Claim associated especially with Austrian philosopher Karl Raimund Popper (1902-1994) that science should aim not to verify or confirm hypotheses – as verificationists and inductivists in general claim – but to falsify them.

This is because science is interested (in Popper’s view) in universal affirmative conclusions, of the form ‘All As are Bs’, and if the universe is infinite (or merely too vast to explore) such conclusions could never be verified.

However, they could be falsified by the discovery of a counter-example. Popper also rejects the possibility of weak confirmation, replacing it by his own notion of corroboration – though how far this is really different might be disputed.

However, while verificationists claim that verifiability is essential for meaningfulness, Popper claims only that falsifiability is essential for scientific – as against metaphysical – status (not that it is so for meaningfulness).

Also see: hypothetico-deductive method, inductivism, deductivism, improbabilism

A O’Hear, Karl Popper (1980)

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