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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

ecreate this

ecreate this Kuhnian situation in their ownrelationship with scientists. It is less ‘meta-science’than ‘infra-science’.In understanding how this heads-down‘organisational man’ approach to science and thephilosophy of science could come to be associatedwith a pro-science attitude, the role of warfareshould not be underestimated. Kuhn and Popper’stwo main followers, Lakatos and Feyerabend, wereborn within two years of each other and served inWorld War II. Kuhn jammed German radar signalsin East Anglia, applying the principles for which hisPh.D. supervisor would eventually win the NobelPrize in physics. Feyerabend, who became bestknown for recommending ‘anything goes’ asscience policy, dutifully flew planes for the NaziLuftwaffe. For his part, as a young Communist,Lakatos joined the underground anti-Nazi resistancein his native Hungary. Like the logicalpositivists and Popper, all three were inspired byEinstein as the exemplar of science as naturalphilosophy by more exact means. However, WorldWar II made it clear to all of them (and others –including Stephen Toulmin, Derek de Solla Price,Gerald Holton and John Ziman – who are nowregarded as the founding fathers of the field called‘history and philosophy of science’) that science’smaterial conditions had diverted its mission from88

pure inquiry. Exceptionally disappointing was thatphysics ‘scaled up’ to accommodate the war effortwithout ever returning to its pre-war dimensions.Kuhn responded to this situation much as thelogical positivists had, namely, by never formallyacknowledging the technological dimension ofmodern science, where science most naturallyinterfaces with our pre-scientific understandingof reality. Even when writing about scientificexperiments, his focus remained fixed on the role ofexperiments in generating data, solving puzzles ortesting theories – not on their material character as,say, an economist concerned with ‘externalities’would treat experiments. In particular, he made apoint of not asking whether the instruments used inexperiments were inspired and/or applied in amilitary-industrial setting outside the experimentalcontext.From a psychiatric standpoint, the accounts ofscience put forward by the logical positivists andKuhn (and perhaps even Popper) were ‘reactionformations’ in response to traumas that had dealtsevere blows to their normative ideals of science.The traumas were, respectively, the 20th century’stwo world wars. In response, they promotedexcessively idealised visions of science that were theopposite of the tendencies they rejected in thescience of their day. For Kuhn, the ultimate89

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