2 years ago

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

it were, between

it were, between organized sciences that do notcover the universality of existence.Theodor Adorno, ‘The stars down to earth’Popper and Adorno shared the critic’s tendency topresuppose that the audience already knows thetarget of criticism in some detail, so that one’s owndiscourse becomes a series of reflections on thehidden opponent. This feature made it frustratingfor listeners who sought constructive advice on theconduct of social research. But more importantly,the two antagonists expressed their critiques inradically different forms. Popper provided a list oftheses, with which he wanted Adorno to agree ordisagree. In response, Adorno, seeing very littlewith which to disagree, decided instead to dwell onthe care with which one needs to formulateepistemological claims in the human sciences sothat they are not captured by an unreflective andpotentially oppressive positivism. In other words,Adorno criticised Popper for not being sufficiently‘reflexive’ in considering how his words might beused to legitimise projects to which he (andAdorno) would be opposed.Admittedly, Popper was more sanguine thanAdorno about the precedent set by the success ofthe physical sciences. At the same time, Popperoperated with a rather sophisticated and somewhat154

idealised understanding of scientific method that,for example, refuses to see empirical regularities asnecessarily indicative of scientific laws, if they havenot been first subjected to rigorous experimentaltests that control for whatever biases, or ‘anchoringeffects’, may be hidden in the initial conditionsunder which the phenomena are observed. Adornounderstood this feature of Popper’s view, butequally saw that it could be easily misunderstood asendorsing a mindlessly positivist conversion ofregularities to laws. Thus, Adorno might askPopper: ‘If your view of physics as the vanguard ofinquiry applies only under ideal experimentalconditions – which hardly ever obtain in the socialsciences – then what good is it as a normativestandard?’ In other words, Adorno criticised Popperfor not being sufficiently ‘reflexive’ in consideringhow his words might be used to legitimise projectsto which he (and Adorno) would be opposed.Where Adorno and Popper genuinely differedwas on the scope of the consequences and themeans of assessment used for evaluating, say,scientific theories: does one proceed (à la Adorno)by demystifying the ideology that masks the powerrelations a theory sustains or (à la Popper) bydesigning experimental tests for the outcomes thatthe theory predicts? A sign of the alienated natureof critique in today’s world is that these two155

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