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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

approaches are seen as

approaches are seen as antagonistic and perhapseven mutually exclusive, from a logical point ofview. This is especially unfortunate because, onceagain, surface differences serve only to conceal adeeper unity of purpose. As to be expected, thisschism is the product of mutual misunderstanding.The interpretive policy of ideology critiqueproposed by Adorno (and many other Marxists) istypically misread as claiming that the politicallyincorrect origins of a scientific theory somehowimpugn the theory’s validity. For logicians, this is tocommit the genetic fallacy. However, the facts thattruly concerned Adorno are, like Popper, the onesthat follow from a theory’s acceptance. WherePopper and Adorno truly differ is that Adorno treatsscientific theories as systematic attempts to predictand control a world that contains both theorisedobjects and theorising subjects. In that respect,much more was always at stake in criticism forAdorno than for Popper. According to Adorno, avalidated scientific theory simultaneously enablesits possessor to exert power over a part of reality andthe people interested in it. The main reason Poppermodelled his version of criticism on the controlledlaboratory experiment is that it precisely avoids thissituation, whereby risking ideas starts to look likerisking lives. Popper believed that to be botheffective and humane (i.e. improvable in light of156

new evidence), criticism must operate at a narrowergauge than that of ideology critique. For Adorno,Popper’s approach was too idealistic to functioneffectively as critique.Nevertheless, this difference between Popperand Adorno is better seen as concerning specifictactics than general strategy. The strategy was alsoshared by another German-speaking émigré withwhom both locked horns, namely, the sociologyof knowledge’s most influential thinker, KarlMannheim (1893–1947). Mannheim defeatedAdorno for the chair in sociology at the Universityof Frankfurt shortly before fleeing the Nazis, afterwhich he reinvented himself, alongside Popper, atthe London School of Economics. In a nutshell,Mannheim combined Adorno’s totalising sense ofcritique with Popper’s openness to political reformin his self-appointed task of ‘reconstructing’ societyin an era of mass democracy. But whereas Poppermight try to alter the false beliefs of the masses bychallenging them on their face, Mannheim woulddevelop policies for eliminating the backgroundconditions that have made the views plausible.What Popper would resolve by debate in the openforum, Mannheim would pre-empt by educationalreform and more global forms of social planning.The point worth highlighting here is that Popperdid not disagree with Mannheim’s substantive157

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