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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

perpetual right to

perpetual right to decide what counts as its worthypursuit and who is worthy to pursue it. At last,humanity’s sociology decisively broke with itsbiology, since the individuals delegated withtransmitting the corporate activity over time werenot necessarily, or even usually, members of thesame family. This innovation was luminous in thecontext of Christendom, which attached greatsignificance to the liberation of the human spiritfrom its material captivity. Thus, legally protectedlineages based on common mental training ratherthan common physical ancestors became the viaregia of institutionalised spirituality, which insecular garb (as ‘credentials’) has come to be theprincipal means by which social status is nowrecognised.This point is obvious when made, but overlookedor misinterpreted when not. For example, the factthat the great contributors to modern physics –Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Planck, Einstein – camefrom rather different social backgrounds is oftenmistaken to imply that scientific inquiry transcendssociety as such. On the contrary, it means thatspecific institutions have been constructed –notably universities – that are given licence todisrupt default patterns of societal reproduction ona regular basis in order to advance the fortunes ofcollective inquiry.130

However, from its inception, the university hasbeen divided over its sense of purpose. Today wemight ask: Does the undergraduate or the graduatecurriculum drive the university? Should theinstitution be oriented mainly to liberal orprofessional education? The Middle Ages expressedthese two options in the ongoing struggle betweenMasters and Doctors, symbolised by the criticalspirit of William of Ockham and the dogmatic spiritof Thomas Aquinas. Both sides of the disputeupheld what Humboldt was to immortalise in theearly 19th century as the ‘unity of teaching andresearch’, but interpreted the charge in ratherdifferent ways. In our own time, Popper and Kuhnhave re-invented the position of the Masters andthe Doctors, respectively.For the Masters, research is a by-product ofteaching, specifically a Socratic reflection on theresistance that students pose to instruction. Theobject of research then becomes the liberation of‘spirit’ (i.e. independent thinking) from ‘matter’(i.e. untutored prejudice). The humanistic concernfor disciplining the self through techniques of deepreading, critical thinking and effective speaking fallinto this category. In contrast, for the Doctors,teaching is the vehicle for consolidating anddistributing the latest research as an instrument ofsocietal governance and an expression of personal131

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