Thinkers on Conflict: Popper versus Kuhn

Karl Popper (1902-94) and Thomas Kuhn (1922-96)

One interesting intellectual tradition that contributes to conflict work is the Philosophy of Science especially as developed by Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn.

Popper set some very high standards for scientific rigor. He wanted scientists constantly to set out to disprove their work. Any scientific theory to Popper is always in the state of being not yet disproved. There is something to be said for this approach of looking for data to contradict your beliefs rather than more data that supports them. It is not skeptical post-modernist chaos. Instead Popper is using potential conflict between a theory, its predictions and actual data about the real world to drive science forward.

Thomas Kuhn developed a theory of science that had more impact than Popper, but not always of positive nature. He thought that most of the time science (what he called Normal Science) operated within a set of given assumptions or Paradigms that were taken as given and not subject to testing. This therefore greatly restricted the extent to which Popperian disproof was actually happening. In fact, the Paradigm as conceived by Kuhn is a sort of fundamentalist orthodoxy about how the world is. Normal Science is to Kuhn the process of elaboration of the Paradigm or central theory in ever more detail. A whole generation of scientists grows up with a set of common assumptions and they exhibit strong resistance to any data that might call the central Paradigm into question.

In this view, theories are only questioned when they meet a crisis and cease to be consistent with experimental data. But in practice, Kuhn thought theories might only be replaced when the old guard dies out and a new generation replaces them who are not so invested in the old way of looking at things.

Popper and Kuhn are talking about scientific method, but they are really also potentially talking about belief systems. Indeed, some have commented that their approaches seem more like a philosophy of religious belief. Our beliefs are hugely important parts of our approach to conflict. Kuhn in particular saw knowledge as having a strong social character in terms of the need to bring order to an inherently divisive situation consisting of many self interested and fallible agents. Steve Fuller in his useful book ‘Kuhn versus Popper’ sees Kuhn as having triumphed over Popper in this field and sees it as a

great leap backward’: ‘after all who needs an explicit social contract for science when science’s own social relations constitute a natural aristocracy.

For Kuhn the scientific ideal is whatever has emerged as the dominant scientific community, and science has come to be justified more by its paradigmic pedigree than its progressive aspirations.

In terms of our conflict thinking, Kuhn is important for having drawn our attention to our working within paradigms that serve as short cuts and frameworks for our thinking. My friend Lisa M thinks, rightly in my view, that the critical first step in any conflict is the recognition that we have paradigms, rather than certain error free grip on reality.

Kuhn sees the dominant paradigm as foundational, at least until it reaches a crisis. Popper on the other hand, insists we hack away at the very plank we are standing on to see if it holds up. Neurathian analysis would apply Popperian hacking to the other planks until they were found to be at least for time resistant to falsifiability. We could then step onto one of them and hack at the original plank to try to falsify it.

When faced with a deep and intractable conflict, we would do well to apply this approach to our own position and make sure it is the product of a realistic, meaningful and fully tested paradigm without ever thinking that there is no room for doubt or further testing/questioning.  The synthesis of Kuhn/Popper might be to understand we are within a paradigm, with all the attendant risks of distortion on our grip on reality, but continually seek to improve it, test it and develop alternative paradigms in parallel.

For Kuhn, science is the adoption of a paradigm as a blueprint for future research, common work patterns and common standards to adjudicate knowledge claims. His normal science is little more than the fleshing out of the paradigm or puzzle solving. Scientific revolutions occur rarely and when the paradigm reaches a crisis, an alternative paradigm has begun to emerge and the shift between the two is quick and irreversible and often the result of an inter-generational shift: a gestalt shift, coming to see the world in a new way.

In contrast, Popper wanted to hold claims to knowledge to publicly accountable standards: in particular falsification, which he regarded as the core of science. When he looked, Kuhn couldn’t find much evidence of this falsification actually happening in practice. (In the rapidly emerging field of neuro-science, falsification seems rampant, which is why it is so intriguing!) He wanted contingent foundations: science anchored by exemplars. Popper saw this as uncritical and conformist. Kuhn drew attention to the fact that there was a profound difficulty in the need to understand the world through two paradigms with radically different or incommensurable assumptions. Kuhn compares it to being bi-lingual and sees few scientists as being capable of this. Yet this skill is critical to conflict work. If you are not capable of such ‘bi-lingualism’ you are unlikely to be able to solve profound conflict across cultural, religious or other major paradigm chasms.

