Is rationalism tied to science?

Critical Rationalism

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Critical rationalism
2.1. historical development
2.2. The basic ideas of critical rationalism
2.3. The principle of critical examination
2.4. The Hempel - Oppenheim scheme

3. The reception of critical rationalism by Wolfgang Brezinka
3.1. The concept of education
3.2. The subject of educational science (including the question:
Why is educational science referred to as "technological science" in the sense of critical rationalism?)

4. Criticism of the technological understanding of science

5. Final consideration and own statement

6. Bibliography

1 Introduction

In the course of the “Problems of Pedagogical Theory of Science” seminar, we dealt with different understandings of science and their problems. We have been particularly concerned with the questions: What is science? Science starts with problems and looks for solutions. Science solves questions where new questions arise. Science is therefore a kind of physical and mental activity (also in connection with culture). It is determined by the fact that it takes place in a limited area, i.e. H. the type of activity is described in detail. Questions about the language and logic of science, linguistic activities such as B. evaluations, analyzes or arguments, are subject to the claim of truth. A distinction is made between languages ​​because they cause difficulties, e.g. B. you cannot make a scientific statement if you convey it in everyday language. A distinction is therefore made between educational language and formal language, technical language, scientific language, colloquial language, etc. Misunderstandings often arise in the language, which is why relationships must be maintained. If I z. B. say: "The house is small!", Then it is a matter of discretion, in what relation to which other house is this house small? We also differentiate between analytical and synthetic sentences. A synthetic sentence would be: “The dog is almost brown!”, This sentence would not be logical (synthetic). The sentence: “A triangle has three legs” would, however, be a logical (analytical) sentence. One agrees on a technical language for clarification. Logic and language are therefore tools of science. Furthermore, we dealt with the methodologies, i.e. the methods through which the sciences and scientists acquire their knowledge. The latter point, the question of methodology, is to be dealt with separately in this work, because the question needs to be clarified why educational science in the sense of critical rationalism can be described as a "technological science". In my work, I particularly rely on Wolfgang Brezinka, who makes a strong reference to critical rationalism. In addition to critical rationalism, which I treat in detail, and the gain in knowledge of educational reality by explaining human behavior in the form of regularities, we also tried in the seminar with hermeneutics, which is about the interpretation and interpretation of meaningful utterances from the past and the present goes to represent educational reality, intensely busy. In order to devote myself to the main question about the “technological science”, some preliminary information is required, which I introduce first with the historical development and the basic ideas of critical rationalism. At the end of these two sections I mention the three types of pedagogical theories that Brezinka distinguishes. But before I go into more detail, I will first try to explain the basic ideas of critical rationalism and the principle of critical examination according to Popper. To clarify the scheme of explanations, forecasts and technologies, I will briefly explain the Hempel - Oppenheim scheme (H - O scheme). The reception of critical rationalism according to Brezinka includes the actual question of "technological science" and I deal with the concept of education and the subject of educational science according to Wolfgang Brezinka. Then I show the criticisms of Brezinka's view of educational science and round off the work with my final consideration and my own statement.

2. Critical rationalism

2.1. historical development

König / Zedler see Karl Popper's book “Logic of Research”, published in 1934, as the basic work of critical rationalism.[1]

At that time Popper was friends with some representatives of the “Vienna Circle”, whose members saw themselves as supporters of “logical positivism”. The advocates of this philosophy limited their research to the factual and real and assumed that all knowledge is based on experience.[2]

König / Zedler see the "Vienna Circle" as a "variant of empiricism that is clearly oriented towards the natural sciences."[3]

In the German-speaking world, Popper's concept of critical rationalism was introduced into the scientific theoretical discussion by Hans Albert.[4]

Herbert Gudjons describes humanities education as dominating well into the reconstruction phase after the Second World War. For him, the main reasons for the contempt for humanities pedagogy that emerged within a few years were the “realistic turnaround” in educational science and the associated advance of empirical methods in the 1960s.[5]

It was Heinrich Roth who helped critical rationalism to break through in Göttingen in 1962 by explaining the “realistic turn”.[6]

"Here," according to König / Zedler, "the emphasis of this reception of empirical research lies initially on the level of research practice: Methods from other social sciences are adopted without first being able to assess the performance of such an approach in terms of epistemological theory."[7]

It was not until the 1970s that empirical educational science received its epistemological foundation through the reception of critical rationalism. Gudjons again leads Popper and Albert here.[8]

