The Popper-Carnap Controversy [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 26 (1):166-166 (1972)
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The first chapters of Michalos’ book give an account of the controversy between Karl Popper and Rudolph Carnap following the former’s critique of Carnap in "Degree of Confirmation". Michalos very compactly summarizes the controversy and argues: 1) that Popper was mistaken when he tried to show that Carnap always identified the quantitative degree of confirmation with the acceptability of scientific theories; 2) that Popper is mistaken in accusing Carnap of confusing classificatory, comparative, and quantitative concepts; 3) that a conflict between Popper and Carnap, apparently over the problem of unrestricted universals, was in fact over the everyday practical use of such universal sentences; 4) that Popper’s critique of Carnap’s theorem for the singular predictive inference is incorrect because Popper construes the theorem with respect to two different kinds of evidential statements. The final chapters of the book deal with some additional issues that have developed out of the central controversy. One chapter consists largely in a reply to Imre Lakatos in further defense of Carnap. A second presents a critique of the Hintikka-Hilpinen acceptance rule. The last chapter is a comparison of cost—benefit versus utility acceptance rules in which Michalos claims to show the superiority of the former. In general, the book is an attempt to defend an inductive logic against the criticisms offered by Popperian deductive methodologists. A great deal of this material already appeared in various forms. The book is useful insofar as it collects material in one place and provides references to the important contributions to the controversy. Unfortunately, the book is cramped, explicitly discussing only some of the narrow issues found in the journal literature, and some sections are so compact as to be incomprehensible without extensive knowledge of the source material. Michalos might have given himself wider scope so that he could develop the implications of these limited problems for the broader issues of the philosophy of science.—K. M.



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