In Knowledge Without Authority Popper argues for Kant’s position regarding the principle of autonomy. Popper argues that “there are no ultimate sources of knowledge.” In rejecting ultimate authority, he positions himself as ultimate authority. Moreover, in asserting the standard by which he rejects ultimate authority, he elevates his own understanding to the position of authority. This is a fallacious move.
Yet Popper’s position has some merit. While I accept the possibility of ultimate authority, I also respect the fact that its possibility is mediated through human filters. We cannot be certain of our own knowledge. I am afraid to doubt ultimate authority. I am afraid not to doubt myself. When ultimate authority makes a direct claim, I may comply or face the consequences. Still, even as I comply, I am aware of, even frightened of, my own weakness. Have I truly perceived this authority? Have I truly understood its message? For this reason the implied humility of Popper’s position can be embraced by even the ardent believer.