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.
Steve Fuller is professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, England, and the author of Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times.
In Search of the Causes of a Non-Event Kuhn and Popper: A Case of Mistaken Identities Popperian Suspicions and Kuhnian Vindication We've Been Here Before: The Prehistory of the Debate Dialectics as the Pulse of Scientific Progress A Parting Shot at the Misunderstanding Why Philosophers Get No Respect from Scientists So, Why Are Philosophers of Science Pro-Science? The Return of the Repressed: Philosophers as Tory Historians of Science The Religious Unconscious of the Debate Do We Believe by Evidence or by Decision? A Very Short History of Epistemology The University as the Absent Presence of the Kuhn-Popper Debate Popper and Adorno United: The Rationalist Left at Positivism's Wake Popper and Adorno Divided: The Rationalist Left Haunted by Historicism How to be Responsible for Ideas-the Popperian Way Failing the Popperian Test for Intellectual Responsibility: Rorty on Heidegger Is Thomas Kuhn the American Heidegger?