The mental capacity to see two paradigms simultaneously is essential to good conflict work and useful to mediation or any attempt to reach a higher level solution in the conflict between two world views, a clash of civilizations or whatever. Two world views are simultaneously held and neither accepted as rejected, but instead worked through and their implications and correspondence with the data in the situation established. It is not as in post-modernism that no narrative is privileged, but that for a time final judgement is suspended, so learning can take place and the parties come to know what they didn’t know they didn’t know.

Popper’s proactive strategy seems to me to have a stronger place in conflict work. His model of constantly challenging dominant scientific theories aims to render science more game-like, but it is not a zero-sum game. Indeed it is potentially a form of Darwinian evolution producing ever more strongly tested and realistic theories. Rational decisions about science cannot be taken unless we are sure that tests of theories are not biased towards the existing dominant theory. This means in conflict work, that we are constantly checking that our view of the how see conflict stands up to skeptical scrutiny. We don’t just assume what is convenient to our viewpoint as true. That is not to say we lightly cast aside a well tested view of how things are, but we need to some good reasons to doubt and perhaps have a better alternative in mind that tests better. For example the George W Bush White House was problematic in its decision making, not just because some of its approaches were mistaken, but because it had no doubt they were correct. The road to hell is paved with false certainty.

Given that many conflicts will cut across paradigm boundaries, then Popperian standards seem to be more promising as we stretch towards higher level solutions, rather than leaving each side comfortably entrenched within its respective dominant paradigm. For Popper, science is philosophy by more exact means: the kind of critical philosophy that proceeds by direct engagement, pitting one hypothesis against another counter hypothesis. There is a strong link between this and the tradition we have followed from Plato/Socrates to Hegel and Marx, despite Popper’s reservations about these thinkers.

Imre Lakatos took things a step further by seeing that you couldn’t just eliminate a theory, but had to replace it and that error elimination is a collective learning experience. Lakatos noted that Popper needs to predict. The conditions for dialectical engagement are that the two competing theories (like two sides in a conflict), whatever their fundamental disagreements on the structure of reality, must recognize their difference on some fundamental issue and agree a procedure to test this: some crucial experiment the outcome of which is binding on the participants. We can imagine this in a conflict situation and realize how rare this rigor is in reality. We really don’t have that sort of confidence in our positions that we would risk their falsification!

Incidentally, the Marxist Literary Critic Georg Lukacs talks about the destruction of reason, because of a failure to specify a standard of judgement that is independent of what is being judged and as a result the historically situated character of reason cannot be recognized, criticized and corrected. In conflict situations, applying this would involve much more adherence to jointly agreed criteria for decisions or for the collaboration that is the positive side of difference or even conflict.

Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shift reminds us of a process of almost religious conversion and follows on from a period of crisis, schism, confusion and despair. It is particularly challenging because the initiates in a paradigm have been so steeped in it, that they do not question it except in the form of limited puzzle-solving. Popper found this unacceptable and from a conflict standpoint he is right. Belief let alone unconditional commitment, leads to totalitarian consequences whether in science, religion or politics. It is not what science should be about. Hypotheses need to be subject to strenuous testing with a genuine commitment to the truth and the courage to always challenge your own theories.

The price of acquiring any knowledge at all is that it will be somehow distorted by the conditions of its acquisition; hence criticism is the only universally reliable method.’

It is in the nature of Kuhn’s idea of a paradigm that it brooks no rivals, it holds a monopoly and so a scientist cannot really be under the sway of two paradigms. Applied to conflict this is profoundly unhelpful. The ability at least to interrogate rival views of the world is essential in deep conflict, and is not the same as eventually accepting both. Kuhn’s view also assumes no interregnum between the two, but a sudden decisive paradigm or gestalt switch.

