Philosophy Thomas S. Kuhn
by
K. Brad Wray
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0202

Introduction

Thomas Kuhn (b. 1922–d. 1996) was an American historian and philosopher of science. He completed a Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University. While a student at Harvard, Kuhn worked as a teaching assistant for James B. Conant, who was the president of Harvard University from 1933 to 1953 and who designed and taught the general education history of science courses at Harvard. This experience led Kuhn to become a historian of science. After Kuhn completed his Ph.D., he taught the history of science for a brief period at Harvard. Subsequently, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, then at Princeton University, ending his teaching career at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (cited under Kuhn’s Work), was a very influential and widely read book, selling more than a million copies. It had a profound impact on philosophy of science. It was part of the new historical turn in philosophy of science that looked to the history of science to better understand how science works. The book took on a life of its own, which, at times, caused Kuhn much dismay. Much of Kuhn’s career was spent refining and clarifying the position he initially developed in Structure. He especially sought to defend his account of science from the charge of relativism and to distinguish his view from the view of the Strong Programme in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK). Until the end of his life he was working on a book that would clarify his view, tentatively titled The Plurality of Worlds. Four years after his death, James Conant and John Haugeland edited a collection of papers by Kuhn that represent the direction his view was developing at the end of his life (see Kuhn 2000, cited under Kuhn’s Work). James Conant is the grandson of James B. Conant. Kuhn’s influence extended far beyond the philosophy of science, into the history of science, the sociology of science, and the broader culture. “Paradigm” and “paradigm shift,” two key concepts he popularized in Structure, are now used by the educated public and scientists as well.

Kuhn’s Work

Kuhn’s most famous and influential book is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Originally published in 1962, a fourth edition was published in 2012. It includes an introductory essay by Ian Hacking. In Structure, Kuhn presents a cyclical theory of scientific change. Scientific specialties move from periods of normal science into states of crises which end in revolutionary changes of theory. It was in Structure that Kuhn employed the notions of paradigms and incommensurability. There are two important collections of Kuhn’s essays: The Essential Tension, and The Road since Structure, published four years after Kuhn’s death. The latter collection contains a long and informative interview with Kuhn. Kuhn discusses his intellectual development, from his undergraduate training in physics at Harvard, to the later developments in his view in the 1980s and 1990s. Kuhn’s first book, The Copernican Revolution, is a study of astronomy from ancient times to Newton and grew out of his experience teaching the General Education history of science courses at Harvard. His other book-length contribution to the history of science is Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity: 1894–1912.

  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.

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    Provides a history of astronomy from ancient times to Newton’s synthesis of Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion, and Galileo’s work on the physics of free-falling bodies. Published before Kuhn developed the account of scientific change presented in Structure. Noticeably missing from this book is any reference to paradigms.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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    Part 1 contains some historical studies as well as some of Kuhn’s papers on the relationship between history of science and philosophy of science. Part 2 contains a series of philosophical papers, including “The Essential Tension: Tradition and Innovation in Scientific Research?” (pp. 225–240), “Second Thoughts on Paradigms” (pp. 293–319), and “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice” (pp. 320–339).

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity: 1894–1912. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

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    Illustrates Kuhn’s view of scientific discoveries. Contrary to what is widely believed, Kuhn claims that Planck did not intentionally initiate a revolution in physics. Rather, as others developed Planck’s ideas, a revolution was initiated, but it took some time to unfold.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Road since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970–1993, with an Autobiographical Interview. Edited by James Conant and John Haugeland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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    Contains Kuhn’s mature view of scientific revolutions and his view on specialization. Kuhn notes that some crises in science are resolved by dividing a field into two scientific specialties. Also includes an interview with Kuhn, in which he discusses his early intellectual development.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226458144.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents Kuhn’s cyclical view of the development of a scientific field, from a period of normal science, through a period of crisis, culminating in a scientific revolution, which leads to the beginning of a new period of normal science. Two concepts that figure importantly in the analyses are paradigms and incommensurability. (Fiftieth anniversary edition; introductory essay by Ian Hacking.)

