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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

. CHAPTER 10 .THE

. CHAPTER 10 .THE RELIGIOUS UNCONSCIOUSOF THE DEBATEMy suggestion is, then, that Kuhn sees thescientific community on the analogy of a religiouscommunity and sees science as the scientist’sreligion. If that is so, one can perhaps see why heelevates Normal Science above ExtraordinaryScience; for Extraordinary Science corresponds, onthe religious side, to a period of crisis and schism,confusion and despair, to a spiritual catastrophe.John Watkins, ‘Against “Normal Science”’Belief may be a regrettably unavoidable biologicalweakness to be kept under the control of criticism:but commitment is for Popper an outright crime.Imre Lakatos, ‘Methodology of ScientificResearch Programmes’The very idea of a ‘religious unconscious’ to theKuhnPopper debate seems absurd. After all,our two antagonists scrupulously confined theirattention to examining disciplines that at leastclaimed scientific status. At a personal level, both100

were secular Jews who did not exhibit anynoticeable tendencies toward pietism or mysticism.Indeed, both of their accounts of science were sodevoid of any overarching sense of purpose thatthey were continually plagued by charges ofincoherence for failing to specify any ultimate end –say, the unification of all knowledge or theexplanation of the cosmic plan – towards whichscience might be heading. Given that Kuhn andPopper saw themselves as positively disposedtoward what each called ‘science’, this would seemto be a serious shortcoming. Nevertheless, theyagreed that the sense in which science makes‘progress’ has nothing to do with its ability toperfect the human condition, achieve absolutetruth, or otherwise replace the Christian salvationstory. In this respect, Kuhn and Popper appear to beeven less religious than that other historicallyoriented secular Jew, Karl Marx.However, as so often happens, appearancesdeceive. It turns out that religious conversion isKuhn’s model for the paradigm switch that occursduring a scientific revolution. Moreover, theanalogy between a scientific discipline and areligious order had already been developed as a selfstyled‘post-critical’ philosophy by one of Kuhn’sinfluences, the Catholic chemist Michael Polanyi(1891–1976). Polanyi was largely responsible for101

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