Why does science have so many theories

Summary of Logic of research

Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s

After the First World War, the Danube monarchy broke up: Czechoslovakia and Hungary left the state association, Vienna was no longer the center of a multi-ethnic state, but only Austria. The republican idea was little anchored in society. The result was general uncertainty; radical currents gained popularity, many turned to Marxism, and fascism also began to gain a foothold. Inflation, the stock market crash and the economic crisis left many people in poverty in the 1920s. But it was also a time of reforms: In "Red Vienna", tax redistribution from rich to poor resulted in numerous community buildings, which went down in the history of workers' housing with larger apartments, kindergartens and libraries. Science also flourished, and the "Wiener Kreis", an association of researchers from different disciplines, met at the University of Vienna to discuss the foundations of a modern philosophy of science. But Austria responded to the growing economic and domestic political disruption with an authoritarian regime, "Austrofascism" under Engelbert Dollfuss. In 1934 there was even a civil war for a few days: Social Democrats fought in the street against the attacks by the government. At the same time, anti-intellectual and anti-Semitic resentment in the population grew. In 1936 the philosopher and Spiritus Rector of the Vienna Circle Moritz Schlick was shot by a student, for which the public blamed Schlick himself - after all, he was a Jew (which he wasn't). In the following years most members of the circle - like many other artists, researchers and intellectuals - had to emigrate; their ideas established themselves mainly in the USA and England.

The upheavals in physics at the turn of the century (19th and 20th centuries) played a significant role in Popper's ideas. For 200 years it was believed that Isaac Newton's mechanics had found the eternal and irrefutable laws of motion of the world. Suddenly the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics came and shook physics to its foundations. Scientists and philosophers were unsure of what such a fundamental revolution meant.


At the age of about 28, the secondary school teacher Karl Popper decided to write a fundamental work on the theory of science that was intended to correct what he believed to be false assumptions made by the Vienna Circle. The idea for this arose from long discussions with members of the same. But Popper had never been invited to the legendary Thursday meeting of the group by Moritz Schlick, who informally led the group, which always pained him; possibly his uncompromising style of discussion and the way he criticized it was to blame. Most of the work was created in 1931 and 1932; the first version was called The Two Basic Problems of Epistemology. The text then circulated among the members of the Vienna Circle; It quickly became clear that the young teacher had written a fundamental piece of work. However, Popper could not find a publisher and also made things complicated by constantly adding to the text. Fortunately, Moritz Schlick finally recommended the manuscript for publication in a series that he edited. But the publisher demanded cuts that Popper was unable or unwilling to make. Finally, his uncle and mentor Walter Schiff intervened, shortened the text and, especially at the beginning, gave it his own signature. The book finally appeared in 1934. In the years that followed, there were many new editions and revisions. Popper published his original manuscript under the first title in 1979.

Impact history

The logic of research became the standard work of modern philosophy of science and established Popper's fame as an epistemologist. The book gained him recognition in the professional world and international contacts that made his academic career possible in the first place. The text was discussed intensively, especially in the in-house journal of the Wiener Kreis, and there were not only positive reactions such as those from Rudolf Carnap: Otto Neurath and the philosopher Hans Reichenbach, who was always extremely harshly criticized by Popper, wrote harsh reviews. Albert Einstein paid tribute to the work in a letter to Popper, which made Popper very proud - even if Einstein had some objections regarding relativity and quantum theory. Popper's work had an impact on every empirically working science: the falsification principle has largely established itself as a criterion for whether a theory is scientific or just pseudoscientific. It was also the basic building block for Popper's philosophy of critical rationalism. In it he starts from the fallibility of human knowledge and marks theories that consciously immunize themselves against criticism and counter-arguments as pseudoscience (psychoanalysis, Marxism). Prominent opponents of Popper were the two philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and Paul Feyerabend (Against the Compulsory Method), who argued against the falsification principle that scientists would never want to or be able to question their actions as Popper demanded; the basic assumptions of a theoretical building in particular would not be so easy to falsify.