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Secondary Literature

The classic secondary source on Kuhn is Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions. It concentrates on Structure and comes with an endorsement from Kuhn. Thomas Kuhn, is more accessible, but it is also more critical of Kuhn’s views. Bird argues that Kuhn’s key contribution was to naturalize the philosophy of science. Kuhn’s Evolutionary Social Epistemology, focuses on Kuhn’s later work, characterizing Kuhn’s view as an evolutionary social epistemology. For a short, accessible introduction to Kuhn, see On Kuhn. T. S. Kuhn and Social Science, provides an insightful presentation of Kuhn’s views, with special attention to Kuhn’s influence on and relevance to the sociology of science. Kuhn: Philosopher of Scientific Revolution, provides an alternative reading of Kuhn’s view, one that gives primacy to Kuhn’s historical studies. The most useful Internet source on Kuhn is Bird 2011, an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • Andersen, Hanne. On Kuhn. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001.

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    Provides a clear, short, basic introduction to Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Appropriate for undergraduates.

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  • Barnes, Barry. T. S. Kuhn and Social Science. London: Macmillan, 1982.

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    Provides an interpretation of Kuhn’s philosophy of science and discusses its relevance to the sociology of science. Provides a clear presentation of the Strong Programme’s finitism, its account of concept application. Though inspired by Kuhn’s view of concepts, finitism is a more radical form of nominalism.

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  • Bird, Alexander. Thomas Kuhn. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    Praises Kuhn for developing a naturalized philosophy of science, but criticizes Kuhn for remaining too close to positivism. Appropriate for undergraduate and graduate students.

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  • Bird, Alexander. “Thomas Kuhn.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2011.

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    Provides a thorough but short overview of Kuhn’s philosophy. Discusses his influence and criticism of Kuhn’s view. Briefly addresses Kuhn’s influence on the history of science and the social sciences.

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  • Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. Translated by Alex T. Levine, with a forward by Thomas S. Kuhn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

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    The definitive commentary on Structure. It is a detailed and careful analysis of the key concepts in Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Central to Hoyningen-Huene’s analysis is the distinction between two conceptions of the world: a subject-sided conception, and an object-sided conception, similar to Kant’s phenomenal world and noumenal world.

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  • Sharrock, Wes, and Rupert Read. Kuhn: Philosopher of Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2002.

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    Claims that Kuhn’s historical studies of science provide the key to understanding his philosophy of science.

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  • Wray, K. Brad. Kuhn’s Evolutionary Social Epistemology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511997990Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines aspects of Kuhn’s later work including his conception of scientific revolutions as lexical changes and his account of specialization. Discusses key Kuhnian concepts: scientific revolutions, paradigms, and incommensurability. Also discusses the role of the history of science in Kuhn’s philosophy of science.

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Collections

The most important collection of papers addressing Kuhn’s work is Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. This collection grew out of the famous encounter between Kuhn and Karl Popper in 1965 at a conference in London. The papers in this volume give a good sense of the early reactions to Structure. There have been a number of other important collections addressing Kuhn’s work, including Gutting 1980, a collection of articles by scholars from a variety of disciplines assessing the relevance of Kuhn’s concepts to a number of scientific fields. World Changes contains essays by leading philosophers and historians of science from a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in honor of Kuhn. Nickles 2003 is a more recent edited volume of critical reflections on Kuhn’s work, with contributions from scholars from a variety of fields. Occasionally, journals have produced special issues dedicated to Kuhn’s philosophy. Nersessian 1998 is a special issue of Configurations, and Reconsidering Thomas S. Kuhn and New Perspectives on Thomas Kuhn are two special issues dedicated to Kuhn’s philosophy of science. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a number of very good edited volumes on Kuhn were published, including Kindi and Arabatzis 2012, Devlin and Bokulich 2015, and Richards and Daston 2016.

