Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn

Synopsis

Thomas Kuhn (1922-96) transformed the philosophy of science. His seminal 1962 work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" introduced the term 'paradigm shift' into the vernacular and remains a fundamental text in the study of the history and philosophy of science. This introduction to Kuhn's ideas covers the breadth of his philosophical work, situating "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" within Kuhn's wider thought and drawing attention to the development of his ideas over time. Kuhn's work is assessed within the context of other philosophies of science notably logical empiricism and recent developments in naturalized epistemology. The author argues that Kuhn's thinking betrays a residual commitment to many theses characteristic of the empiricists he set out to challenge. Kuhn's influence on the history and philosophy of science is assessed and where the field may be heading in the wake of Kuhn's ideas is explored.

Excerpt

In the first two-thirds of the twentieth century the philosophy of science was, alongside logic and the philosophy of mathematics, central to what we now call the “analytic” tradition in philosophy. For the logical positivists in particular, the distinction between philosophy of science and the rest of philosophy scarcely existed. Science was the paradigm of a posteriori knowledge, knowledge gained through the senses (logic and mathematics were paradigmatic of a priori knowledge, knowledge gained from pure reflection). Therefore, insofar as the central questions of philosophy were concerned with epistemology (the theory of knowledge), the philosophical understanding of science was essential to understanding how knowledge of the world was possible. Furthermore, just as science was regarded as paradigmatic of empirical knowledge, scientific language was correspondingly taken to be characteristic of any language used to talk about the world. And so philosophy of science remained central to the logical positivists, even when their concerns shifted from the explicitly epistemological to the seemingly new field of the philosophical analysis of language.

The philosophical position of the philosophy of science in the last third of the twentieth century was rather different. Its concerns were clearly distinct from those of core epistemology and the philosophy of language. For example, while the main preoccupation of orthodox epistemologists was the search for the proper definition of (personal) knowledge, philosophers of science ignored this altogether, being more concerned with the nature of change in theory preference among groups of scientists. More generally, philosophers of science now took it for granted that their problems and insights would come not from other parts of philosophy but rather from the history of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.