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Mentioned: “Thinking in, with, across, and beyond cases with John Forrester”

The October 2020 issue of History of the Human Sciences is a special (double) issue dedicated to the memory of John Forrester (1949-2015). In their introduction, editors Chris Millard and Felicity Callard situated my contribution relative to their view of the whole:

Burman (2020) takes us on a journey, inserting Piaget in a chain of influence, from Forrester, to his work on Kuhn, and back through Piaget’s influence on Kuhn. Crucial in this account is the idea expressed by Forrester that Thomas Kuhn was an historian (as opposed to a philosopher) insofar as he (Kuhn) attempted ‘climbing into other people’s heads’ (ibid.: 130). Burman’s complex and archivally anchored account of what he calls ‘Forrester’s Kuhn-inspired and Piaget-haunted approach’ shows that a significant part of the architecture and logic of case-thinking should be attributed to Piaget (ibid.: 146). And Burman demonstrates this in ways that revisits some of Forrester’s own preoccupations:

1.Who is influencing whom and how – and what kind of evidence would one adduce to answer such a question (see Forrester, 1991)?

2.How does one best conceptualize and represent the ‘tangled but non-identical’ threads that cross the epistemological domains of history, philosophy, and psychoanalysis when thinking about cases (Burman, 2020: 130)?

3.How might thinking in cases constrain as well as open up thought?

If, for Burman, thinking in cases ‘constrains our analyses’, it also means that the sources of the insights that constitute ‘thinking in cases’ are obscured. This is something that Burman decisively rectifies here, bringing Piaget back to haunt Forrester’s work through Thomas Kuhn.

I also note with pleasure that essays by friends and colleagues Jacy Young and Kim Hajek were included in the issue as well. (All four are available open access.)


Burman, J. T. (2020). On Kuhn’s case, and Piaget’s: A critical two-sited hauntology (or, On impact without reference). History of the Human Sciences, 33(3-4), 129-159.

Millard, C. & Callard, F. (2020). Thinking in, with, across, and beyond cases with John Forrester. History of the Human Sciences, 33(3-4), 3-14.

Categories: Kuhn Mentioned Piaget Research

J. T. Burman

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