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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

seen as a Hobbesian

seen as a Hobbesian Leviathan that thrives on massignorance and fear, influenced many thinkers insubtle and profound ways. Marxists, of course,replaced the university with the party as the vehicleof state dissolution, though retaining much ofthat institution’s original educational function –only now reformulated as indoctrination andpropaganda. But Popper first felt the power ofHumboldt’s vision by looking behind John StuartMill’s dedication of On Liberty to Humboldt, whoseessay had been translated into English only a fewyears earlier – that is, 60 years after its originalcomposition and long after the German universitieshad become engaged in nation-building.It was through the Humboldt–Mill route that thespirit of the medieval Masters travelled, one thatPopper (and the logical positivists) followed. Thus,they were ill-disposed to features of universitiesthat rendered the institutions state-like, such asrigid disciplinary boundaries that treated scientificinquiry as if it were an abstract version of real estatedevelopment, as in the field today known as‘knowledge management’. However, knowledge asreal estate arguably also applies to Kuhnian normalscience. Certainly, the self-assigned task of post-Kuhnian philosophers of science has includedunderlabouring for the paradigms and disciplinesthat are taken to be the legitimate knowledge134

producers in their domains. Here it is worthrecalling Larry Laudan’s lament about the degradationof the Popperian demarcation problem inour time: Why do philosophers feel compelled todefend (and condemn) entire disciplines ratherthan evaluating individual knowledge claims ontheir own merits? Thus a Master queries theDoctors.Unfortunately, the Doctors have been victorious,though the victory has turned out to be ratherpyrrhic for the university’s institutional integrity.The plot of this story is the aspect of Humboldt’slegacy that Fritz Ringer has called mandarinisation,whereby German academics implicitly signed aFaustian pact with the state: the state would protectthe universities, if the academics agreed to providean ideological defence of the state or at leastrefrained from publicly criticising state actions.The bargain was rationalised with relative ease.Academics avoided politics by arguing that the endsof knowledge are either transcendentally presupposedby one’s kind of inquiry or explicitlyprovided by the state. Both were politically safeoptions because neither invited critical reflectionon the social conditions of one’s own knowledgeproduction. At the dawn of the 20th century, thedistinction was epitomised in Germany by, respectively,the Neo-Kantian philosopher Heinrich135

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