Kuhn vs. Popper: The struggle for the soul of science.

by Steve Fuller.

Over-academic analysis of two differing scientific philosophies.

Kuhn vs. Popper

I must have lived a very sheltered life since I attended a History and Philosophy of Science course at university in 1985. Until I saw the title of this book, I had simply no idea that scientific philosophies of Karl Popper and Thomas S Kuhn were at odds with each other, nor that there was a heated debate about it. Indeed, to me, their philosophies had always seemed to compliment each other rather nicely: Popper's idea of falsifiability providing an extremely useful yardstick as to what constitutes a scientific theory, and Kuhn's concepts of normal science and revolutions providing an accurate (though not particularly practical) description of how science often/usually progresses.

But, apparently, the two great philosophers were at fundamental odds with each other over the soul of science: Popper insisting that we have to constantly challenge scientific authority; Kuhn saying that such challenges are only the remit of the truly revolutionary scientists.

Or something like that.

By the end of this book, I was still of the opinion that any such philosophical controversy has been greatly exaggerated. But what do I know?

As to the book itself, I found it over-academic in places. I'm all for academic books, but this one appears to be being marketed as one for the general reader, so I would have hoped for more detailed explanation/opinion of what the two men thought, and fewer references to what a shed-load of other philosophers had to say on the general subject.

Half-way through the book, I thought to myself, "This bloke writes like a damn sociologist!" Then I turned to the page describing the author and learnt, "Steve Fuller is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick".

I rest my case.


See also: Shafted by a sociologist

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