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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

method’ was a

method’ was a thoroughly moral activity. Unlikeprevious Biblical scholars who had regarded, say,the Apostles’ testimony of Christ’s Resurrection assimply a statement of fact in which the Apostles’personal histories were of no relevance, theEnlightenment critics took seriously the Apostles’role in constructing the event as significant – andthe long-term epistemic cost that heightenedawareness may have incurred, even for those whotake the general truth of Christianity as uncontroversial.The history of Biblical criticism, then,has been one long exercise in unpacking theuniversal dimension of Christ’s message from itshistorical baggage.By the time Popper followed Ernst Mach’s lead,and generalised the critical-historical method as thescientific attitude, the process of unpacking theuniversal from the particular had been recast asthe transformation of the context of discovery by thecontext of justification. Like the Bible, an historicalaccount of a scientist’s discovery is an alloy ofblindness and insight whose ‘rational reconstruction’must precede its evaluation as a knowledgeclaim. The two centuries that separated Popper’smethodology from the theology of Spinoza andPierre Bayle witnessed the migration of the criticalhistoricalmethod from the free-thinking churchesand salons to the university, where in the hands of128

Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), famed firstRector of the University of Berlin, it became thetouchstone for rediscovering that institution’soriginal corporate autonomy.Here it is worth recalling that until the 12thcentury, Roman law divided human interactioninto two basic categories: In exceptional cases, legalprotection was granted to limited social engagements(socius), such as business ventures andmilitary expeditions, the point of which was toachieve goals set out by the people involved inthem. Mission accomplished, the partners revertedto their default category of existence as members ofparticular families (gens), which were the means bywhich status and wealth were reproduced acrossgenerations. What had been lacking was a thirdcategory that would enable both individuals toacquire social identities other than the ones theyinherited and collectives to pursue goals thattranscend the interests of their current members.This third category came to be known in Roman lawas universitas, which is best rendered as ‘corporation’,but contained universities among its earliestexemplars – along with craft guilds, churches,religious orders and city-states.The revolutionary feature of the universitas wasthe legal recognition it gave to activities inherentlyworth pursuing by granting their practitioners a129

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