Refutation and the Knowledge Base of Urban Planning

Authored by: Chris Webster

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Research Methods

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415727952
eBook ISBN: 9781315851884
Adobe ISBN: 9781317917038


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Karl Popper, one of the great intellectual products of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was deeply disturbed by some of the other intellectual ideas emerging in Europe in the early twentieth century. Among them were Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and Karl Marx’ material determinism. Popper’s problem was not political or ideological but practical and methodological: such was the all-embracing nature of these general social theories that he was not at all sure anyone could ever disprove either of them. For this reason he concluded that they were pseudo-theories that couldn’t be relied upon to build a body of valid, reliable and useful scientific propositions. Refutation, he suggested (following others before him), was the superior principle to guide knowledge accumulation.

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