Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science / Edition 1

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Overview

Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions has sold over a million copies in more than twenty languages and has remained one of the ten most cited academic works for the past half century. In contrast, Karl Popper's seminal book The Logic of Scientific Discovery has lapsed into relative obscurity. Although the two men debated the nature of science only once, the legacy of this encounter has dominated intellectual and public discussions on the topic ever since.

Almost universally recognized as the modern watershed in the philosophy of science, Kuhn's relativistic vision of shifting paradigms -- which asserted that science was just another human activity, like art or philosophy, only more specialized -- triumphed over Popper's more positivistic belief in science's revolutionary potential to falsify society's dogmas. But has this victory been beneficial for science? Steve Fuller argues that not only has Kuhn's dominance had an adverse impact on the field but both thinkers have been radically misinterpreted in the process. This debate raises a vital question: Can science remain an independent, progressive force in society, or is it destined to continue as the technical wing of the military-industrial complex? Drawing on original research -- including the Kuhn archives at MIT -- Fuller offers a clear account of "Kuhn vs. Popper" and what it will mean for the future of scientific inquiry.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Popular Science - Gregory Mone

It's a fascinating and, at 132 pages, delightfully concise work.

Financial Times - A. C. Grayling

A feisty and rich little book...always stimulating

History of Political Thought - Milja Kurki

Kuhn vs. Popper is a concise and engaging book that philosophers of science, investigators of political thought and, indeed, laymen with a philosophical interest will find an interesting read.

Canadian Journal of Sociology Online - Neil McLaughlin

Provocative and brilliant.

Philosophy In Review - Robert J. Deltete

A provocative read.

Choice

This slight volume is a lively, incisive volume...This volume will be of great interest both to academic specialists and general readers...Recommended.

Popular Science
It's a fascinating and, at 132 pages, delightfully concise work.

— Gregory Mone

Financial Times
A feisty and rich little book...always stimulating

— A. C. Grayling

Choice

This slight volume is a lively, incisive volume...This volume will be of great interest both to academic specialists and general readers...Recommended.

History of Political Thought
Kuhn vs. Popper is a concise and engaging book that philosophers of science, investigators of political thought and, indeed, laymen with a philosophical interest will find an interesting read.

— Milja Kurki

Canadian Journal of Sociology Online
Provocative and brilliant.

— Neil McLaughlin

Philosophy In Review
A provocative read.

— Robert J. Deltete

New Scientist - Ray Percival

This is an eloquently written book, offering new and interesting perspectives on the moral and social ramifications of this debate.

New Scientist
This is an eloquently written book, offering new and interesting perspectives on the moral and social ramifications of this debate.

— Ray Percival

Kirkus Reviews
An overview of the debate between the two most influential modern philosophies of science. Fuller (Sociology/Univ. of Warwick) places Thomas Kuhn (1922-96) and Karl Popper (1902-94) at the heads of two divergent schools of thought about the roles of science and the scientist. Kuhn's 1960 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, postulated that scientists normally work within a paradigm, a framework of ideas that controls what questions they ask and what data they examine. At intervals, a new paradigm-for example, the Copernican solar system-captures the imagination of a new generation of scientists and replaces the old one, without necessarily being a more accurate depiction of reality. Popper, an intellectual descendent of the logical positivist school, argued that the essence of science is the search for ways to falsify accepted viewpoints, and that only those propositions that can be disproved are genuinely scientific. Fuller states the two men's basic positions and examines their underlying scientific, historical, and political premises. Openly acknowledging that he finds Kuhn's theory detrimental to the independence of science, the author suggests that because Kuhn came to intellectual maturity in an era when American society needed to subsume scientific research into the Cold War effort, he favored a view in which most scientists do not ordinarily question basic principles. Popper's view, that science is a model of an open society in which free inquiry is the norm, offers at the same time more personal freedom and more personal responsibility to the individual scientist. While the general verdict is that Kuhn won the debate during the two men's lifetimes, Fuller argues thatPopper's view retains the potential to liberate science from its current role as the handmaiden of government and business. A succinct yet in-depth inquiry into a significant philosophical issue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231134286
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/7/2004
  • Series: Revolutions in Science Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Fuller is professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, England, and the author of Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

In Search of the Causes of a Non-EventKuhn and Popper: A Case of Mistaken IdentitiesPopperian Suspicions and Kuhnian VindicationWe've Been Here Before: The Prehistory of the DebateDialectics as the Pulse of Scientific ProgressA Parting Shot at the MisunderstandingWhy Philosophers Get No Respect from ScientistsSo, Why Are Philosophers of Science Pro-Science?The Return of the Repressed: Philosophers as Tory Historians of ScienceThe Religious Unconscious of the DebateDo We Believe by Evidence or by Decision? A Very Short History of EpistemologyThe University as the Absent Presence of the Kuhn--Popper DebatePopper and Adorno United: The Rationalist Left at Positivism's WakePopper and Adorno Divided: The Rationalist Left Haunted by HistoricismHow to be Responsible for Ideas -- the Popperian WayFailing the Popperian Test for Intellectual Responsibility: Rorty on HeideggerIs Thomas Kuhn the American Heidegger?

Columbia University Press

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