He was ill-at-ease in the philosophical milieu of post-war Britain which was, as he saw it, fixated with trivial linguistic concerns dictated by Wittgenstein, whom he considered to be his nemesis.
Popper was a somewhat paradoxical man, whose theoretic commitment to the primacy of rational criticism was counterpointed by hostility towards anything that amounted to less than total acceptance of his own thought, and in Britain—as had been the case in Vienna—he became increasingly an isolated figure, though his ideas continued to inspire admiration.
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.
1919 was in many respects the most important formative year of his intellectual life.
In that year he became heavily involved in left-wing politics, joined the Association of Socialist School Students, and became for a time a Marxist.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.He undertook a doctoral programme with the department of psychology at the University of Vienna the under the supervision of Karl Bühler, who, with Otto Külpe, was one of the founder members of the Würzburg school of experimental psychology.Popper’s project was initially designed as a psychological investigation of human memory, on which he had conducted initial research.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.From this point on his reputation and stature as a philosopher of science and social thinker grew enormously, and he continued to write prolifically—a number of his works, particularly (1959), are now widely seen as pioneering classics in the field.However, he combined a combative personality with a zeal for self-aggrandisement that did little to endear him to professional colleagues at a personal level.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.