The Ashtray (Or the Man Who Denied Reality)
|Subject||Philosophy of science, epistemology|
|Published||2018 (University of Chicago Press)|
The Ashtray (Or the Man Who Denied Reality) is a book by Errol Morris in which he criticizes the philosophy of Thomas Kuhn. In the book, Morris argues that Kuhn was a relativist and a philosophical idealist, contrasting his interpretation of Kuhn's views with his own epistemology, drawing on Hilary Putnam and Saul Kripke, which he describes as "investigative realism", based on the belief that there is an objective reality whilst rejecting naïve realism. Morris accepts that investigation of truth involves considerable effort, with no guarantee of reaching the absolute truth, and that knowledge can be attained "through reason, through observation, through investigation, through thought, through science".
In a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Philip Kitcher compared Morris' critique to Samuel Johnson's appeal to the stone regarding George Berkeley's belief in subjective idealism, stating that "Morris has no interest in considering what Kuhn might have had in mind", and rejecting his characterisation of Kuhn as a relativist and an irrealist.
In 1972, Morris met with Kuhn at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study, where Morris was a graduate student and Kuhn was his academic adviser, to discuss a paper Morris had written. The conversation grew increasingly heated as they disagreed regarding some fundamental ideas - specifically regarding James Clerk Maxwell's theory of displacement current, and the concept of incommensurability - and eventually Kuhn threw a cut glass ashtray full of cigarette butts. Following the incident Morris left Princeton. Morris uses the ashtray as a metaphor for the material reality that Morris believes Kuhn denied, as well what Morris views as Kuhn's intolerance of dissent from his theories.
- "The Ashtray: Errol Morris Reimagines Total World Philosophy in Overwhelming New Book - MovieMaker Magazine". MovieMaker Magazine. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- "The Ashtray Has Landed: The Case of Morris v. Kuhn - Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- "Errol Morris and Thomas Kuhn: "The Intentional Ashtray Throwing Incident"". APHELIS. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Miller, Laura (5 June 2018). "Errol Morris Refutes It Thus". Slate (magazine). Retrieved 5 June 2018.
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