  • Devlin, William J., and Alisa Bokulich, eds. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions—50 Years On. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2015.

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    Bird provides an analysis of Kuhn’s historiography of science. Tsou argues that Kuhn’s and Carnap’s views are fundamentally different in a number of important ways. Wray argues that Kuhn’s epistemology of science is a social epistemology.

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  • Gutting, Gary. Paradigms and Revolutions: Appraisals and Applications of Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1980.

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    Classic collection of papers by scholars in a number of fields, applying Kuhn’s concepts to specific disciplines and evaluating the relevance of Kuhn’s theory of science to specific fields.

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  • Horwich, Paul, ed. World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

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    Contains important critical appraisals of Kuhn’s work by a number of philosophers and historians, including Ernan McMullin and Ian Hacking. Also includes an insightful “Afterwords” by Kuhn, addressing his critics.

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  • Kindi, Vasso, and Theodore Arabatzis, eds. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    Kindi and Nickles both critically discuss the paradigm concept. Kuukkanen and Chang both discuss aspects of Kuhn’s account of revolutions in science.

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  • Lakatos, Imre, and Alan Musgrave, eds. Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    The most important papers in this volume are Popper’s attack on Kuhn’s notion of normal science; Margaret Masterman’s criticism of Kuhn’s use of the term “paradigm”; Lakatos’ paper, which compares Kuhn’s view with Popper’s view; and Kuhn’s own reflections on his critics.

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  • Nersessian, Nancy J., ed. Special Issue: Thomas S. Kuhn. Configurations 6.1 (Winter 1998).

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    Contains a number of articles on Kuhn’s philosophy, assessing the continuing relevance of his account of science and the value of the concepts and methods he made popular. Articles available online by subscription.

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  • Nickles, Thomas, ed. Thomas Kuhn. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Friedman examines Kuhn’s relationship to logical empiricism. Gutting examines the relationship between French philosophy of science and Kuhn’s view. Barnes examines Kuhn’s relevance to sociology of science. Nersessian, along with Barker, Chen, and Andersen, look at Kuhn’s philosophy in light of recent developments in cognitive science.

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  • Richards, Robert J., and Lorrainse Daston, eds. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

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    Reisch examines the influence of Cold War thinking on Kuhn as he wrote Structure. Kaiser examines the influence of psychology on Kuhn as well as the impact of Structure on psychology. Daston takes issue with Kuhn’s appeal to the notion of structure in writing Structure.

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  • Special Issue: New Perspectives on Thomas Kuhn. Perspectives on Science 18.3 (2010).

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    Contains papers on Kuhn’s epistemology of science and influences on his thinking about science. Articles available online by subscription.

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  • Special Issue: Reconsidering Thomas S. Kuhn. Perspectives on Science 9.4 (2001).

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    Contains papers on incommensurability and the relevance of the history of science to the philosophy of science. Articles available online by subscription.

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Paradigms

Kuhn’s view on paradigms changed as he aimed to correct misunderstandings caused by his loose use of the term in Structure. Ultimately, he came to characterize paradigms as scientific exemplars, concrete scientific accomplishments that guide scientists in subsequent research. The classic critical papers on Kuhn’s view of paradigms are Shapere 1964 and Masterman 1970. The period between 1965 and the early 1970s marks the time when Kuhn sought to regain control over the concept “paradigm.” One can trace the evolution of Kuhn’s understanding of the paradigm concept through the following papers: Kuhn 2012, Kuhn 1970, and Kuhn 1977. By the mid-1970s, Kuhn came to distinguish among the following: (i) paradigm as an exemplar that guides scientists in research; (ii) paradigm as theory; and (iii) paradigm as a disciplinary matrix—the complex of theory, methods, and goals that scientists working in a scientific specialty share. The history and evolution of the concept of paradigm have been examined in a number of papers, including Cedarbaum 1983 and Wray 2011. Hacking 2016 provides an insightful and fresh analysis of the paradigm concept. Rowbottom 2011 compares Kuhnian paradigms to the notion of a stance developed by van Fraassen.