Imre Lakatos says it well that intellectual honesty (and for that matter effectiveness in conflict) does not consist in trying to entrench or establish one’s position by proving it, but specifying the conditions that would falsify it. As Lakatos states it:

A science that tries to develop our ideas and that uses rational means for the elimination of even the most fundamental conjectures must use a principle of tenacity together with a principle of proliferation. It must be able to retain ideas in the face of difficulty and it must be allowed to introduce new ideas even if popular views should appear to be fully justified. This is similar to the biological evolution of species via mutations and fitness testing to prevent us from stagnating.’

Popperians and Kuhnians were in very real conflict as they seemed to have quite different views of the world, with quite different implications. However, they are in practice not so incompatible and their integration seems to promise a powerful tool in the conflict tool box. If we take Kuhn’s view of Normal Science as sociologically and historically correct in some sense, recognizing the huge economy of effort that it allows, then we can also recognize that it has a Popperian strand in it nevertheless. The process of peer review, duplication of experimental results may most of the time elaborate or confirm the existing Paradigm. In practice again and again science has found flaws in Paradigms and undergone what Kuhn calls Paradigm Shifts. So from time to time science goes Popperian and actually disproves a well established Paradigm.

In summary, what Popper and Kuhn have provided is a way for parties in a conflict to recognize their fundamental (and potentially very different assumptions about the world) as ‘merely’ different Paradigms in the Kuhnian sense of the word. Popper offers us a powerful pragmatic realism that prevents our Kuhnian insights sending us into solipsist Post-Modernist anything goes ‘narratives’. Instead we can ask any party in a dispute my favorite generative and dispute framing question:

What would it take to change your mind on this belief?’

This is a profoundly Popperian question that can be used in a very Kuhnian world! Imagine if policy makers and politicians proposing a policy actually stated the measures of its success and what would cause it to be disproved as a solution? ‘We are invading Iraq on the assumption that we will be welcomed by its people and if not, we have a strategy to cope with our assumption being wrong!’

Personal Footnote: Sometime in the mid 1970s I was browsing the Philosophy of Science section of Dillon’s the London University Bookstore. I pulled out Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for a look. A professorial type appeared alongside me and glanced at what I was reading: he said: ‘Scientific revolutions, my ass’ and walked off. It was Karl Popper.

Thomas Kuhn:

Karl Popper:

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Book Reviews, Philosophy of Conflict, Uncategorized, Ways to handle conflict. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Thinkers on Conflict: Popper versus Kuhn

  1. matt d says:

    Popper viewed ideas as having an objective form separate from the people who held them. Look at this sentence:

    “It’s raining in New York.”

    Now that is true or false independent of what I say or do about it. (You may not accept that, but then you might not accept logic either.) Popper rejected the idea we need induction, which he regarded as logically invalid. However, even without induction we could learn via error. “This is a black swan” conflicts with “all swans or white.” But note, if you read Popper carefully, “this is a black swan” is also theoretical. But the point is we can’t accept both statements, we have to choose.

    Popper felt that as ideas could be objective, we could learn by pitting them against each other. His problem was how do we set up rules that would expedite this process as opposed to impede it. Check out this paper by I.C. Jarvie.

    So Popper makes an analysis of the logic of the situation, then makes ethical recommendations, a long list of them.

    How does this compare with Kuhn? Kuhn basically making some vast pronouncement on history saying what men inevitably do. But is what men do so inevitable?

    For example compare:

    A. You should not kill.
    B. Men kill other men.

    Popper’s ideas have the character of A. Kuhn’s have the character of B.

    Ultimately, Kuhn’s theory offers exactly what Popper argues we don’t have *justification* for theories. But what justifies Kuhn’s thesis. His own thesis, of course. As far as Lakatos … don’t get me started.

    • I would be interested in your perspective (and that of your readers) on what I call the reverse Bayesian question. Bayes was interested in what change of mind a given piece of data produced and created a mathematical formula to measure this. I am interested in the question: ‘what would it take to change your mind’ as I think it is a very interesting one in conflict and debate.

