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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

expertise. Instead of

expertise. Instead of removing the obstacles to fullspirituality, here education gives the spirit focusand direction, a place in an institutional structure.The difference in academic attitudes evidencedby the Masters and the Doctors is perhaps best capturedby Isaiah Berlin’s classic distinction between‘negative’ and ‘positive’ liberty, understood here asalternative goals for education.Notwithstanding Humboldt’s efforts, however,the universities never quite regained their originalcorporate autonomy in the 19th century, especiallyonce they started to be harnessed with the task ofreproducing successive generations of élites for thenation-state. In many respects, this transformation– ironically still associated with Humboldt’s name –updated the Doctors’ vision. The university’scentrality to nation-building was accompanied bythe growth of graduate instruction in traditionalliberal arts subjects. Thus, for the first time,academic disciplines were formally conceptualisedas jurisdictions with ‘domains’ and ‘boundaries’, onthe model of the civil and ecclesiastical regions thathad been administered by holders of medievaldoctorates. These domains were surveyed in textbooksthat increasingly combined the qualities of atraining manual and a summary of establishedfindings, which together equipped the novice withprecedents for future practice, or colonisation of132

the uncharted domain. This rather late 19thcenturyconception of the textbook, tied to theconsolidation of French and German nationaluniversity systems locked in imperial struggle, isthe preferred Kuhnian medium for the transmissionof paradigm-based knowledge. Like otherfeatures of the model of scientific change presentedin The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this uniquedevelopment is then generalised over the entirehistory of science.So, what then happened to Humboldt’s originalideal of ‘unity of teaching and research’?Humboldt’s vision was first expressed in an essay,Ideas toward a Definition of the Limitations on StateAction, composed when he was only 25, nearly twodecades before the peak of his influence in thePrussian Ministry of Education. This striking workportrayed the university as the place where peoplewould acquire the skills they need for selfempowerment,which would then enable them toparticipate as active citizens in democratic assemblies.In the long term, the state would ‘witheraway’ from its current overbearing paternalismto a purely administrative organ dedicated toimplementing the considered judgements of thepopulace.Humboldt’s ideal of the university as weaningcitizens off their dependency on state power, itself133

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