The conversation took a turn for the ugly. Were my problems with him, or were they with his philosophy?
I asked him, “If paradigms are really incommensurable, how is history of science possible? Wouldn’t we be merely interpreting the past in the light of the present? Wouldn’t the past be inaccessible to us? Wouldn’t it be ‘incommensurable?’ ” [8]
He started moaning. He put his head in his hands and was muttering, “He’s trying to kill me. He’s trying to kill me.”
And then I added, “…except for someone who imagines himself to be God.”
It was at this point that Kuhn threw the ashtray at me.

The New York Times: “The Ashtray: The Ultimatum (Part 1)” by Errol Morris, March 6, 2011. Flash required for the reenactment video.

Part one of Errol Morris’ five-part series about the concept of “incommensurability” is now available online. It really makes for a great read: the anecdote is presented with more details (and at least as much humor) than it was in the lecture I wrote about a couple of days ago. As for Morris take on “incommensurability” –”a terribly confused post-modern term, [that] is really about intolerance”– one will want to wait for the next four parts before assessing the value of the whole argument.
Previously on Aphelis: “The Intentional Ashtray Throwing Incident”
[UPDATE–July 29, 2012] I have commented the third part of Errol Morris’s essay following researches I did on a legend surrounding the alleged discovery of irrational numbers by the Pythagoreans: see On the threshold of knowledge: Pythagoreans, irrationality and the experience of modernity and more specifically footnote no. 5.


Subscribe to our newsletter

This newsletter serves one purpose only: it sends a single email notification whenever a new post is published on, never more than once a day. Upon subscribing, you will receive a confirmation email (if you don’t, check your spam folder). You can unsubscribe at any time.