      I wondered what perspective Popper and for that matter Kuhn might have on my question? I would see it as perhaps Popper looking to falsify and maybe Kuhn specifying the critical mass of contrary data to overturn a paradigm. Anyway would like to know your thoughts.

      Would also be interested in any perspectives on Philip Kitcher’s work. I think he collaborated with Kuhn and I find his concept of ‘modest realism’ interesting.

  2. Thanks Matt. Interesting. I will take a look at the Jarvie paper.

  3. matt d says:

    David Miller wrote a book in 1994 called _Critical Rationalism: A Restatement and Defence_. He is really outstanding when it comes to math and logic. A section of the book mentioned was devoted to Bayesianism. However, as there are so many forms of Bayesianism, I’m not sure if that’s what you are looking for or not. But it might be worth a look …

  4. matt d says:

    Also, I just had a quick look at Philip Kitcher via Google books.

    As I know a lot about Popper, I used this as a litmus test as to how valuable his views on epistemology might have been.

    Kitcher has a description of Popper on page 44 of _Abusing Science: the against creationism.

    He describes Popper as a naive falsificationist. This claim is serious in so far as many people believe it. However, it’s *unfair* in that a close reading of Popper shows that the claim is false.

    The issue resolves around how do we know when we should classify a theory as false. If we test our theory and we get a negative result is that it then? But maybe our equipment was not working right? Or maybe we can mess around with some implicit auxiliary theories to disqualify the test? Or maybe we change the meanings of our terms? There’s all kinds of things we can do to *save* our theory. So what good is falsification?

    One of the primary people who brought a claim like this against Popper was his own student Lakatos. And the drama here behind the scenes is a match for any day time soap opera. (And by the time it’s all done, you’ve got Kuhn talking about paradigms and revolutions — just the kind of naturalism we don’t need.)

    But first, Popper was well aware of this problem. His point was that if all we have is deductive logic, it’s only through empirical tests that come into conflict with our theories that we can learn anything. So that’s what we want. We should not act to save a theory just because we want to save it. *But* if we think a measurement might have been off, there’s no reason we shouldn’t check it. Or if it dawns on us that maybe if some new force existed, then our theory would suddenly work … well … okay … we can test that, too. Whatever.

    As long as we are not *systematically* avoiding having our theory tested, I don’t see where the beef is. In fact, Kitcher’s own solution sounds … gosh … vaguely like Popper himself (although a lot more sloppy.)

    The I. C. Jarvie paper is excellent and helps clarify Popper’s views.

    For Philip Kitcher to call Popper a naive falsificationist for me means he has mostly studied *about* Popper and via the wrong philosophers. He does cite Popper’s work though.

    Also, Popper’s views about evolution shifted. I think his early criticism about certain views of natural selection not being testable were legitimate, but he later admitted that there were several other aspects of evolution that were clearly testable. He recanted his view, mostly. A large part of his later philosophy was trying to put knowledge into an evolution context much like natural selection. So he was a proponent of evolution for sure.

    He’s constantly misrepresented by creationists, but Kitcher doesn’t quite get him right on this stuff either. 🙂

    • Interesting. I found Kitcher quite Popperian, and was surprised by the naive falsification statement when I read it. I guess my own view is that Kuhn is interesting because he describes some of the methodological inertia that exists in practice. It is a warning about institutional inertia. Also of course when elaborating an existing paradigm or theory, a lot of actual scientific work is like Kuhn describes it. It’s that I don’t see any reason we should ever put our Popper falsification tools away for one moment, while knowing that sometimes contrary findings are a mistake, but not using that to brush aside the contrary data. My own interest is not directly about science, but about how few people in politics actually go looking for contrary data: a free market believer looking for evidence of market failure, a believer in big government looking for its failings and so on. That is why I like the use of Popper in every day life.

