To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.Laozi
Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.Karl Popper
The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.Jorge Luis Borges
A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years.Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom is courage.Thucydides
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.The Buddha (Eknath Easwaran translation)
We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.Winston Churchill
It is a wonderful feeling to recognise the unity of complex phenomena that to direct observation appear to be quite separate things.Albert Einstein
Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.Joseph Campbell
“Denial is a save now, pay later scheme.”Gavin de Becker
I would rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia!Karl Popper
The future depends on ourselves, and we do not depend on any historical necessity.Karl Popper
The simple truth is that truth is hard to come by, and that once found may easily be lost again.Karl Popper
We must trust to nothing but facts: These are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier
If you can’t say it simply and clearly, keep quiet, and keep working on it till you can.Karl Popper
Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterwards.Galileo Gallili
We think only through the medium of words.—Languages are true analytical methods.—Algebra, which is adapted to its purpose in every species of expression, in the most simple, most exact, and best manner possible, is at the same time a language and an analytical method.—The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged.Étienne Bonnot de Condillac
All mass is interaction.Richard Feynman
Experience is a good school. But the fees are high.Heinrich Heine
The production of souls is more important than the production of tanks.Joseph Stalin
I have no respect for the passion of equality which seems to me merely idealizing envy — I don’t disparage envy but I don’t accept it as legitimately my master.Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
But when sloth has introduced itself in the place of industry, and covetousness and pride in that of moderation and equity, the condition of a state is altered together with its morals; and thus authority is always transferred from the less to the more deserving.Sallust
There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates.George S. Patton
Hope, in its stronger forms, is a great deal more powerful stimulans to life than any sort of realized joy can ever be. Man must be sustained in suffering by a hope so high that no conflict with actuality can dash it—so high, indeed, that no fulfilment can satisfy it: a hope reaching out beyond this world.Nietzsche
Anxieties, lines of least resistance, unconscious convictions too fearful to be faced in the full daylight of the mind, affect the conduct of nations as well as men.I.F. Stone
True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.Karl Popper
The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.Karl Popper
The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance.Karl Popper
In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by ‘proof’ an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory.Karl Popper
…in philosophy methods are unimportant; any method is legitimate if it leads to results capable of being rationally discussed. What matters is not methods or techniques but a sensitivity to problems, and a consuming passion for them; or, as the Greeks said, the gift of wonder.”Karl Popper
Every time we proceed to explain some conjectural law or theory by a new conjectural theory of a higher degree of universality, we are discovering more about the world, trying to penetrate deeper into its secrets. And every time we succeed in falsifying a theory of this kind, we make an important new discovery. For these falsifications are most important. They teach us the unexpected; and they reassure us that, although our theories are made by ourselves, although they are our own inventions, they are none the less genuine assertions about the world; for they can clash with something we never made.Karl Popper
I have in lectures often described this interesting situation by saying: we never know what we are talking about. For when we propose a theory, or try to understand a theory, we also propose, or try to understand, its logical implications; that is, all those statements which follow from it. But this, as we have just seen, is a hopeless task : there is an infinity of unforeseeable nontrivial statements belonging to the informative content of any theory, and an exactly corresponding infinity of statements belonging to its logical content. We can therefore never know or understand all the implications of any theory, or its full significance.Karl Popper
The ‘abstract’ and the ‘concrete’ from now on would have lives of their own, participating in a perpetual ballroom dance where partners are exchanged promiscuously according to design.Sanford Kwinter
Is everything connected, so that events create resonances like ripples across a net? Or do things merely co-occur and we give meaning to these co-occurrences based on our belief system?