  • Cedarbaum, Daniel Goldman. “Paradigms.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 14.3 (1983): 173–213.

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    Examines precursors to Kuhn, tracing the first use of the term “paradigm” to a German scientist working in the late 1700s. Notes uses of the term by the Vienna Circle and Wittgenstein as well. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hacking, Ian. “Paradigms.” In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. Edited by Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston, 96–112. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226317175.003.0005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares reasoning from paradigms to the sort of reasoning from examples that concerned Aristotle. Emphasizes that this sort of relational reasoning is obscure, despite the fact that it is quite commonplace in science.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Reflections on My Critics.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 231–278. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    This paper is reprinted in The Road since Structure (Kuhn 2000, cited under Scientific Revolutions), pp. 123–175. Explains the relationship between normal science and paradigms. Discusses how paradigms as exemplars guide scientists in the puzzle-solving activity of normal scientific research.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Second Thoughts on Paradigms.” In The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Edited by Thomas S. Kuhn, 293–319. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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    Originally published in 1974. Presents Kuhn’s accounts of concept learning and concept application. Includes a detailed analysis of a child learning to apply various bird concepts. Influenced the Strong Programme, leading to the development of its advocates’ finitist theory of concept application.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Postscript.” In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Edited by Thomas S. Kuhn, 173–208. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

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    Originally published in 1969. The postscript was added to the second edition of Structure. Attempts to clarify the relationship between paradigms and the research communities that use them. (Fiftieth anniversary edition; introductory essay by Ian Hacking.)

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  • Masterman, Margaret. “The Nature of a Paradigm.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 59–89. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    Identifies three broad but distinct ways in which Kuhn uses the term “paradigm.” Masterman was supportive of Kuhn’s project. This paper helped Kuhn see that even in sciences that have not yet achieved a normal research tradition, scientists work with paradigms.

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  • Rowbottom, Darrell. “Stances and Paradigms: A Reflection.” Synthese 178 (2011): 111–119.

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    Compares a Kuhnian paradigm to the notion of a stance, developed by van Fraassen. Focuses on the broad notion of paradigm, which Kuhn referred to as a disciplinary matrix.

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  • Shapere, Dudley. “Review of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Philosophical Review 73.3 (1964): 383–394.

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    An important early critical review of Structure. Focuses on the concept “paradigm,” arguing that the term is used in such a broad way that it offers little insight into the nature of science and scientific change. Available online by subscription.

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  • Wray, K. Brad. “Kuhn and the Discovery of Paradigms.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 41.3 (2011): 380–397.

    DOI: 10.1177/0048393109359778Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a systematic account of Kuhn’s use of the term “paradigm,” arguing that Kuhn’s discovery of the concept follows the developmental pattern Kuhn says many scientific discoveries follow. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Normal Science

Kuhn believed that most scientific work is rather uncritical and not concerned with testing theories. This work he called normal science. He compared normal scientific research to puzzle solving. Those working on normal science take the accepted theory for granted and merely aim to apply the theory to some hitherto-unsolved problem, working with the assumption that the accepted theory provides a correct description of reality. Some critics, though, thought that normal science as Kuhn describes it is dogmatic and thus contrary to the critical spirit of science. Karl Popper and others raised this concern at the London conference in 1965 (see Popper 1970). Kuhn’s paper and his reply to his critics at the conference are worth reading (see Kuhn 1970a, Kuhn 1970b). Worrall 2003, Fuller 2004, and Díez 2007 take up the dispute between Popper and Kuhn. Fuller regrets to say that Kuhn won the dispute, whereas Worrall believes that the two views are not really in conflict as they concern different issues. Díez, though, insists that Kuhn has the more accurate account of science. Rowbottom 2011 provides a novel perspective on the dispute between Popper and Kuhn, one that connects with recent work in social epistemology. Nickles 2003 provides a thorough analysis of Kuhn’s account of normal science. Goodwin 2013 argues that Kuhn provides insight into the sort of scientific controversies that arise in normal science. Andersen 2012 raises the concern that Kuhn’s account of normal science may not fit with the contemporary practices of interdisciplinary research.

