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Description of Conference

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September 16th-18th 2004

a conference to mark

the 10th anniversary of the death of

Karl Popper (28.vii.1902-17.ix.1994)

In recent years many philosophers of different persuasions have done their best to belittle the importance of philosophical problems, & even to deny their existence. Some have insisted on replacing them with historical & other factual questions that can be settled only empirically, while others have set out to unmask them as mere puzzles induced by the misuse of language, or even as rhetorical extravagances. The critical rationalism of Karl Popper has consistently dissented from all these anti-philosophical views. From The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934) to All Life Is Problem Solving (1999) critical rationalism has emphasized the central place of problems, including philosophical problems, in the growth of knowledge.

Seventy years ago Popper put forward a provocative & workable alternative to the prevailing empiricist orthodoxy (positivism and inductivism) in the theory of knowledge, and in the next two decades made radical advances in social & political philosophy (especially in The Open Society & Its Enemies, 1945) and in many other fields. His books in English have remained continuously in print since they were first published. Yet he never saw his ideas flourish as they deserved to. Critical rationalism must surely qualify as one of the greatest missed intellectual opportunities of the second half of the 20th century.

Through a consideration of some of the problems to whose solution or elucidation Popper contributed, especially the problem of induction and the problem of maintaining a free society, this conference will illustrate the value of philosophy as a discipline that is of abiding relevance to all intellectual and human endeavours.