Lieh-tzu’s answer: it’s all in how you think.The Liezi
If you have many false beliefs, then true statements may be confusing in that they seem to imply false statements – but true statements are still objectively true.Scott Alexander
He who wants to set a good example must add a grain of foolishness to his virtue; then others can imitate and, at the same time, rise above the one being imitated – something which people love.Nietzsche
Is it within the power of any social science to make sweeping historical prophecies? Can we expect to get more than the irresponsible reply of the soothsayer if we ask a man what the future has in store for mankind?Karl Popper
Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.Karl Popper
A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is nonscientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.Karl Popper
Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability; but there are degrees of testabilty: some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation, than others; they take, as it were, greater risks.Karl Popper
Every ‘good’ scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is.Karl Popper
Democracy and freedom do not guarantee the millennium. No, we do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. Whether we realize its possibilities depends on all kinds of things — and above all on ourselves.Karl Popper
For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important than equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.Karl Popper
Philosophy is a necessary activity because we, all of us, take a great number of things for granted, and many of these assumptions are of a philosophical character; we act on them in private life, in politics, in our work, and in every other sphere of our lives — but while some of these assumptions are no doubt true, it is likely, that more are false and some are harmful. So the critical examination of our presuppositions — which is a philosophical activity — is morally as well as intellectually important.Karl Popper
There can be no human society without conflict: such a society would be a society not of friends but of ants. Even if it were attainable, there are human values of the greatest importance which would be destroyed by its attainment, and which therefore should prevent us from attempting to bring it about. On the other hand, we certainly ought to bring about a reduction of conflict. So already we have here an example of a clash of values and principles. This example also shows that clashes of values and principles may be valuable, and indeed essential for an open society.Karl Popper
Criticism, I said, is an attempt to find the weak spots in a theory, and these, as a rule, can be found only in the more remote logical consequences which can be derived from it. It is here that purely logical reasoning plays an important part in science.Karl Popper
Again, we cannot search the whole world in order to make sure that nothing exists which the law forbids. Nevertheless, both kinds of strict statements, strictly existential and strictly universal, are in principle empirically decidable, each, however, in one way only: they are unilaterally decidable. Whenever it is found that something exists here or there, a strictly existential statement may thereby be verified, or a universal one falsified.Karl Popper
Conjecture or hypothesis must come before observation or perception: we have inborn expectations; we have latent inborn knowledge, in the form of latent expectations, to be activated by a stimuli to which we react as a rule while engaged in active exploration. All learning is a modification (it may be a refutation)of some prior knowledge and thus, in the last analysis, of some inborn knowledge.Karl Popper
But it seems to me that what is essential to “creative” or “inventive” thinking is a combination of intense interest in some problem (and thus a readiness to try again and again) with highly critical thinking; with a readiness to attack even those presuppositions which for less critical thought determine the limits of the range from which trials (conjectures) are selected; with an imaginative freedom that allows us to see so far unsuspected sources of error: possible prejudices in need of critical examination.Karl Popper
Science can be viewed from various standpoints, not only from that of epistemology; for example, we can look at it as a biological or as a sociological phenomenon. As such it might be described as a tool, or an instrument, comparable perhaps to some of our industrial machinery. Science may be described as a means of production – as the last word in ‘roundabout production.Karl Popper
The point is that, whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow out solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, praise this precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we fail to supply it ourselves. Yet criticism will be fruitful only if we state our problem as clearly as we can and put our solution in a sufficiently definite form – a form in which it can be critically discussed.Karl Popper
The fact that a statement is true may sometimes help to explain why it appears to us as self-evident. This is the case with ‘2 + 2 = 4’, or with the sentence ‘the sun radiates light as well as heat’. But the opposite is clearly not the case. The fact that a sentence appears to some or even to all of us to be ‘self-evident’, that is to say, the fact that some or even all of us believe firmly in its truth and cannot conceive of its falsity, is no reason why it should be true. (The fact that we are unable to conceive of the falsity of a statement is in many cases only a reason for suspecting that our power of imagination is deficient or undeveloped.) It is one of the gravest mistakes if a philosophy ever offers self-evidence as an argument in favour of the truth of a sentence; yet this is done by practically all idealist philosophies. It shows that idealist philosophies are often systems of apologetics for some dogmatic beliefs.Karl Popper
It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection, and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.John Adams
There is, indeed, a most dangerous passage in the history of a democratic people. When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education and their experience of free institutions, the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint at the sight of the new possessions they are about to obtain. In their intense and exclusive anxiety to make a fortune they lose sight of the close connection that exists between the private fortune of each and the prosperity of all.Alexis de Tocqueville