An important scientist at this time, in addition to those mentioned above, is Wolfgang Brezinka, who describes his position on the theory of science in 1971 in the book “From Pedagogy to Educational Science”. König / Zedler write about Brezinka: “Brezinka is by nature not a scientific theorist, but a practical educator who feels responsible for specific questions of upbringing. His earlier publications deal with more practical issues, such as the tasks of school management or parent representatives. "[9] This also explains why Wolfgang Brezinka has not tied himself to any special scientific theory direction. He explains the terms such as "positivist", "neopositivist", "critical - rational" or "critical - rationalist" educational science as "misleading"[10] He himself writes “You” (pedagogy) “is not a clearly structured subject (...) but a mixture of different approaches, directions, schools and sects that have little in common in terms of content and methodology."[11] Gudjons writes that Brezinka is very strict with the term science, he describes educational science more as educational theory and strictly distinguishes three types of educational theories:

1.) Educational science
2.) Philosophy of education and
3.) Practical pedagogy.[12]

2.2. The basic ideas of critical rationalism

At the beginning of the 20s, empiricism made use of the induction principle, which was used to infer general statements such as theories and hypotheses from special statements, for example, obtained on the basis of observations and experiments. This principle is based on the assumption that there is an objective reality that can be perceived by everyone, from which objective facts can be derived. “To make it clear with a concrete example: The empirical study found that children improve their school performance after they have been praised by the teacher. A legal statement is then concluded from this: Whenever children are praised, their school performance improves. "[13] Of course, there are problems with the transfer of individual observations to general legal statements, because as can be seen in this example, a child is sufficient if his school performance does not improve if he is praised and the hypothesis is falsified. That is exactly what Popper criticizes. For him, general statements are not verifiable, but only falsifiable. That means the multiple empirical refutations of a theory.[14] Popper developed the principle of critical examination.

2.3. The principle of critical examination

Popper opposes the view that one can infer general legal statements from individual observations.

Since there can always be a counterexample, no matter how much positive evidence there is for this hypothesis, it is impossible to verify a statement.

If legal statements cannot be divided into “true” and “false”, the distinction between “proven” and “false” must be made. This means that the hypotheses must be subjected to strict tests. If they cannot be falsified despite strict testing, they are deemed to have been tried and tested for the time being. According to König / Zedler, Popper calls this: "Testing through empirical application"[15] With the concept of critical examination, Popper also tries to solve the problem of the subject nature of basic scientific sentences. Because even basic sentences, like all sentences, can never be verified. It can only be checked whether these have proven themselves up to now. To examine these basic sentences, König / Zedler quote Popper: “But the logical relationships never force us to stop at certain excellent basic sentences and to recognize these or to give up the test; every basic sentence can lately be checked by deduction of other basic sentences; whereby the same theory may have to be used again or a different one. "[16] So scientists have to agree which basic theories can be used as the basis for theories. Since one basic sentence is checked by other basic sentences, science can never grasp reality because one basic sentence could always be wrong. In order to clarify the induction problem of the common sense, Wellenreuther writes: "... we believe that the sun will rise tomorrow because it has so far."[17] This sentence: “The sun rises every day!” Is considered to be tried and tested until one day it no longer rises. But there is no guarantee that it will open every day! Science is therefore not the representation of reality, but should, according to König / Zedler, as a "conceptual network"[18] be understood, which helps us to solve problems and whose "truth" has to be critically examined again and again. Gudjons puts it in Popper's words in his book: "This is the only way theories can become networks with which we grasp reality, whereby science remains hidden what the meshes of the (increasingly narrow) network still cannot grasp."[19] For Popper, the prerequisite for theories to become “networks” is that the theories can be checked intersubjectively and contain no value judgments.


[1] König, E., Zedler, P .: Theories of educational science. Introduction to basics, methods and practical consequences. Weinheim 1998, p.45

[2] Popper, K. R .: Logic of Research. Tübingen 1989 (6th edition) (originally 1934)

[3] König, E., Zedler, P .: A. a. Cit., P. 45

[4] Ibid. P. 45

[5] Gudjons, H .: Basic pedagogical knowledge. Bad Heilbrunn, 1999 (6th edition), p. 34

[6] Ibid. P. 35

[7] König, E., Zedler, P., A. a. O, p.51

[8] Gudjons, H., A. a. Cit., P. 35

[9] König, E., Zedler, P., A. a. Cit., P. 52

[10] Retter, H .: Basic directions of educational thinking. Bad Heilbrunn 1997, p. 177

[11] Brezinka, W .: About the limited use of epistemological reflections for a system of educational science. An answer to Walter Herzog. In: ZfPäd 34 (1988), p. 247

[12] Gudjons, H., A. a. Cit., Pp. 35/36

[13] König, E., Zedler, P., A. a. Cit., P. 46

[14] Wellenreuther, M .: Quantitative Research Methods in Education. Weinheim and Munich. 2000, p. 393

[15] König, E., Zedler, P., A. a. Cit., P. 46

[16] König, E., Zedler, P., A. a. Cit., P. 47

[17] Wellenreuther, M., A. a. Cit., P. 53

[18] König, E., Zedler, P .: A. a. Cit., P. 47

[19] Gudjons, H., A. a. Cit., P. 38

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