Critical Rationalism in the 21st Century


I got to know Popper’s work 24 years ago, when I was studying Philosophy at University and beginning to learn Philosophy of science, which was quite a disruptive course, given the medieval approach to Philosophy at my University. As an exam, we were asked to  write an essay about the first ten sections of Unended Quest. So, I got near Karl Popper through this book, which I still believe is the best way to begin studying his thoughts.

My Philosophy of Science teacher, then, was Gabriel Zanotti, who was a genuine fan of Karl Popper. At that time, I couldn’t imagine how this first meeting with Karl Popper’s thought was going to change my life. The following two or three years, I finished my degree in Philosophy and a year later I started to teach Introduction to Scientific Thought at University of Buenos Aires. The syllabus of the subject on that occasion was quite unusual, but it had some contact with Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. That got me back to study Philosophy of Science again, together with Gabriel Zanotti’s proposal to become his Philosophy of Science assistant, but first, he was going to “get me ready”. So, I went through a systematic, though informal, route through the literature in Philosophy of Science for two years.  Unfortunately, given the University’s regulations, an assistantship was not allowed. However, I kept on studying this subject till four years later, the organization of the philosophy curricula changed and I became his assistant.

In the meantime, I had started my PhD in Philosophy at University of Buenos Aires. My PhD dissertation consisted of a “Philosophical analysis on the nature and role of economic models. The contributions of Popper, Lawson and Mäki to the issue”. The questions addressed in my dissertation provided me a unique opportunity to study in great detail Popper’s writings on situational logic and the rationality principle.  Today, after having obtained my PhD, I still teach courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level Methodology of Social Sciences and Philosophy of Science, and Popper and the Logic of the Situation have a special place in my courses. 

Though Karl Popper changed my everyday life concretely through my work in philosophy of science and epistemology of economics, I believe his strong influence in my way of living and working as a philosopher has to do with the Socratic aspects of his Critical Rationalism, which are crucial to the development of Philosophy. His fallibility principle of “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth” (Popper, 1994, p. xii), is an expression not only of openness towards the other, but also an invitation to critical discussion among those who are genuinely different. One could even argue that this is the core of philosophy: the disposition to take part in an authentic dialogue with those who are irreducibly different to us.  In this view, the development of Philosophy depends on Popper’s three epistemological and ethical principles (Popper, 1982), that every intellectual in society ought to embody: the fallibility principle, the principle of rational discussion and the principle of approximation to the truth.

These three principles, and particularly the fallibility principle which Popper chose to express his philosophical position in a nutshell (Popper, 1994, p. xiii) embody Critical Rationalism.  They ought to be emphasized not only when we are repeating and paraphrasing Popper’s thought, but also and especially in how we comport ourselves as intellectuals in our time. 


Augustina Borella

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Contributor

Augustina has an undergraduate and Ph.D degree in philosophy from Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquino) and University of Buenos Aires respectively. Currently, she teaches at undergraduate level at University of CEMA, Buenos Aires.  

Her research area is philosophy of science with an emphasis on the epistemology of economics. Her recent publications include: Modelos Económicos y Realidad; “Hayek in Lawson’s view: positivism, hermeneutics and ontological individualism”, Revista de instituciones, ideas y mercado, Vol. 66; “Pluralismo Narrativo para una Economía del Mundo Real”, Revista Empresa y Humanismo; “Del Círculo de Viena a Nuestros Días: Una Historia de Enredos”, Economía: Teoría y Práctica; “Fundamento Ontológico del Modelo en Hayek”, Procesos de Mercado. Revista Europea de Economía Política; and Trazos-Ensayos de filosofía para el mundo social.

Augustina can be reached at agustinamborella[at]hotmail[dot]com.

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