• Re-echoing the Conservatism in Karl Popper’s Piecemeal Engineering

Re-echoing the Conservatism in Karl Popper’s Piecemeal Engineering

DOI: https://doi.org/10.19195/1895-8001.15.1.1
Oseni Taiwo Afisi
Google Scholar Oseni Taiwo Afisi


While Karl Popper highly valued the ability to invent a bold new form of theoretical thought, he warned us at the same time of the need to be cautious in action. Ambitions that are utopian or revolutionary seemed to Popper always unacceptable. We must always be open to reforming our practices, but we must attempt this slowly and piecemeal. Every change that we make we must hold open to criticism. However, change must be conservative and anti-revolutionary. This is the demand that while any one element of current culture may be criticised and rejected, it is important to do this work piecemeal and carefully. Only then does the audacity or boldness of rejecting a seemingly settled view amount to courage: for it reflects also significant conservation of values. Popper regarded no social change or scientific breakthrough as revolutionary. Even the process of conjecture and refutation, of trial and error, is a piecemeal method. Popper’s piecemeal method depicts Otto Neurath’s metaphor of not dismantling the whole ship except perhaps one plank at a time, replacing each plank as the effort goes on. Every step is as conservative as it is also bold, and that alone helps make it courageous. It is only through this conservatism, the piecemeal anti-revolutionary change, that people can become bold in how they experiment and replace some formerly received norm or idea.
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