      One of my favorite Popper stories is from New Zealand in the 1940s I think, when one of his colleagues (John Eccles?) had just conducted an experiment that disproved a theory he had spent ten years building. Popper ran into him in the corridor and asked him why he was looking so glum and the scientist told him. Fantastic! This is what science is for. Well done, said Popper. The story is in Eric Kandel’s autobiography In Search of Memory, which I don’t have to hand so the detail might be a little different.

  5. trevorfisher2 says:

    one of the reasons why Darwin is so superior to his critics and had such a solid base in evidences is that he gathered evidence against Evoluton on the voyage of the Beagle. He then had issues which he could work through and develop arguments to counter opposition when it arose. Most scientists and most poltiicians don’t do it. OECD has just said (January 2015) that only 10% of political innovations in education are ever evaluated.

    Trevor Fisher. 31 1 15

    • @trevorfisher2. Thanks. Good insight. Starting by looking for contrary evidence is a great way to proceed. And yes few educational innovations are evaluated properly. But this pales into insignificance compared with the lack of evaluation of financial innovations. Paul Volcker famously said the only good financial innovation of the last 50 years was the ATM/cash machine.

    • @Hank Tuten.I am traveling and can’t do justice to your article. But I would question if you have read any of Popper’s work? You seem to have concept of falsifiability I don’t recognize and your idea of Popper as religious completely contrary to my understanding of his books. I also don’t see any real value in your dismissal of “western” science. Science and scientific method is global and has it roots in Chinese, Indian, Arab, Greek and other cultures not just recent European. And scientific effort is pretty standard world wide today from the US to Japan. So to apply culturasisit thinking to it throws no helpful light though it is fine to look at the consequences of science or what to focus on is very political. But the Post Modernist/post colonial take on science as an arbitrary narrative is bs spread by people have never done any science nor have any understanding of its methods. Good luck with a post modernist cure for Ebola. But thanks for your link.

      • henk tuten says:

        After reading your comment again I wondered about 2 things.
        Why do you see me as ‘postmodernist’ and why the remark “Good luck with a post modernist cure for Ebola”.
        A paradigm shift doesn’t mean that all of the formerly dominant culture is thrown away. The rational approach brought us many fine things, be sure that these will stay in some shape..
        Anyway I have no clue what ‘a post modernist cure’ means..
        I hate labels.

        NB. I worked as operations research mathematician for twenty years.

  6. henk tuten says:

    Thanks for your reply while travelling
    It’s impossible to answer your ‘worries’ in a few sentences. They prove as expected that western cultural reality is deeply grounded. Of course in math western science lent a lot from the Chinese.
    But in terms of cultural reality there’s a huge difference.
    Kuhn in his later years restricted his notion paradigm to science, but it is applicable to all of culture.
    Maybe my site gives a good overview.

    I wrote about Popper, and I’ve read a lot of his work. I know enough about the different interpretations of ‘falsifiability’ not to start a discussion about it.

    But I appreciate communicating views.

  7. @Henk Tuten. Thanks. Apart from Kuhn’s own paradigm shift examples: Newtonian to Einstein and also in astronomy Kepler etc what examples of paradigm shifts from one Normal Science to another you see in 20th century physics, biology, bio-chemistry or any other science? I have read a fair bit of history of science and didn’t see other many examples of paradigm shifts in the physical sciences in the last 100 years on the scale Kuhn had in mind? In my own field economics there are fairly profound paradigm shifts and perhaps the concept applies more in social sciences? I also wondered if you had read my original posting and the responses above which also respond somewhat to your article. Anyway I will certainly take a look at your website when I am back home. Thanks for the dialogue.

    • Eli Rabett says:

      Quantum mechanics in the limits of atomic dimensions, molecular genetics and one could go on, The key to understanding Kuhn is the realization that most science is puzzle solving within a consensus paradigm.

      • @Eli Rabett. Clearly this is what Kuhn thinks. Whether it accurately describes how science actually proceeds is an empirical question and I suspect it describes some phases of scientific research in some eras but doubt it does justice to science in general.

  8. henk tuten says:

    hi creativeconflictwisdom
    Thanks for replying
    I reread your article more thoroughly, and I especially like the way you characterize Popper’s view.
    I myself think Kuhn’s notion paradigm is brilliant, but not always the way he treated it.

