Thomas Kuhn’s Ashtray

14 Jun

Ludwig Wittgenstein once threatened Karl Popper with a poker. Years later, philosopher Thomas Kuhn threw an ashtray at his student Errol Morris. Morris would go on to quit philosophy and become an Oscar winning documentary filmmaker.

A recent episode of the podcast Hi-Phi-Nation tells the story and I highly recommend it. For many years I have thought that Kuhn’s explanation of scientific change  is deeply flawed and cringe anytime someone utters the phrase “paradigm shift.” You can also read Morris’s own account here.

One minor geeky criticism, philosopher Lydia Patton misidentifies a Leyden jar as a battery containing liquid acid. Actually a Leyden jar has no liquid, but holds static electricity. I think she either means a either voltaic pile or a Daniell cell.

Here is the trailer for one Morris’s documentary:

3 Responses to “Thomas Kuhn’s Ashtray”

  1. Enrique Guerra-Pujol June 14, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    I didn’t know about the ashtray story, so I can’t wait to watch the documentary. By the way: I loved the book “Wittgenstein’s Poker” and have actually read it twice over the years.)

    • jecgenovese June 15, 2017 at 8:19 am #

      The documentary, Tabloid, is not about Morris’s relationship with Kuhn. It is however, like many of Morris’s films, about how we might know the truth. It is also very funny.

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