In my youth, every black turtleneck wearing undergraduate hoping to get laid carried around Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being“, pretending to be mature enough to understand its rather adult themes.  To separate himself from the herd, a clever but randy student might also have an artfully ink-stained and annotated copy of Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions“. He would pose around in coffee-shops and  project a mood of delicate ennui, a mood that could be lifted by an interesting girl who could give some meaning to his life, especially in the bedroom. But only a professional philosopher would have a copy of Kripke’s “Naming and Necessity“.

According to Errol Morris, a filmmaker who made  “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara”, the last book, while not a fundamental contribution to foreplay, is a fundamental contribution to the philosophy of science.  It is somewhat the antithesis of Kuhn’s theory.  So much so that Kuhn forbade Morris, then a philosophy student, from going to Kripke’s lectures.  It seems Morris and Kuhn had a difficult relationship.

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?’ ”

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.

And missed.

For that and more, see Morris’ essays in the NYT.  I am going to change my PhD supervision style now I know the norm.