    To answer your question: when talking about a really major paradigm shift. Then in my view there has not been one since Aristotle/AlexandertheGreat (east west split), or since revival of Aristotle’s view by Aquinas.
    The western conflict world view (ideal vs practice) started with Catholicism

    That’s why it questionable if Popper’s view can be combined with paradigm insights. Paradigms deny that there is a conflict. Only communication between paradigms (shift from both sides) is effective.

    I myself see economy as part of our western paradigm, too much attention for the trade tool money.

    As minor but promising paradigm shift I only see neuroscience

    • @henk tuten. Thanks.Perhaps what you are writing about is what might be term meta paradigms: the paradigms for handling paradigms. In this case I think the big shift was to the scientific empirical paradigm in the 17th century onwards in which reality trumps belief and scientific theory explains reality. Pragmatically this works well and delivers results. Within it Newton, Darwin, Einstein, quantum physics, DNA deliver forms of paradigm shift but often without a Kuhnian crisis; more punctuation marks along the evolution of knowledge, I think within this science today is a forma of modest realism and uses modest rationality with the modesty coming from the possibility of admitting error. And Popper helps with this not via naive falsificationism but again modest falsificationism. I doubt we need another meta paradigm shift but neuroscience and psychology are providing fairly major shifts in how we understand the brain that is having these paradigms and thus making them more reflexive. Kahneman and Tversky, Damasio, Bateson, and othes have certainly improved my ability to handle conflict between and within paradigms. I also think there is a RWOT, a real world out there and modest realism is the best way to navigate it. Bridges do stay up, planes fly, computers work though our understanding of complex adaptive systems like climate is limited I doubt an meta paradigm shift is needed to better understand them but of course as in all this as a modest realist/modest rationalist I may be mistaken. 🙂 Good to discuss this with you.

  9. henk tuten says:

    Sorry, I missed your reply until now.

    The only meta paradigm I can think of is earth evolution.
    I get your point that western cultural reality is very much influenced by Enlightenment. If one believes that the logic rationality is a sufficient tool for handling reality, than things will improve in a continuous way.
    If you recognize that Enlightenment was a cultural change with its own values and logic then it’s dubious that since Enlightenment we got more and more imprisoned in a ‘rational’ world, a world based on western concepts.
    I see a lot of fine results of rationalism, and obvious these will stay, but I also see a world that is nevertheless in severe crisis, and where rational models like ‘economy’, ‘conflict’, individualism’ etc. don’t seem to work anymore.

    I like this discussion too

    • @enk tuten. I agree rationality has achieved some fine results and no doubt it has strong limitations too. But so far I don’t see any macro alternative that would be any better. Certainly the irrational belief systems like many religions taken to extremes, fascism and communism seem to be no use. What I can see is the project of reform of our rationality. As we come to understand how our brains work we can perform better. And Kahneman and Tversky uncovered a range of biases and heuristics in our thinking that can help reform our approaches to problems at the personal and societal levels. I use their insights all the time in my conflict work and in any economic analysis I do. Damasio’s insights into the role of emotion in rationality helps too. And more recently I read Joshua Greene’s fine book Moral Tribes that suggests our moral auto pilot works quite well to bridge the divide between our egos and the small groups/bigger groups or tribes we live in day by day or what he calls the gap between I and Us. But that when faced with inter-tribal conflict, the gap between Us and Them, we have no alternative but to try to find some Utilitarian solution on the basis of the greatest happiness of the greatest number hard though that is. I see some sense in that. But if you have an alternative to rationality or a way to reform it, I would like to hear of it. Certainly I am pessimistic about our civilizational future. Mostly we know what we need to do to address our issues but don’t seem to be able to mobilize the political agreement to act accordingly.

