2 years ago

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

elieve that ideas

elieve that ideas themselves have consequencesfor which one is then responsible once they arepublished. Here Kuhn is usefully contrasted withMichel Foucault, whose work was also subject torather rapid and disparate adoption at roughly thesame period, indeed sometimes (at least in theAnglophone world) alongside Kuhn’s work.However, unlike Kuhn, who increasingly withdrewfrom discussions of his work as it became morepopular, Foucault spent considerable effort,typically in interviews, elucidating his backgroundassumptions and engaging with the normativeimplications that both his fans and critics haddrawn from his work. Indeed, Foucault provides amodel of an intellectual who tried to classify thesorts of political activities that could and could notbe supported by his words.Interestingly, Kuhn and Foucault agreed that itwas impossible to write a history of the recent past.Yet, Foucault had no problem using his pre-20thcentury‘histories of the present’ as a basis forcontemporary critical intervention. This wasbecause Kuhn and Foucault had rather differentgrounds for believing in the impossibility ofcontemporary history. While Kuhn believed thatarchival material relating to the recent history ofscience could be organised – indeed, he led such anactivity for the American Physical Society in the200

1960s – he did not believe that a proper historycould be written as long as the major intellectualissues were still unresolved. In line with theincommensurability thesis, Kuhn believed thathistory requires that the past be treated as a foreignland, separated in time as if by space. In contrast,Foucault’s doubts about the writing of recenthistory were based on the historian’s lack ofauthority in speaking for evidence that is still beingused to legitimate contemporary regimes. Instead,Foucault believed that his ‘counter-hegemonic’strategy of marrying the ‘specialised erudition’ ofthe library and archives with the ‘subjugatedknowledges’ of the dispossessed resembled the sortof power that marginalised aristocrats couldexercise on behalf of the poor in bourgeois societies.When comparing the responses of Kuhn andFoucault, it is worth noting that by the time theyhad to account for the consequences of their ideas,both held prestigious and secure academic posts.Neither had to worry about the impact of theirresponses on their livelihood. In that respect, bothwere burdened with significant negative responsibility,but only Foucault rose to the challenge.In Kuhn’s defence, it might be said that since theend of World War II, France’s public intellectualculture has been much stronger than America’s.Yet, Kuhn declined many opportunities for201

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