BookshelfJacob deGroot-Maggetti

Kuhn vs. Popper: the Struggle for the Soul of Science – Steve Fuller

Thoughts: I found this book unexpectedly engaging. In Kuhn vs. Popper, Steve Fuller attempts to outline the main points in the debate between Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper and their followers, and to clarify what he sees as points of misunderstanding between the two camps. Fuller is up-front about his position in the debate—he argues that the Kuhnian approach has had negative effects on the scientific enterprise—but he gives the impression of accurately representing the views of both sides, and I was struck by how often I would agree and then disagree with successive points raised by both philosophers. I’m not familiar enough with the main actors to evaluate most of Fuller’s claims, and there were many arguments raised that I didn’t fully inderstand but that I made a note of simply because they were striking or counterintuitive and I’d like to revisit them in the future. I really don’t think I could recommend this book to others—the prose is dense and the subject matter narrow—but in spite of this, I found this book surprisingly interesting.

(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)

Fuller, Steve. 2004. Kuhn vs. Popper: the Struggle for the Soul of Science. Columbia UP.


Chapter 1 - In Search of the Causes of a Non-Event

Chapter 2 - Kuhn and Popper: A Case of Mistaken Identities

Chapter 3 - Popperian Suspicions and Kuhnian Vindication

Chapter 4 - We’ve Been Here Before: The Prehistory of the Debate

Chapter 5 - Dialectics as the Pulse of Scientific Progress

Chapter 6 - A Parting Shot at the Misunderstanding

Chapter 7 - Why Philosophers Get No Respect from Scientists

Chapter 8 - So, Why Are Philosophers of Science Pro-Science?

Chapter 9 - The Return of the Repressed: Philosophers as Tory Historians of Science

Chapter 10 - The Religious Unconscious of the Debate

Chapter 11 - Do We Believe by Evidence or by Decision?: A Very Short History of Epistemology

Chapter 12 - The University As the Absent Presence of the Kuhn-Popper Debate

Chapter 13 - Popper and Adorno United: The Rationalist Left at Positivism’s Wake

Chapter 14 - Popper and Adorno Divided: The Rationalist Left Haunted by Historicism

Chapter 15 - How to Be Responsible for Ideas—the Popperian Way

Chapter 16 - Failing the Popperian Test for Intellectual Responsibility: Rorty on Heidegger

Chapter 17 - Is Thomas Kuhn the American Heidegger

Posted: Aug 27, 2021. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.