His parents, who were of Jewish origin, brought him up in an atmosphere which he was later to describe as ‘decidedly bookish’.
His father was a lawyer by profession, but he also took a keen interest in the classics and in philosophy, and communicated to his son an interest in social and political issues which he was to never lose. Subsequently, his love for music became one of the inspirational forces in the development of his thought, and manifested itself in his highly original interpretation of the relationship between dogmatic and critical thinking, in his account of the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity, and, most importantly, in the growth of his hostility towards all forms of historicism, including historicist ideas about the nature of the ‘progressive’ in music.
The annexation of Austria in 1938 became the catalyst which prompted Popper to refocus his writings on social and political philosophy and he published , his critique of totalitarianism, in 1945.
In 1946 he moved to England to teach at the London School of Economics, and became professor of logic and scientific method at the University of London in 1949.
One of the many remarkable features of Popper’s thought is the scope of his intellectual influence: he was lauded by Bertrand Russell, taught Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend and the future billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros at the London School of Economics, numbered David Miller, Joseph Agassi, Alan Musgrave and Jeremy Shearmur amongst his research assistants there and had reciprocally beneficial friendships with the economist Friedrich Hayek and the art historian Ernst Gombrich.
Additionally, Peter Medawar, John Eccles and Hermann Bondi are amongst the distinguished scientists who have acknowledged their intellectual indebtedness to his work, the latter declaring that “There is no more to science than its method, and there is no more to its method than Popper has said.” Karl Raimund Popper was born on 28 July 1902 in Vienna, which at that time could make some claim to be the cultural epicentre of the western world.Accordingly, under Bühler’s direction, Popper switched his topic to the methodological problem of cognitive psychology and received his doctorate in 1928 for his dissertation “Die Methodenfrage der Denkpsychologie”.In extending Bühler’s Kantian approach to the crisis in the dissertation, Popper critiqued Moritz Schlick’s physicalist programme for a scientific psychology based ultimately upon the transformation of psychology into a science of brain processes.Popper married Josephine Anna Henninger (‘Hennie’) in 1930, and she oversaw his welfare with unflagging support and devotion, serving additionally as his amanuensis until her death in 1985.At an early stage of their marriage they decided that they would never have children, a decision which Popper was able to look back on in later life with apparent equanimity.Thirdly, as we have seen, Popper was profoundly impressed by the differences between the allegedly ‘scientific’ theories of Freud and Adler and the revolution effected by Einstein’s theory of relativity in physics in the first two decades of this century.The main difference between them, as Popper saw it, was that while Einstein’s theory was highly ‘risky’, in the sense that it was possible to deduce consequences from it which were, in the light of the then dominant Newtonian physics, highly improbable (e.g., that light is deflected towards solid bodies—confirmed by Eddington’s experiments in 1919), and which would, if they turned out to be false, falsify the whole theory, nothing could, even , falsify psychoanalytic theories.However, the subject matter of a planned introductory chapter on methodology assumed a position of increasing pre-eminence and this resonated with Bühler, who, as a distinguished Kantian scholar, a professor of philosophy as well as psychology, had famously addressed the issue of the contemporary ‘crisis in psychology’.This ‘crisis’, for Bühler, related to the question of the unity of psychology and had been generated by the proliferation of then competing paradigms within psychology which had undermined the hitherto dominant associationist one and problematized the question of method.The latter acted on the ideological grounds that it constituted what they believed to be a necessary dialectical step towards the implosion of capitalism and the ultimate revolutionary victory of communism.This was one factor which led to the much feared (1945), his most impassioned and brilliant social works, are as a consequence a powerful defence of democratic liberalism as a social and political philosophy, and a devastating critique of the principal philosophical presuppositions underpinning all forms of totalitarianism.