      • Henkt Tuten says:

        Thanks for your immediate rely
        This time I’ll take some time to answer

        My website is about when Asia and Europe started to drift apart in handling reality.
        It seems that was after Alexander the Great (and later his generals) introduced in all of the Middle East the Hellenic mind body dualism.
        Very simply said, the myth that reality has a design and can be ‘understood’, instead of the Asian view that reality is a whole and is about effectivity.
        Since catholicism revived Aristotelianism Europe took the ‘rational’ Hellenic road, while in Asia Taoism and Buddhism took the holism approach.
        Both have their advantages. Only the rational road lead to more and more pushing away emotions to a second rate level (unlike the insights of Damasio). Rationalism initiated things like individualism, industrialism, capitalism, economy as science, …. Things that flourished for ages, but bounce against their limits now, and the western worlds is in deep crisis.

        At present rationality drives us deeper into seeing problems as conflicts.
        The change that is needed is leaving this conflict approach.
        Permit me not to handle the HOW question here.

        What Damasio showed is that reason needs emotion, without emotion no rational decisions are possible.
        Because in emotion our archive of effective behavior is hidden. Reason is juggling with emotion.

        Rationality is not ‘all there is’.
        And that things where OK for a long time, is not enough to conclude that the basics of our view on reality needs no essential change.

        I see too much conflict, misery and destruction of nature to believe that we are on a right way

        Again: I like this discussion. And I enjoyed reading Damasio.

      • @Henkt Tuten. Well as I see myself as somewhat Taoist I think I understand what you have in mind. But for the answer is probably some dialectic between reason, emotion and systemic thinking. Reason is often too linear and unreflective: doesn’t think enough about its thinking. So I do agree we need to change a lot including our thinking style but so far I don’t see an alternative thinking style emerging in much widespread use. I do find Gregory Bateson of some use in helping me thinking ecologically, especially his Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Thanks for your comments: most interesting.

      • Henkt Tuten says:

        Thanks again
        Reading your comment I don’t we essentially differ in opinion.
        Only in qualifying reason we seem to differ (by the way for me reason = systematic thinking).
        I don’t believe in ‘thinking’ or ‘intelligence’, only in effective behavior (just like evolution).
        Reason is a fine tool to assist emotion into becoming more effective.
        When you see reason as use of logic that assists emotion than I don’t see emerging thinking styles either.
        But when it comes to returning to emotion with reason only as a tool, then I see some change.
        The pure reason approach is losing attraction

        The fine side of major paradigm shifts ( is that they always are a total surprise, so you have to believe one is near. That’s difficult if you see progress only as improving in reason.
        My ‘heroes’ are Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Kuhn, I’m 62, probably your younger of age.

        But I agree, when looking for totally original and inspiring thinkers, then I can’t find them at present. I downloaded Moral Tribes of Joshua Green.

        And now I’ll stop boring you with responses

      • @Henk Tuten. I’m 66 actually. 🙂

        I don’t think I have heroes, but I find useful the work of Popper, Kuhn, , Orwell, Bayes, Camus, Damasio, Montaigne, Stanovich, and as I trained as an economist Keynes, Marx, Galbraith, Kahneman and Tversky, and Hirschman. And of course this whole blog is about the creative new paradigms that can arise out of the conflict, the dialectic between existing ones. Not as neat as Hegel/Marx’s Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis but something like it. And I have a good attention span and your points don’t bore me at all. Thanks.

  10. Henkt Tuten says:

    I saw you had once nietzschewittgensteinkuhn blog.
    I couldn’t find it anymore
    Anyway, have a look at:

  11. caminao says:

    The relevance of Popper and Kuhn tenets appears clearly when set in the context of analytic philosophy, especially the later Wittgenstein.
    A paradigm being just one symbolic representation among others, it can be adjusted according to its effectiveness to describe the domain of concern and build a verification apparatus.
    Then, and only then, a paradigm can be used to expound and appraise theories.
    Artificial intelligence and deep learning open a whole range of opportunities to Popper and Kuhn conceptual breakthroughs.

    • Thanks @caminao an interesting connection I will explore. I assume with machine learning the verification apparatus can emerge out of the process and lead to paradigms: bottom up so to speak, rather than paradigm top down? I haven’t yet had a moment to look at your link.

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