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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

. CHAPTER 9 .THE RETURN

. CHAPTER 9 .THE RETURN OF THE REPRESSED:PHILOSOPHERS AS TORYHISTORIANS OF SCIENCEOne must realise that one’s opponent, even iflagging badly behind, may still stage a comeback.There is never anything inevitable about thetriumph of a [scientific research] programme.There is also never anything inevitable about itsdefeat.Imre Lakatos, ‘History of Science andIts Rational Reconstructions’It would seem that the history of the philosophy ofscience has been one of endless disappointment, agraveyard for failed scientists and scientific ideas.However, there is a deeper lesson here. It is a versionof Nietzsche’s amplification of Hegel’s masterservantdialectic to explain the origins of morality.Nietzsche argued that, starting with the Egyptiancaptivity of the Jews, morality has been the mosteffective revenge that the losers in history have hadover the winners. The losers basically intimidatethe winners into treating them well and perhapseven adopting some of their practices, out of fear of92

what an omnipotent deity friendly to the losersmight do to the winners in the afterlife.Similarly, the history of the philosophy ofscience is about scientists on the losing side of firstorderdisputes who acquire epistemic leverage byascending to the second-order of inquiry, namely,the ideals that should guide the conduct of science.This explains the schizoid attitude of practisingscientists, who are at once dismissive of philosophers’substantive scientific views, while theyremain uneasy about whether their own researchpractices are sufficiently rational, objective, etc.However little their own practice conforms tophilosophical ideals of inquiry, scientists feelcompelled to justify it in those sanctified terms.Thus, science’s own eternal return of the repressedhelps to explain the confused legacy of the philosophyof science.Unfortunately, this peculiar feature of thephilosophy of science is lost amid blanket postmodernistattacks on ‘master narratives’, includingones where mastery occurs in the afterlife or theindefinitely deferred future. Master narratives arehistorical accounts of history that presuppose anactive universal subject – one with whom theauthor happens to identify – who overcomes aseries of obstacles to reach full self-realisation. Thisplot outline is common to the invisible hand of93

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