All nature is but art, unknown to thee; All chance, direction, which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good. And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite, One truth is clear, ‘Whatever is, is right.’Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man
The statesman’s responsibility is to struggle against transitoriness and not to insist that he be paid in the coin of eternity. He may know that history is the foe of permanence; but no leader is entitled to resignation. He owes it to his people to strive, to create, and to resist the decay that besets all human institutions.Henry Kissinger
The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time. Some eighty thousand years are supposed to have existed between paleolithic and neolithic man. Yet in all that time he only learned to grind his flint stones instead of chipping them. But within our father’s lives what changes have there not been? The railway and the telegraph, chloroform and applied electricity. Ten years now go further than a thousand then, not so much on account of our finer intellects as because the light we have shows us the way to more. Primeval man stumbled along with peering eyes, and slow, uncertain footsteps. Now we walk briskly towards our unknown goal.Arthur Conan Doyle
It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.Samuel Johnson
All joy or sorrow for the happiness or calamities of others is produced by an act of the imagination, that realizes the event however fictitious, or approximates it however remote, by placing us, for a time, in the condition of him whose fortune we contemplate.Samuel Johnson
When you have mastered the numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading a book. You will be reading meanings.Harold Geneen
The number 2 is a very dangerous number: that is why the dialectic is a dangerous process. Attempts to divide anything into two ought to be regarded with much suspicion.C.P. Snow
If you don’t want to pay the price of maintaining peace, you will have a lot of warJean Chrétien
I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer – born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow.Neil Armstrong
Once we have granted that any physical theory is essentially only a model for the world of experience, we must renounce all hope of finding anything like “the correct theory.” There is nothing which prevents any number of quite distinct models from being in correspondence with experience (i.e., all “correct”), and furthermore no way of ever verifying that any model is completely correct, simply because the totality of all experience is never accessible to us.”Hugh Everett
The ocean can be yours; why should you stopAttar of Nishapur, The Conference of the Birds
Beguiled by dreams of evanescent dew?
The secrets of the sun are yours, but you
Content yourself with motes trapped in beams.
. . . it is a fundamental requirement of the scientific viewpoint—the so-called principle of the psycho-physical parallelism—that it must be possible so to describe the extra-physical process of the subjective perception as if it were in reality in the physical world—i.e., to assign to its parts equivalent physical processes in the objective environment, in ordinary space.J. von Neumann, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics. (Translated by R. T. Beyer)
We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.Jorge Luis Borges
Robbery and murder are the worst of human crimes; but in the West there are robbers and murderers. There are those who form cliques to vie for the reins of power and who, when deprived of that power, decry the injustice of it all. Even worse, international diplomacy is really based on the art of deception. Surveying the situation as a whole, all we can say is that there is a general prevalence of good over bad, but we can hardly call the situation perfect. When, several thousand years hence, the levels of knowledge and virtue of the peoples of the world will have made great progress (to the point of becoming utopian), the present condition of the nations of the West will surely seem a pitifully primitive stage. Seen in this light, civilization is an open-ended process. We cannot be satisfied with the present level of attainment of the West.Yukichi Fukuzawa
Military weapons are the means used by the Sage to punish violence and cruelty, to give peace to troublous times, to remove difficulties and dangers, and to succor those who are in peril. Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger! When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the natural law which governs his being…. What then shall be said of those scholars of our time, blind to all great issues, and without any appreciation of relative values, who can only bark out their stale formulas about “virtue” and “civilization,” condemning the use of military weapons? They will surely bring our country to impotence and dishonor and the loss of her rightful heritage; or, at the very least, they will bring about invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and general enfeeblement. Yet they obstinately refuse to modify the position they have taken up. The truth is that, just as in the family the teacher must not spare the rod, and punishments cannot be dispensed with in the State, so military chastisement can never be allowed to fall into abeyance in the Empire. All one can say is that this power will be exercised wisely by some, foolishly by others, and that among those who bear arms some will be loyal and others rebellious.Sima Qian
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of the past and the cause of the future. An intellect which at any given moment knew all of the forces that animate nature and the mutual positions of the beings that compose it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit the data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom; for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities
All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.Von Neumann
Imagine how hard physics would be if electrons could thinkMurray Gell-Mann, The Quark and the Jaguar by W.H. Freeman
The mental model is fuzzy. It is incomplete. It is imprecisely stated. Furthermore, within one individual, a mental model changes with time and even during the flow of a single conversation. The human mind assembles a few relationships to fit the context of a discussion. As the subject shifts so does the model. When only a single topic is being discussed, each participant in a conversation employs a different mental model to interpret the subject. Fundamental assumptions differ but are never brought into the open. Goals are different and are left unstated. It is little wonder that compromise takes so long. And it is not surprising that consensus leads to laws and programs that fail in their objectives or produce new difficulties greater than those that have been relieved.Jay Wright Forrester
