Foucault and Kuhn? A Missing Linkage.

As a little bit of side reading, I'm digging through Michel Foucault's "The Order of Things : An Archaeology of Human Sciences", immediately after finishing Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". They both, somewhat, touch upon some of the same ideas (The change of paradigms, epistemes), but don't relate to each other, even while being co-contemporarious (Kuhn 1962, with the second edition coming out in the same year as Foucault's text) , meaning one would think that Foucault would have some knowledge of Kuhn's revolutionary text.

But Foucault purposely leaves the engine of paradigm shift (in his section for English Readers, and Preface) open. This would have been the perfect time to cite Kuhn, either as a refutation, or suggestion. But he leaves it as a gap. Surely in the 8 years between Kuhn and Foucault, Kuhn's book would have reached a Continental mindshare, so Foucault would have been at least aware of it. So I'm guessing this is a implicit omission.

I'm not exactly sure of why he would do this. I have a fetal hypothesis that there is a basic methodological incompatibility between them. Kuhn looking at it in the individual sense that Foucault denies early on in the text, preferring to rather look at the philosophical (archeological) undercurrents that drive the individual. But there is a point where Kuhn and Foucault overlap, with the differing actual worldviews (worlds) of differing epistemes. Kuhn leaves this ambiguous, and somewhat mysterious in his text, while Foucault seems to answer it.

As can be seen here, there is a gap in both texts, that would allow the other to fit in it (A Kuhn shaped gap in Foucault, and a Foucault shaped gap in Kuhn). It leaves one to wonder why it remains, explicitly, unfilled, when it seems that at least Foucault had the ability to fill it (and later editions of Kuhn).

Comments? Answers?

(as an aside, after searching the web, I really have not been able to discover any existent articles on this potential linkage, only rants saying that their SHOULD be one, and a class outline that glazing over Kuhn completely.... If there is any available work on this, could someone please bring it forward).

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Dennis. said...

I have found you on google (foucault+kuhn)! I have been looking for a linkage just like you do, ever since I read "The discourse in language" (F) and "The structure of scientific revolutions" (K). I've been trying to make an intelligible linkage for my monograph here in Brazil, and it's been very difficult.
I guess what I think is that Foucault's system is wider than Kuhn's. While Foucault's notion of episteme is not incompatible with plurality, Kuhn's 'Postscript' do SSR is interesting but results in a step backwards in the relativity thesis. He tries to make his "scientific communities" smaller (in order to loosen the extreme epistemological harshness of his 'normal science' monism), and sort of makes this notion pretty unnecessary. His after-thoughts make room for the devellopment of a "popperian spectacles approach" as in Lakatos, which can be really non-rational, as Feyerabend argued.
So, my thought about Foucault is that he concieved more general and loose restraints to knowledge through discourse (at least looser than the 'exemplars' and 'disciplinary matrix'), and, what is more important, he inserted the restraints to knowledge in *discourse*, not in a sort of empiricist/rationalist ontal mélange that Kuhn inherited from Bachelard's "The new scientific mind" (although it's obvious that Foucault was inspired by the same book).
I think Kuhn is a bit confused about the difference of what's being said in science and reality in science. Kuhn's community views fall upon scientific discourse *and* scientific experiments. Foucault centers only on scientific discourse.
This peculiarity of Foucault, I guess, can allow me to try to coordinate discourse-based knowledge restraints to an ontal basis of plurality as exposed in Deleuze's "Difference and repetition", which would make room for plurality (without the use of popperian conjectures or the narrowness of normal science) as would allow a loose restraint by pragmatic actualization of the "virtual" in science (Deleuze) and more specific restraints from Foucault's discourse views.
Can you see what I mean? Or am I making spurious relations?
If you wish to answer me my blog is at www.justifymytaste.blogspot.com - it's in portuguese, but you can post a comment anytime.

Omestes said...

Interesting, actually. After writing this I was thinking of using Rorty's sense of agreement as the crux to rectify Kuhn and Foucault. But I think that using Rorty would make the whole venture and progress of human science fall into the relativistic fallacy (i.e. everything is subjective, but this ontic statement), which leads to far more problems.

Kuhn could have a point, still, though ignoring all of science. The state of discourse or community view would influence what scientists run experiments on, a form of experimental selection bias which would in turn reinforce the discourse. But it seems inadiquate to explain large shifts.

It does seem that Foucault has the stronger system, doesn't it? On historical analysis it follows his more full-bodied view, that paradigms (epsitemes) are multi-disciplinary and much more far reaching than just the body of science. Newtonian physics can be seem as a surface phenomena of a larger shift (the Enlightenment), the same goes for the Einsteinian shift, a simular shift can be seen outside of science at the same time (in philosophy, art, and literature). Just analyzing science is seeming more and more short sighted.

The process seems almost Hegelian, as much as it pains me to say it. I'm becoming a fan of a headless Hegelian spirit of the world (meaning it isn't going anywhere, or following a strict dialectic of progress).

I admit that I am a novice when it comes to Deleuze. But it seems like a good approach to the problem.

Thank you for the comment.


maria trepp said...

For people who can read Dutch see the Foucault-debate on my blog

with a lionk to this blog concerning Foucault-Kuhn

Anonymous said...

There is a book chapter that attempts to combine the two into a 'Foukuhnian' view:

Warwick, A C, Kaiser, D, Conclusion: Kuhn, Foucault and the power of pedagogy, In: Kaiser, D, editor, Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, USA, The MIT Press, 2005, Pages: 393 - 410, ISBN: 0-2621-1288-4