‘such as a system of expectations, anticipations, assumptions or interests.’8 It is only within this climate of thought that the questions of infinite regress or irrationalism are given a final blow. This, Popper maintains, depicts the scientific procedure.


The logical positivists in the spirit of inductive tradition held that science is fundamentally based on the accumulation of facts. However they made a dogmatic extrapolation by holding a naïve and naturalistic view of meaning in their verification principle. For them, the genuine character and the meaningfulness of any alleged proposition is determined by its being a truth function of, or its being reducible to, elementary (or atomic) proposition expressing observations or perceptions. Carnap articulates this somewhat lopsided position of the positivists in a fascinating fashion:

It is certain that a string of words has meaning only if its derivability relations from protocol sentences (observation sentences) are given…that is to say, if the way to (its) verification… is known.9


The meaning of a statement is, thus, the method of its verification they concluded, to use the expressions of Waisman.10 The result of this unacceptable position of the Positivists is that the metaphysical sentences stand revealed, by logical analysis, as pseudo- sentences. The propositions of metaphysics are dismissed by them as non-sensical, and so lack any relevance and force in the ensemble of gnoseological acquisitions. This is indeed a calculated strategy towards a complete destruction of metaphysical principles. They have become ipso facto avowed worshippers in the temple of that Humean ideology in which metaphysics is viewed as ‘nonsensical twaddle, sophistry and illusion,’ requiring to be committed to the flames.11


Popper in his unpublished book entitled Die beiden Grund probleme der Erkenntnisthorie12, gave a fairly detailed criticism of this doctrine of elimination or overthrow (ueberwindung) of metaphysics through meaning-analysis. This anti-current action was done, not from a metaphysical framework, but from the springboard of one whose interest is in science, and its unhampered growth and advancement. Popper observed that this doctrine far from defeating the supposed enemy, brought the keys of the beleaguered city to the beck and call of the alleged enemy.13 The proponents were so much fixated in their determination to oust metaphysics from the circle of all informative discipline that they failed to realize that most of the scientific theories, which they purport to shield, have also fallen on the same scrap heap as the ‘meaningless’ propositions of metaphysics. Should this position of theirs be taken in the least lightly, their efforts towards the radical annihilation of metaphysics would also be an effort towards the eclipse of science as most of the postulations of the later which have metaphysical features would be destroyed simultaneously. It is an established fact that scientific laws and theories, which appear in the form of universal propositions, transcend experience and so are incapable of being logically reduced to the elementary statements of experience. Were we to hold credence to the Positivists’ criterion of meaning and apply such a criterion in a way that is consistent, we shall in the final analysis jettison the natural laws, which are, as Einstein says, the supreme task of the physicist,14 from the sphere of meaningful propositions. They can never be welcome into the community of all genuine or legitimate statements.

Since Bacon, the most widely held view was that science was characterized by its observational basis while pseudo-sciences and metaphysics were typified by their speculative method. Popper hardly accepts this view. The modern theories of physics especially Einstein’s theories were highly speculative and abstract. They were very far removed from what might be tagged their observational bases. All attempts to show the contrary were unconvincing, Popper concluded.15 Most scientific theories originate from myths. The Copernican system, for instance, was precipitated from a Neo-Platonic worship of light of the Sun who occupied the pride of place- the center because of his nobility. Copernicus, it must be noted studied in Bologna, under the Platonist Novara.16 Atomisms, corpuscular theory of light among others, are myths that have in no less a measure become vital for physical sciences. It makes no meaning to say, Popper noted, that these theories in one stage of their development were nonsensical expressions while they suddenly become meaningful in another.17 Parmenides of Elea seems to have captured this sequence when he opined that out of non-being comes non-being. No ‘sense’ can ever emerge from ‘non-sense’!