The arguments underlying Marx’s historical prophecy are invalid. His ingenious attempt to draw prophetic conclusions from observations of contemporary economic tendencies failed. The reason for this failure does not lie in any insufficiency of the empirical basis of the argument. Marx’s sociological and economic analyses of contemporary society may have been somewhat one-sided, but in spite of their bias, they were excellent in so far as they were descriptive. The reason for his failure as a prophet lies entirely in the poverty of historicism as such, in the simple fact that even if we observe to-day what appears to be a historical tendency or trend, we cannot know whether it will have the same appearance to-morrow.Karl Popper
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Traditional view of a God creating the universe ex-nihilo means you need to take the current mass-energy content of the universe, 4 x 10^69 Joules, and have expelled it in the time before time existed, one unit of Planck time, or 5.39124 x 10^-44 seconds, coming up with 7 x 10^112 Watts. This would put God, at a bare minimum, as a Type X. [according to Carl Sagan’s derivation of the Kardashev scale]tvTropes
Duke Mu of Ch’in said to Po Lo: ‘You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?’ Po Lo replied: ‘A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talent of my sons lies on a lower plane altogether: they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.’
Duke Mu did so, and subsequently despatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. ‘It is now in Sha-ch’iu,’ he added. ‘What kind of a horse is it?’ asked the Duke. ‘Oh, it is a dun-coloured mare,’ was the reply. However, on some one being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. ‘That friend of yours,’ he said, ‘whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a nice mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s colour or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?’
Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. ‘Has he really got as far as that?’ he cried. ‘Ah, then he is worth a thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.’
When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative horse.Liezi
Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,Manilius, Astronomica
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.
Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.
But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.
The fundamental mistake made by the philosophical theory of the ultimate sources of our knowledge is that it does not distinguish clearly enough between questions of origin and questions of validity. Admittedly, in the case of historiography, these two questions may sometimes coincide. The question of the validity of a historical assertion may be testable only, or mainly, in the light of the origin of certain sources. But in general the two questions are different; and in general we do not test the validity of an assertion or information by tracing its sources or its origin, but we test it, much more directly, by a critical examination of what has been asserted–of the asserted facts themselves.
Thus the empricist’s questions “How do you know? What is the source of your assertion?” are wrongly put. They are not formulated in an inexact or slovenly manner, but they are entirely misconceived: they are questions that beg for an authoritarian answer.Karl Popper
The expressionist view is that our talents, our gifts, and perhaps our upbringing, and thus “our whole personality”, determine what we do. The result is good or bad, according to whether or not we are gifted and interesting personalities.
In opposition to this I suggest that everything depends upon the give-and-take between ourselves and our task, our work, our problems, our world 3; upon the repercussions upon us of this world; upon the feedback, which can be amplified by our criticism of what we’ve done. It’s through the attempt to see objectively the work we have done -that’s to see it critically- and to do it better, through the interaction between our actions and their objective results, that we can transcend our talents, and ourselves.
As with our children, so with our theories, and ultimately with all the work we do: our products become independent of their makers. We may gain more knowledge from our children or from our theories than we ever imparted to them. This is how we can lift ourselves out of the morass of our ignorance; and we can all contribute to world 3.
If I am right in my conjecture that we grow, and become ourselves, only in interaction with world 3, then the fact that we can all contribute to this world, if only a little, can give comfort to everyone; and especially to one who feels that in struggling with ideas he has found more happiness than he could ever deserve.Karl Popper
First, it must be admitted that certain forms of behaviour may be described as more ‘natural’ than other forms; for instance, going naked or eating only raw food; and some people think that this in itself justifies the choice of these forms. But in this sense it certainly is not natural to interest oneself in art, or science, or even in arguments in favour of naturalism. The choice of conformity with ‘nature’ as a supreme standard leads ultimately to consequences which few will be prepared to face; it does not lead to a more natural form of civilization, but to beastliness14. The second criticism is more important. The biological naturalist assumes that he can derive his norms from the natural laws which determine the conditions of health, etc., if he does not naïvely believe that we need adopt no norms whatever but simply live according to the ‘laws of nature’. He overlooks the fact that he makes a choice, a decision; that it is possible that some other people cherish certain things more than their health (for instance, the many who have consciously risked their lives for medical research). And he is therefore mistaken if he believes that he has not made a decision, or that he has derived his norms from biological laws.Karl Popper
Explanation is always incomplete: we can always raise another Why-questions. And the new why-questions may lead to a new theory which not only “explains” the old theory but corrects it.
