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Popper and Xenophanes

Attfield, Robin 2014. Popper and Xenophanes. Philosophy 89 (1) , pp. 113-133. 10.1017/S0031819113000703

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Karl Popper identified Xenophanes of Colophon (570−478 BCE) as the originator of the method of conjectures and refutations. This essay explores this claim, and the methods of both philosophers (section 1). Disparagement (ancient and modern) of Xenophanes has been misguided (section 2). Xenophanes, a critical rationalist and realist, pioneered philosophy of religion (section 3) and epistemology (section 4), but his method was not confined to falsificationism, and appears compatible with inductivism and abductionism (section 5). The method employed by Popper in interpreting Herodotus in support of his conjectures about Xenophanes is typical of the multiple-strand reasoning characteristic of the humanities, and is as much inductivist or abductionist as refutationist (section 6). Popper’s theories about Xenophanes are convincing; but even if Popperians would claim that Popper’s refutationism largely fits the natural sciences, his application of it to history is implausible, and conflicts with own practice (section 7). An appendix reflects on Popper’s interest in cultured refugees.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: philosophy, ancient philosophy, Greek philosophy, presocratic philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of history.
Additional Information: Copyright Cambridge University Press. This article is forthcoming in the journal Philosophy, published by CUP, Vol 89, 2014.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0031-8191
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 13:15

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