Furthermore, it is obvious that a lot of realities which science posits are no more observable than metaphysical entities. Should we have to talk about gravity, and various forms of forces, Newtonian mass points—Popper calls these ‘occult metaphysical substances’18 to depict their non-observable nature. Can we also observe time and space which have among others formed the fundamentals of scientific knowledge? Thus, if following the Positivists, we exclude these from all things meaningful, scientific boat would automatically be rocked and shattered.

We have seen that the broom of the anti-metaphysicist sweeps away too much. The anti-metaphysicist’s assertion that metaphysical propositions are sheer gibberish, if a little protracted, throws science into the wilderness of devastation. No wonder Popper had first to expose the antiques of this position with regard to science, for his maps for the growth of science would be irrelevant if the said science has been utterly extinguished.


Popper is not in the least undaunted in his conviction that the advance of science can hardly result from the accumulation of perceptual experiences in the course of time. No matter how dogged we are in gathering and sorting them, it is impossible, he thought, for science to emerge out of uninterpreted sense-perceptions. The canon of selection is ever utilized in the scientific observations. Hence, before any meaningful observation can be embarked upon, there is need for a choice of object, definite task—all of which presuppose interests, problems and points of view.19  In the light of this, all observations involve interpretation. Pure, unadulterated observational knowledge ‘would, if at all possible be utterly barren and futile.’20  Chalmers seems to share this view when he asserts:

How can we establish significant facts about the world through observation if we do not have some guidance as to what kind of knowledge we are seeking or what problems we are trying to solve?21

Observation statements cannot be statements expressing uninterpreted data. They are rather statements of facts in the light of theories. “How odd it is,” Darwin notes, “that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view….”22

Nature must be cross-examined on the basis of the experimenter’s theories, his ideas and his inspirations. Kant was after all correct when he says that it behoves on the experimenter to question nature and not wait until it pleases nature to make manifest her secrets.23 It must however be noted that unlike Kant who asserts that our theories are valid a priori, Popper maintains that they are only guesses, doubts, which must be tested empirically. This is an adumbration of what he calls hypotheticism, which is one of the cardinal points of his strategy. Hence he maintains that:

Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations and speculative thought are our only means for interpreting nature; our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her.24


[1] H. Butterfiled, The Origins Of Modern Science (London: G. Bell and Sons Ltd, 1543), p.24

[2] Ibid.,  p.vii

[3] I. Asimov, Science Past—Science Future (New York: Double Day and Company, Inc., 1975), p.44

[4] F.Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol.3, (New York: Continuum, 2003), p.289

[5] Ibid., p. 277

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] S. Stumpf, Philosophy, History and Problem (U.S.A.: McGraw—Hill, Inc., 1994), p. 464

[9] K. R. Popper, Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 37

[10] The English equivalent of this work is Logic of Discovery

[11] K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969), p. 221

1 See A. Chalmers, What Is This Thing Called Science? (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1999), p.47

2 See K. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discover, (Great Britain: IJ International Ltd, 1999), p. 28

3 See F. Ndubisi, Epistemological Evaluation of Science (Lagos: Foresight Press, 2003), p. 1

4 K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969), p. 54

5 F. Ndubisi, Op. cit., p.2

6 A.F. Chalmers, Op. Cit., p.51

7 K. Popper, Objective Knowledge,(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979),  p. 5

8 F. Ndubisi, Op.cit. , pp.44-45

9 See K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, p.261

10 See K. Popper, Logic of Scientific Discovery, p.40

11 See F. Ndubisi, Op.cit.,  p.12

12 The English equivalent is The Two Fundamental Problems of Epistemology, C.f. K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, p.254

13 K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations,Loc. Cit.

14 See F. Ndubisi, Op. cit., p.14

15 K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, p. 255

16 Ibid., p.257

17 Ibid..

18 Ibid., p. 167

19 F. Ndubisi, Op.cit., p.46

20 K. Popper Conjectures and Refutations, p. 23

21 A. F. Chalmers, Op. cit., p. 13

22 K. Popper, Conjectures and refutations, p. 387

23 Ibid.,  p.181

24 K. Popper, Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 280

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