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The Science as Falsification Problem in Philosophy

Science as Falsification by Popper defines the way the modern mind approaches theories but there is something profound (pun intended) that is lacking in that approach.

The paper explains the replication crisis in psychology. But two things occur to me. While Popper criticizes Adler’s theories for not being falsifiable and thus problematic, it is a straw man.

Adler acknowledges in his book Understanding Human Nature that psychology was at a point where alchemy was before chemistry. And he acknowledges that he is describing a philosophy and not something to be followed blindly and without question.

And two, while I understand that if a theory is not testable and is unfalsifiable, it is unscientific, a philosophy can still be valid in that it is functional or socially beneficial. Stoicism is not scientific, it’s a set of ideas, but if people adopt them, they can live more resolutely perhaps in times of anxiety and stress. In that sense, Stoicism offers something that scientific fact cannot offer: an ought, a. value system. The same is true for Adler and Jung.

The problem with Popper’s argument is that he is interested in a different kind of truth, one that can be measured and tested but that is not the only type of truth that exists. Peterson framed it badly in his debate with Harris but his general point is valid. It was the point Carl Jung made in his book, Modern Man’s Search for a Soul. A problem he encountered with many of his patients who otherwise had perfectly good lives was that they suffered from a lack of meaning. To be scientific means to be accurate, but human beings long for something deeper and more fulfilling, at least many do.

Religion and philosophies can help people live better lives, and as long as it helps, then there is no harm in them – it is not a question of whether it is falsifiable.

And before one points to the atrocities that have come about from religion and from philosophy, we should know by now that science is not immune from bad behavior either. Just because something is testable and verifiable doesn’t mean it cannot be damaging. You may argue, for example, that religion is dangerous because it causes people to commit suicide bombings but science is dangerous in that it can lead to nuclear bombs and other killer technologies.

When you bring up Jung people throw Karl Popper’s falsifiability paper in your face as if to say “stop wasting your time, we’ve solved it all” – it as if science has become the new religion. And ironically so, since the purpose of science is to admit ignorance, to say ‘we do not know everything.’ But it seems that is so contrary to the nature of people who cling to whatever is absolute and certain, and since science has usurped religion in this era, they will misuse it. Not unlike what they did to religion in the past.

People usually do not see the limitations of this rationalistic perspective. As pointed out in Notes from Underground.

Reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the rational side of man’s nature, while will is a manifestation of the whole life, that is, of the whole human life including reason and all the impulses. And although our life, in this manifestation of it, is often worthless, yet it is life and not simply extracting square roots. Here I, for instance, quite naturally want to live, in order to satisfy all my capacities for life, and not simply my capacity for reasoning, that is, not simply one twentieth of my capacity for life.

Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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