~~ The primary purpose of the Our Karl Popper blog is to collect stories from from all corners of the world about how the philosopher, Karl Popper, has made a difference in people’s lives; i.e. how Popper has acted as a source of insight and inspiration either directly through face-to-face interactions with him or indirectly through his students, research assistants, associates and the large volume of work that he left behind.
The idea for this blog formed in the summer of 2020 in the course of a series of conversations with Rafe Champion, the human behind The-Rathouse blog which was designed by Rafe ‘s wife, Kilmeny Niland(†). Rafe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, shared with me his correspondence with Karl Popper, and told me various fascinating stories of how he had gotten to know Karl Popper and his research assistants and students. For example, Rafe exchanged letters with Popper’s Ph.D student, William “Bill” Bartley III and after Bill died, Rafe was invited to California to discuss ways and mean to deal with Bill’s literary estate. Similarly, Rafe remained in touch with Jeremy Shearmur, Popper’s research assistant in the 1970s, whom Rafe got to know when he visited Popper in Penn, Wycombe, UK. Rafe attended the 2002 Centenary Karl Popper Congress in Vienna, Austria, the same year that The-Rathouse blog went live. In Vienna, Rafe made the acquaintance with two other research assistants of Popper, David Miller and Joseph “Joe” Agassi who was Popper’s very first Ph.D. student. Both helped and encouraged Rafe to publish his work on Karl Popper. They also introduced Rafe to other Popperians, bringing Rafe eventually in touch with Karl Popper’s last research assistant, Mark Notturno.
Rafe had written down some of his Popper stories, but they were scattered all over. When I pressed Rafe to publish these stories somewhere in one place, the obvious choice was to start with a blog and take it from there. It was then a small step to turn this blog into a depository for Popper stories from people across the globe from all walks of life, i.e. how they personally experienced Karl Popper’s personality and his philosophical work.
This brings me to the second function for this blog – to become a testimony to the tireless work of all those who have helped generate global awareness among the general public about Karl Popper’s philosophy as soon as the Internet was up and running in the mid 90s. It was at about that time that I had discovered the work of Karl Popper and I was reading whatever I could put my hands on. I subscribed to all the relevant websites that existed at that time and the only one to my knowledge that has survived is the Karl Popper web of Ray Scott Percival. New websites kept emerging and anyone with access to the Internet could learn about the philosophy of Karl Popper and why it matters to grasp the core of his system that has been popularized under the name of critical rationalism or CRITRAT among the younger generation.
I would like to draw attention to the work of the following people who have helped and are still helping spread the message of Popper’s philosophy via the Internet:
- The above-mentioned Ray Scott Percival for his 90s work on the Karl Popper web and the Crtical Cafe.
- Hans Joachim Niemann who has been running the Open Society website since 1996.
- The above-mentioned Rafe Champion for his work on The Rathouse.
- Matt Dioguardi, together with his co-bloggers, Bruce Caithness, Rafe Champion & Lee Kelly, and Facebook group moderators, Bruce Caithness, Alhaji Dada, Ray Scott Percival & Phil Wood, for their work on the Critical Rationalism Blog and Critical Rationalism Facebook group respectively.
- Luc Castelein & Jaakko J. Wallenius (1958-2013) for the Karl Popper Facebook page.
- Norbert Hinterberger who created the Philosophy and Science, Hamburg – Germany Facebook group.
- The above-mentioned Mark A. Notturno who has been facilitating an Open Society ZOOM group that has been meeting on-line every three weeks since 2014. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Phil Benesch who put the Karl Popper & The Open Society Symposium that he organized in 2014 at Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA on YouTube here and here.
- Gopalakrishna Panicker who created the Open Society Facebook group.
- Sam Kuypers and Lulie Tanett who created the Oxford Karl Popper Society Facebook group and the associated Oxford Karl Popper Facebook page, now co-managed by Liberty Fitz-Claridge & Sam Kuypers.
- Elyse Hargreaves who turned Karl Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations into an audiobook available on YouTube.
- Jed Lea-Henry who runs the Popperian podcast.
If I have not done so already, I intend to post their stories, i.e., how they got interested in the work of Karl Popper and decided to put in that extra effort needed to keep it in the public eye and correct major misconceptions.
There must be many more stories and anecdotes about Karl Popper and his work out there and I hope that many of them eventually will be published here. Do you have an interesting story to tell about how the philosophy of Karl Popper opened your eyes to some issues about which you had never thought before? For example, did Karl Popper induce you to revisit all those questions about the underlying nature and structures of society and the universe? What made you decide that there was something special about Karl Popper’s philosophy? How did you get introduced to Karl Popper’s work? Have Popper’s philosophical writings influenced key decisions in your life? Do you consider Popper’s philosophical system a finished product or work in progress? What do you see as the unfinished business of critical rationalism? What are some interpretations and applications that have been overlooked? Can we do more to celebrate the memory of the people who taught and influenced Popper and helped him on his way – his parents, his wife, his Ph.D. dissertation supervisor, Karl Buhler, the circle of scientists in New Zealand, Ernst Gombrich, Peter Medawar, Colin Simkin, Hans Albert, John Eccles and others less well known? Which taken for granted assumptions in our understanding of Karl Popper’s work could benefit from further scrutiny?
Please consider submitting your Karl Popper story. Check out the Call for Submissions page for more details.
~ Margaretha Hendrickx, Trumansburg, NY, USA