This is why the evolution of Physics is likely to be an endless process of correction and better approximation. And even if one day we should reach a stage where our theories were no longer open to correction, because they are simply true, they would still not be complete – and we should know it. For Godel’s famous incompleteness theorem would come into play: in view of the Mathematical background of Physics, at best an infinite sequence of such true theories would be needed in order to answer the problems which any given (formalized) theory would be undecidable.
Such considerations do not prove that the objective physical world is incomplete, or undetermined: they only show the essential incompleteness of our efforts. But they also show that it’s barely possible (if possible at all) for science to reach a stage in which it can provide genuine support for the view that the physical world is deterministic. Why, the, should we not accept the verdict of common sense- at least until these arguments have been refuted?Karl Popper
…all scientific descriptions of facts are highly selective, that they always depend upon theories. The situation can be best described by comparison with a searchlight (the ‘searchlight theory of science’, as I usually call it in contradistinction to the ‘bucket theory of the mind’). What the searchlight makes visible will depend upon its position, upon our way of directing it, and upon its intensity, colour, etc.; although it will, of course, also depend very largely upon the things illuminated by it. Similarly, a scientific description will depend, largely, upon our point of view, our interests, which are as a rule connected with the theory or hypothesis we wish to test; although it will also depend upon the facts described. Indeed, the theory or hypothesis could be described as the crystallization of a point of view. For if we attempt to formulate our point of view, then this formulation will, as a rule, be what one sometimes calls a working hypothesis; that is to say, a provisional assumption whose function is to help us to select, and to order, the facts. But we should be clear that there cannot be any theory or hypothesis which is not, in this sense, a working hypothesis, and does not remain one. For no theory is final, and every theory helps us to select and order facts. This selective character of all description makes it in a certain sense ‘relative’; but only in the sense that we would offer not this but another description, if our point of view were different. It may also affect our belief in the truth of the description; but it does not affect the question of the truth or falsity of the description; truth is not ‘relative’ in this sense. The reason why all description is selective is, roughly speaking, the infinite wealth and variety of the possible aspects of the facts of our world. In order to describe this infinite wealth, we have at our disposal only a finite number of finite series of words. Thus we may describe as long as we like: our description will always be incomplete, a mere selection, and a small one at that, of the facts which present themselves for description. This shows that it is not only impossible to avoid a selective point of view, but also wholly undesirable to attempt to do so; for if we could do so, we should get not a more ‘objective’ description, but only a mere heap of entirely unconnected statements. But, of course, a point of view is inevitable; and the naïve attempt to avoid it can only lead to self-deception, and to the uncritical application of an unconscious point of view. All this is true, most emphatically, in the case of historical description, with its ‘infinite subject matter’, as Schopenhauer calls it. Thus in history no less than in science, we cannot avoid a point of view; and the belief that we can must lead to self-deception and to lack of critical care. This does not mean, of course, that we are permitted to falsify anything, or to take matters of truth lightly. Any particular historical description of facts will be simply true or false, however difficult it may be to decide upon its truth or falsity. So far, the position of history is analogous to that of the natural sciences, for example, that of physics. But if we compare the part played by a ‘point of view’ in history with that played by a ‘point of view’ in physics, then we find a great difference. In physics, as we have seen, the ‘point of view’ is usually presented by a physical theory which can be tested by searching for new facts. In history, the matter is not quite so simple.Karl Popper
What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach. We may admit that our groping is often inspired, but we must be on our guard against the belief, however deeply felt, that our inspiration carries any authority, divine or otherwise. If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far it may have penetrated into the unknown, then we can retain, without danger, the idea that truth is beyond human authority. And we must retain it. For without this idea there can be no objective standards of inquiry; no criticism of our conjectures; no groping for the unknown; no quest for knowledge.Karl Popper