Popper, Nietzsche and knowledge


In many works of Karl Popper, he says, quoting Xenophanes, that all human knowledge is only conjectural, that modern science will never produce a true knowledge.

The german philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, also say that humans will never obtain a true knowledge; there are no facts, he says.

My question is: What's the difference between Nietzsche and Popper on the possibility of obtaining knowledge?

David Moura

Posted 2015-03-04T10:51:50.357

Reputation: 85

3I conjecture that Popper thinks that following a program of testing and falsification will yield functionally true knowledge (i.e. it is approximately as useful as true knowledge would be), while Nietzsche prefers to not try and instead rely upon will and rhetorical skill to determine what to do. But since I can't obtain true knowledge (with particular difficulty in extracting the wisdom from Nietzsche's writing from amidst what seems gobbledygook to me), I can only offer this as a comment. – Rex Kerr – 2015-03-04T19:10:35.950

2I like this sort of question, we should have more of them on SE: Bring up two similar claims, at least on the surface, and then show how very different the claims are when put in the context of their background philosophies. It teaches the importance of justification in philosophy, and that 'claim = claim + argument', as it were. (That is an equality operator, not an assignment!) – DBK – 2015-03-05T23:56:22.607



The difference is a subtle one. Nietzsche believed that there was no objective reality, believing it to be conditional and contingent. This view is called perspectivism. Popper on the other hand, believed that while it may be impossible to obtain objective reality, one could still construct theories and until they were falsified, there is no reason to abandon them. This is called empirical falsification, and revolutionized science. Nowadays, scientists in many fields follow Popper and try to find an example supporting the null hypothesis (the opposite of what they believe) in their experiments, because one counterexample disproves a hypothesis. Until a theory is falsified, it will not be abandoned.


Posted 2015-03-04T10:51:50.357


1It's not at all so simple as to say perspectivism is a precursor to post-modernism -- no more so than say Bertrand Russell is a precursor to Richard Rorty. The Kierkegaard claim is also wrong or at least confused. In both cases, you seem to be conflating including the subjective with the merely subjective. – virmaior – 2015-03-05T04:29:20.840

1I took out those parts. – None – 2015-03-05T04:39:31.133

1Popper held that theories could be criticised in ways other than experiments, e.g. - by looking for inconsistencies, clashes with other theories or principles (e.g. -conservation of energy): see section 20 of "Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics". Also, Popper held that proving an idea was impossible, see "Realism and the Aim of Science", Chapter I. – alanf – 2015-03-06T16:06:35.133