Updated: Aug 23, 2020
“Avoiding mistakes is a narrow-minded ideal. If we don’t dare face those challenges that are so difficult as to make the error almost inevitable, knowledge will not be developed. It is from our more daring theories, including those that are wrong, that we learn the most”.
Developing knowledge these days is getting hard, because the world is increasingly designed to make life easy for us. Newsfeeds that reinforce what you already think, boxsets that can while away hours without you ever having to think, one-click purchases.
You can go further than you used to these days without ever really having to work anything out.
But we walk through life on a thin veil of understanding, and when that veil splits it can be surprising how quickly we become very lost.
Take any decision you are trying to make. Ask yourself why you have made that decision. Then ask why again. And again. Sooner than you think you will have reached a level of reasoning so formless and abstract that it can barely be rendered in words - your motivations shown up to be a strange mix of outdated childhood conceits, untested societal beliefs and lizard-brain instinct.
This is the world of philosophy. Everything you do is based on it, whether you know it or not.
Usually you are only thrust into this world when things go wrong for you. And, like it or not, things will go wrong for you. It might be the death of a parent, the loss of a loved one, a layoff at work, the realisation that you are approaching the menopause. Somehow, the reality you had invested in will become altered, and you must become a new person to cope with it. It can be a painful experience, but also a transformative one.
Which brings us to Karl Popper.
How are we taught to make decisions? We look at the evidence. Evidence, Evidence Evidence. This was the driving force of the enlightenment and the mode of thought that still prevails in governments, universities and the highbrow media.
But can we really gain an understanding of the future by looking solely at the past?
Popper says no. He reasons that gaining understanding requires two things. First, (and it has to be first) a leap of the imagination. Second a way of testing the conclusion that you have leaped to. Third, an understanding that that conclusion will always be wrong, but if it's a better fit than what you had before, you have made progress.
For now there are no right answers. In science, in philosophy, in love. THERE ARE NO RIGHT ANSWERS.
But there are answers that are closer to the truth.
And that's good enough for now.