In my paper "Constructing a Comprehensively Anti-justificationist Position" I expound and endorse anti-justificationism and contrast it with justificationism. In that paper, on pp. 124–126, I summarise the key components of anti-justificationism in ten theses; an overview of that account is included here.

(A) Anti-justificationists do not define knowledge

Anti-justificationists don't think that real or essentialist definitions have any place in science or philosophy, though they make use of nominal or abbreviatory definitions in order to save trees. (If you are unclear about the difference beween essentialist and abbreviatory definitions, look at my page on real and nominal definitions.)

(B) Anti-justificationists are primarily interested in objective knowledge

Justificationists are mainly interested in subjective knowledge.

(C) Knowledge is seen as being conjectural, fallible and revisable

Knowledge is not thought of as being certain, but rather as being tentative and hypothetical.

(D) Anti-justificationists are engaged in a quest for truth

Being interested in true theories, anti-justificationists replace the justificationist quest for certainty with a quest for truth. Rather than trying to justify their beliefs, they endeavour to devise better theories to solve the problems they are interested in.

(E) Anti-justificationism is anti-authoritarian

Anti-justificationists hold that everything can be criticised. There is no privileged class of propositions that are beyond criticism. There are no infallible authorities. Every human being is seen as a potential partner in the search for truth and their criticisms are valued, respected and taken seriously.

(F) Anti-justificationists use a variety of methods to criticise theories

In justificationism emphasis is placed on proving the correctness of what you believe. In anti-justificationism a lot of effort is directed at getting rid of false theories. (On another page I look at anti-justificationist methods of criticism.)

(G) The origin of a theory is irrelevant to its truth

The consequences of a theory are far more important in the task of assessing its value; false consequences weed out false theories.

(H) Science should begin with problems

It is a myth to think that science begins with observations; scientific theories are proposed as solutions to problems. However, not only should science begin with problems, but also any worthwhile intellectual activity.

(I) Knowledge is seen as growing in an evolutionary or revolutionary manner

I do not distinguish between these as the key feature of both of them is that newer theories that have proved their mettle contradict their predecessors and do not merely extend them. (On another page I illustrate how knowledge grows by looking at the development of theories in mechanics.)

(J) Proliferation of theories is encouraged

Most anti-justificationists would subscribe to Feyerabend's principle of proliferation: "Invent, and elaborate, theories which are inconsistent with the accepted point of view, even if the latter should happen to be highly confirmed and generally accepted." (On another page I illustrate Feyerabend's principle by looking at the development of theories in mechanics.)

In my paper I also characterise justificationism; if you click here this characterisation will open in a new browser window or tab, so that you can compare the two easily.


  • Antoni Diller, "Constructing a Comprehensively Anti-justificationist Position", in Ian Jarvie, Karl Milford and David Miller (eds.), Karl Popper: A Centenary Assessment, vol. II, Metaphysics and Epistemology, [London, Ashgate, 2006, ISBN 0-7546-5376-5], pages 119–129. This paper was presented at the Karl Popper 2002 Centenary Congress; a PDF version of it is available on this website, as is the the original abstract. Note that the title of the abstract is slightly different from that of the published paper.

© Antoni Diller (30 March 2014)