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Kuhn Vs.Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science [Hardcover]

Steve Fuller
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jun 2003 Revolutions in Science
In 1965 Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper met at the University of London to stage what has turned out to be the most momentous philosophical debate of the 20th century. At stake was no less than the soul of science itself...No discipline remained untouched by the consequences of this exchange. Was it really such a good thing that Kuhn's 'postmodernism' triumphed over Popper's 'positivism'? Kuhn vs. Popper is a provocative account of a landmark confrontation in which 'the wrong guy' won. A fantastically regarded author whom Icon are proud to have on board Touches upon every aspect of thinking about science in the 20th century Pacey, provocative and sure to receive media coverage


Product details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (5 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840464682
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840464689
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 676,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Reading Steve Fuller is like reading Umberto Eco on speed." -- Jeff Hughes, University of Manchester

About the Author

Steve Fuller trained in the history and philosophy of science, and is now Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that challenges your preconceptions 18 Dec 2003
Format:Hardcover
The TLS had a review of this book a couple of weeks ago and managed to do the book justice. Basically Popperians will love the book at two levels. Not only does it defend Popper against Kuhn, but it also falsifies one’s – or at least my! -- preconception of what the Kuhn-Popper debate was really about.
Make no mistake about it. ‘Kuhn vs Popper’ is not for the intellectually faint-hearted but its message is pretty clear, if not entirely welcomed by people who have come to believe that Kuhn is the last word on the nature of science. In any case, as Fuller points out, this debate really had very little influence on practicing scientists – but it influenced a lot of people who take science seriously as some basis for authority in society. What Fuller most regrets about Kuhn’s victory is that it has managed to allow a pretty conservative, heads-down approach to science to pass itself off as radical, just because Kuhn used a lot of radical-sounding words like ‘revolution’.
The most interesting part of this book is the way Fuller gets you to think about the politics both in and around science as it’s done today. He argues that BOTH Kuhn and Popper would condemn the sort of money-hungry, status-seeking, power-grabbing activities all too frequently associated with science today. However, Popper was more openly critical of these tendencies, whereas Kuhn hid behind trendy but vague language that still manages to seduce some people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Polemic 24 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback
Item Reviewed: Icon Books Edition (hardback), 2003.

The author has written from a sociological (in this case, read ideological) viewpoint on matters in the history and philosophy of science. Contrary to the western intellectual traditions of history and philosophy, he takes "is" to mean "ought" (i.e. he implicitly assumes that, unless otherwise indicated, a description of how something *is* done is simultaneously a prescription of how it *ought* to be done). Also, for him all acts (or failures to act), whatever the original intentions, have a political dimension.

Fuller's agenda is to portray, against all appearances, Popper as a left-wing hero and Kuhn as a right-wing authoritarian. The reason for the latter, it would appear, stem from his reading of Kuhn's history of science as being prescriptive rather than descriptive - and he doesn't want to admit to liking the presumed prescription. He starts off in a reasonable tone, describing the single academic meeting of Kuhn and Popper. He descends into a rant; finally, in the last chapter, he plays the Hitler card and compares Kuhn to the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, laying great stress on similarities that are in fact largely circumstantial.

Fuller is outraged by the military-industrial complex (which he identifies Kuhn with) and its alleged corruption of science. He wants to know why Kuhn never incorporated postwar developments in his work (though he concedes that Kuhn had an interest in science as pure inquiry). It may be just as well that Kuhn did not treat of contemporary developments, because (a) the resulting hullaballoo from scientists would have exacerbated the science wars, and (b) with his is-means-ought tendency to interpret, Fuller might have experienced coronary distress.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction 14 May 2008
Format:Paperback
I recently considered starting an MSc in Philosophy of Science and decided to read something simple to gain some idea about the subject. I chose this book because the compulsory module for this MSc involves reading a lot about Kuhn. I did have some of Kuhn's books, but decided on something much simpler that I could easily read in a week.

The book is hard-going in places because for the layman, there are many unfamiliar terms used. Fortunately there is a glossary towards the end of the book which helps.

This book gave me an insight into the work of Kuhn and convinced me that the philosophy of Science being discussed should be called Sociology of Science. This was enough to persuade me that I didn't really want to put the time, money and effort into studying for the stated MSc.

It is fitting that Steve Fuller is a sociologist, as much of the content is really about the sociology of Science.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Kuhn wrote an interesting book about the history of science, and was quickly misinterpreted in terms of writing philosophy of science in the style of Popper. Fuller is helpful in pointing out how "paradigms" has limited practical use for scientists, but, more importantly, stresses the social values embedded in the work of Popper, comparing him with Adorno. A good follow-up after reading this might be Popper's "The poverty of historicism", explaining the futility of using the history of science as a basis for a theory of science.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nihilism 27 Nov 2005
By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Steve Fuller characterizes excellently the cardinal difference between Kuhn's and Popper's concept of science and research, as well as their vision on life as a whole.
Kuhn was authoritarian and 'historicist' (Things could be no other than they are), while Popper was libertarian and 'criticist' (We can always do better).
Kuhn's basic concept was 'paradigm', which is the 'idea that scientific inquiry is anchored in an exemplar that researchers then use as a model for future investigations.' Kuhn sees a paradigm as an irrefutable theory that becomes an irreversible policy. Therefore, Kuhn's concept is conformist and inherently uncritical. He has a backward look. He is an elitist who sees science as a stabilizing social practice.
Popper's basic concept is 'falsification' through testing, which draws the demarcation line between science and non-science. Science is the standard-bearer for critical rationalism. Scientific inquiry and democratic politics are alternative expressions of an 'open' society. Popper is looking forward because our knowledge is always subject to improvement.
While Popper voiced his political opinions (see 'The Lessons of this Century'), Kuhn remained cowardly silent. More, he schemed behind the back of others (the 'Ravetz' affair) for political reasons.
However, Steve Fuller has a dark side, which is also transparent in this book, e.g. 'By failing to associate their ultimate ends with any secular means - be it a church, a political party, or the university - Popper and Adorno effectively crossed the imaginary line from criticism to nihilism.'!
During the hearings of the 'Kitzmiller v.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great
Another great book by Steve Fuller, epistemological debate at the highest level. Great for background reading or pure enjoyment, but if you're looking for the bare bones of Kuhn... Read more
Published on 18 July 2009 by P. Matthews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for the lay person
I found this book difficult and verbose. It may well be an excellent examination of the issues, but even armed with my degree in psychology, some knowledge of the subjects raised,... Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2008 by D. M. Powell
3.0 out of 5 stars Suggestive but biased
This is a richly suggestive study that despite its faults deserves attention. The central thesis that science is out of kilter is passionately argued and grounded in a neat... Read more
Published on 24 April 2006 by mark tull
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Read before judging it
I'm writing this review not because the book needs more sales, since this may be the bestselling of Fuller's books. Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2006 by Hans Castorp
1.0 out of 5 stars A sociological paradigm in crisis
This book tells me, anyhow, that the dreadful paradigm of sociology is in total (and seemingly permanent) crisis. As Hume would say: "to the flames". Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2005 by Mr. M. A. Speedy
2.0 out of 5 stars a "paradigm" case of why no one listens to academics?
As I was one of those wasters who read a bit of philosophy many years back, the title of this book caught my eye. Read more
Published on 5 Dec 2003 by Olly Buxton
5.0 out of 5 stars Packs a punch
This is an abridged and updated version of the big book Fuller did on Kuhn a couple of years ago. Kuhn is accused of no less than intellectual irresponsibility for failing to... Read more
Published on 19 Oct 2003 by Morgan Dorrell
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