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Understanding Fallibilism

Feelosophy  –  Fallibilism is a philosophical concept that refers to the view that a person’s knowledge and beliefs are always susceptible to error, and therefore, must be questioned constantly. This concept was first put forward by epistemological philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce and later expanded by philosophers such as Karl Popper. Basically, fallibilism recognizes that no belief is absolute or true in an absolute sense. A person may have valid beliefs or knowledge, but must be prepared to accept the possibility of error or revision of those beliefs if there is evidence or arguments to support them.

Fallibilism emphasizes the importance of intellectual skepticism and openness to changes in views as part of the scientific method. In other words, a person must always be willing to test and question their beliefs and be willing to accept criticism and evidence that might shake those beliefs. This is an important aspect in the development of science, because it allows updating and improving existing theories, and encourages the search for better knowledge.

Fallibilism also has strong ethical implications , because it invites individuals to be humble and not dogmatic in everyday life. This helps in promoting dialogue and more effective problem solving, as individuals who subscribe to fallibilism tend to be more open to the views and opinions of others.

History Of The Development Of Fallibilism

The history of the development of fallibilism is rooted in the development of philosophical thought and epistemology over the centuries. One of the roots of fallibilism can be found in the thought of ancient Greek philosophers , such as Socrates and Pyrrho, who encouraged doubt and criticism of human beliefs and knowledge. However, fallibilism as a more systematic and detailed concept began to develop more significantly in the 19th century through the contribution of the American philosopher , Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce emphasized the importance of the scientific method and methods of inference as a way to deal with uncertainty in knowledge.

Further development of fallibilism came through the thought of the Austrian philosopher , Karl Popper, in the 20th century. Popper established the concept of falsification as a central principle in the scientific method. According to him, scientific knowledge must be fallibilistic, which means that scientific theories must always be able to be tested and refuted by observation and experiment. In other words, every claim or theory in science should be susceptible to testing and revision.

Over time, fallibilism has become an integral element in epistemological thinking and scientific method. This influences the development of science, philosophy , and even the way modern society views knowledge and belief. Fallibilism reminds us that the nature of human knowledge is always limited and can be improved, thereby encouraging openness to new ideas, as well as increasing humility in facing the complexity of the ever-expanding world of knowledge. In the context of the development of science and philosophy , fallibilism continues to be the basis for the search for truth and a deeper understanding of reality.

Fallibilism Figures

Fallibilism figures are individuals who play an important role in developing and applying the concept of fallibilism in various fields of thought. One of the main figures in the history of fallibilism is Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), an American philosopher and scientist who is considered one of the founders of the Pragmatism philosophical school . Peirce promoted the idea that knowledge should always be open to testing and revision, and viewed the scientific method as the most effective means of arriving at truth.

Karl Popper (1902-1994), an Austrian philosopher , was a very influential figure in the development of fallibilism in the 20th century. Popper formulated the concept of falsification as the main principle in the scientific method. According to him, scientific theories must be designed to be susceptible to trials and empirical testing , so that they can be declared false if they are proven to be inconsistent with the facts.

Another figure who cannot be ignored is WVO Quine (1908-2000), an American philosopher who combined fallibilism with the concept of semantic holism. He argues that knowledge is a network of interrelated concepts, and therefore, when one concept is revised, it can affect the entire knowledge system.

Apart from that, figures such as Thomas Kuhn, with the concept of paradigm in science, and Richard Rorty, with his critical pragmatism thinking, also made important contributions to the development of fallibilism in the context of science and philosophy . All of these figures have provided deep and valuable insight into the importance of being aware of the limitations of human knowledge, and the need for a critical and open attitude in undertaking the journey towards a better understanding of the world.

Types Of Fallibilism

Some of the most important and known types of fallibilism are:

  • Methodological Fallibilism : This type of fallibilism emphasizes that scientific methods should always be open to testing and revision. This means that scientific theories must be designed in such a way that they can be tested empirically and , if necessary, revised in the light of new empirical evidence.
  • Epistemic Fallibilism : Epistemic fallibilism focuses on individual beliefs. It states that a person’s beliefs are always susceptible to error, and therefore, individuals must be prepared to doubt their own beliefs and be willing to accept that they may be wrong.
  • Pragmatic Fallibilism : Pragmatic fallibilism, inspired by the philosophical school of pragmatism, emphasizes the importance of measuring the truth of a belief based on its effectiveness and usefulness in a practical context. If a belief does not provide benefits or is proven to be ineffective in action, then the belief must be revised or abandoned.
  • Contextual Fallibilism : This type of fallibilism considers that the degree of certainty and truth may vary in different contexts. Beliefs that may be true in one context may be untrue in another, and therefore, we must always consider their susceptibility to change.
  • Holistic Fallibilism : Holistic fallibilism, as proposed by philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine, considers knowledge to be a network of interrelated concepts. When one concept is revised, it can affect the entire knowledge system. Therefore, in holistic fallibilism, revision of one belief can trigger revision of other beliefs in the system.


The conclusion about fallibilism is that it is an important concept in philosophy and epistemology that recognizes that human knowledge and beliefs are always susceptible to error. There are several types of fallibilism, including methodological, epistemic, pragmatic , contextual, and holistic fallibilism , each of which emphasizes different aspects of the limitations of knowledge. Fallibilism has made a valuable contribution to the development of science, critical thinking, and open dialogue, by reminding us to always question our own beliefs, be open to revision, and understand that knowledge is dynamic. This concept is an important foundation in our journey to seek a deeper understanding of the world and truth.


What Is Fallibilism?

Fallibilism is a concept in philosophy that recognizes that human knowledge and beliefs are always susceptible to error. It teaches that we must always be ready to doubt our beliefs and accept that we may be wrong.

Who Are The Famous Figures Associated With Fallibilism?

Famous figures associated with fallibilism include Charles Sanders Peirce, Karl Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine, and Richard Rorty. They have made important contributions in developing and applying the concept of fallibilism in various contexts.

How Is Fallibilism Different From Dogmatism?

Fallibilism is different from dogmatism because fallibilism teaches a critical and open attitude towards change. Dogmatism, on the other hand, is a view that is stubborn and regards one’s beliefs as absolute and indisputable.

What Is The Relationship Between Fallibilism And The Scientific Method?

Fallibilism and the scientific method are closely related. The scientific method embraces the principles of fallibilism by encouraging the testing and revision of scientific theories based on empirical evidence . This helps ensure that scientific knowledge is always open to improvement.

Does Fallibilism Only Apply To Science?

No, fallibilism is not limited to science. This concept applies to many aspects of life, including philosophy , ethics, politics, and even in everyday social interactions. Fallibilism reminds us to remain open to others’ views and be ready to question our beliefs, which can promote dialogue and better problem solving in a variety of contexts.


  • The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper (1934)
  • The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings by Charles Sanders Peirce (1992)
  • Word and Object by Willard Van Orman Quine (1960)
  • Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty (1989)
  • Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Volume 1 by Saul Kripke (2011)
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn (1962)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism by John Greco and Ernest Sosa (2008)
  • Fallibilism and Epistemic Possibility by Peter Baumann (2017)
  • Revising the Philosophical Essence of Popper’s Epistemology: Fallibilism as the Core of Critical Rationalism by Matti Sintonen (1994)
  • Pragmatism as a Philosophy of Science: A Tool for Public Administration by Felicitas Albers (2013)

Video Recommendations

Raymond Kelvin Nando, "Fallibilism," Feelosofi, 31 October 2023,
Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast