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Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

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3uGH7D4MLj
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Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » August 7th, 2018, 3:26 pm

Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is being taken to task by Errol Morris in his book "The Ashtray."

Morris, who was in Kuhn's class at Princeton, was supposedly the victim or target of an ashtray thrown by Kuhn. Is anybody else following this kerfuffle?
fair to say

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » August 8th, 2018, 11:56 am

You may remember Errol Morris questioning Susan Sontag's analysis of Roger Fenton's 1855 Crimean War photograph Valley of Shadow of Death. The NYTimes did a series following his investigation, which didn't come to much.

The Ashtray is a pretty severe attack on Kuhn's 50 year old book.
fair to say

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 8th, 2018, 6:00 pm

What's Morris' point here.
Kuhn still makes perfect sense to me, and should act as a warning to all who take the science too religiously.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 8th, 2018, 6:04 pm

PS. having read a couple of reviews.

It appears that Morris is an intellectual light-weight using polemic exaggeration to build a strawman argument to attack his old teacher.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » August 10th, 2018, 10:32 am

ThomasHobbes wrote:
August 8th, 2018, 6:00 pm
What's Morris' point here.
Kuhn still makes perfect sense to me, and should act as a warning to all who take the science too religiously.
My reading of the SSR is that it is a pretty good analysis of how science stumbles along. It's not the only analysis maybe, but a pretty good clarification of dynamics. Fifty years along, we are now used to think in terms of paradigms, or assumption bundles, in every field of endeavor. The dynamics and vocabulary that Kuhn introduced are now part of everyone's paradigm whether they know it or not. Back then, it could have been harder to accept. Why? Incommensurability! :)

It's easy to see the SSR as being a bit hyperbolic, are scientific advances really "revolutions"? Are scientists still devoted to an old paradigm really in a different world from those working with a new one? Out of touch? Are the different points of view really incommensurable? So I can understand criticism of the book. But Morris' attack is shallow and petty. And he uses the (dubious) ashtray story as an angle.

Most obvious problem is Morris faulting Kuhn for promotion of (horrors) "relative truth". I really didn't come across any discussion of relative truth in the SSR. There's your strawman.

Say more about "should act as a warning to all who take the science too religiously."
fair to say

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 10th, 2018, 10:56 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
August 10th, 2018, 10:32 am
.

Say more about "should act as a warning to all who take the science too religiously."
Surely the whole point of SSR?
The paradigm serves the vested interests of those born into it; have staked their careers on it and tend to resist new and better ideas.
The old professor with tenure at the University is the ball and chain of progress, like the Catholic priest wishing to burn the heretics.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by Eduk » August 13th, 2018, 3:07 pm

I would argue that the ball and chain of progress is only very very slightly anything to do with tenured professors ( indeed I'm sure they are of net benefit). Rather the ball and chain of progress is complete science illiteracy coupled with supreme overconfidence.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 13th, 2018, 3:54 pm

Eduk wrote:
August 13th, 2018, 3:07 pm
I would argue that the ball and chain of progress is only very very slightly anything to do with tenured professors ( indeed I'm sure they are of net benefit). Rather the ball and chain of progress is complete science illiteracy coupled with supreme overconfidence.
The point is that Kuhn was talking about the academic process of science.
Hence I talked about vested interests

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by Eduk » August 13th, 2018, 4:00 pm

I may be wrong as I've only really skim read Kuhn but he seems to be suggesting that every advancement of science is a paradigm shift which invalidates everything that went before it? I'm not sure what conclusion he drew from this though?
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 10:21 pm

Not that everything before it was invalid, but only what is brought to issue in the particular paradigm shift. The conclusion was that the model for describing scientific understanding was not about the world independent of the body of scientific theory. Theory is what scientists talk about, and such theory changes because something comes along, or was there but ignored, that challenges it, but the challenge is a theory challenge, not a world challenge: data may spring anew, some anomaly in observing the sun, or star spectra, but the response to this is ABOUT the theories in play, and these are not so much about the world as they are about their predecessor theories.
Does theory ever "touch" the world, in that to know the theory is to know the world that exists apart bringing theory into it? No. it's not that there is no world to know, but that knowing it is, to look at Rorty's take on this, a propositional matter, and there are no propositions "out there". Rorty's pragmatism is very much apart from standard scientific objectivism.

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » August 30th, 2018, 11:02 pm

Hi HAN,
Kuhn does use the term world, to mean the immersion in a paradigm of a scientist. A scientist using a different set of assumptions is actually in a different world, incommensurable with a perhaps newer or different paradigm.

It's interesting that "world" is in Kuhn's SSR vocabulary, but with a completely different meaning from what you are presenting. Just a curiosity.
fair to say

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Re: Thomas Kuhn vs Errol Morris

Post by Hereandnow » August 31st, 2018, 12:00 am

That is the difficulty, that when Kuhn does science speak, you cannot tell the difference. It is int he last chapter, or chapters, that we get a clear idea that theories are only competitively better or worse. Kuhn seems to think that confirmation of a new idea, or paradigm, is more an historical affair. I will read the critical parts again, but remember that the actual objective case made for the shift is not decisive. Kuhn was a Kantian, as well, but his historical view of scientific progress is not like Kant.

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