  • Andersen, Hanne. “Scientific Concepts and Conceptual Change.” In Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited. Edited by Vasso Kindi and Theodore Arabatzis, 179–204. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    Raises two challenges for Kuhn’s account of normal science. Often scientists do not work in just one scientific specialty. And interdisciplinary research would seem to transcend disciplines in ways that are not captured by Kuhn’s account of normal science.

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  • Díez, Jose. “Falsificationism and the Structure of Theories: The Popper-Kuhn Controversy About the Rationality of Normal Science.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (2007): 543–554.

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    Argues that at the root of the dispute between Kuhn and Popper is a disagreement about the nature of scientific theories. Argues that Kuhn has the correct view about the nature of theories. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Fuller, Steve. Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    Argues that Popper and Kuhn had radically different conceptions of science. Popper’s is socially progressive and Kuhn’s is regressive. Though Kuhn triumphed, Fuller believes Popper has the proper view.

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  • Goodwin, William. “Structure and Scientific Controversies.” Topoi 32 (2013): 101–110.

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    Argues that Kuhn provides important insight into nonrevolutionary scientific controversies, the sort of controversies that figure in normal science.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Logic of Scientific Discovery or Psychology of Research.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 1–22. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970a.

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    This paper is reprinted in The Essential Tension (cited under Kuhn’s Work), pp. 266–292. Kuhn compares his own view to Popper’s view, emphasizing the similarities, but argues that theories cannot be falsified in a straightforward manner.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Reflections on My Critics.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 231–278. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970b.

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    This paper is also reprinted in The Road since Structure (Kuhn 2000, cited under Kuhn’s Work), pp. 123–175. Addresses the criticism raised by Popper 1970 and others at the London conference where Kuhn’s notion of normal science came under attack.

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  • Nickles, Thomas. “Normal Science: From Logic to Case-Based Reasoning.” In Thomas Kuhn. Edited by Thomas Nickles, 142–177. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Provides a thorough analysis of Kuhn’s account of normal science. Notes Kuhn’s emphasis on case-based and model-based reasoning, in contrast to logical reasoning.

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  • Popper, Karl. “Normal Science and Its Dangers.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 51–58. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    Argues that the normal scientist as described by Kuhn is apt to be dogmatic, and thus an impediment to scientific progress.

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  • Rowbottom, Darrell P. “Kuhn vs. Popper on Criticism and Dogmatism in Science: A Resolution at the Group Level.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2011): 117–124.

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    Argues that Popper’s critical rationalism can be reconciled with Kuhn’s dogmatic normal science. The reconciliation takes place at the level of the research community. Different scientists can take different strategies in their research, some being more dogmatic and conservative than others, and some more critical than others.

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  • Worrall, John. “Normal Science and Dogmatism, Paradigms and Progress: Kuhn ‘Versus’ Popper and Lakatos.” In Thomas Kuhn. Edited by Thomas Nickles, 65–100. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Argues that Kuhn’s and Popper’s views can be reconciled. Kuhn is principally concerned with the context of discovery, whereas Popper is exclusively concerned with the context of justification.

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Incommensurability

Kuhn described competing paradigms as incommensurable. This was interpreted to mean a number of different things. Some uncharitable critics claimed that Kuhn believed that competing theories could not be compared. That is certainly not Kuhn’s view, though he does think that evaluating competing theories is not always a straightforward matter. In appealing to the notion of incommensurability Kuhn sought to draw attention to two facts: (i) that the meaning of key terms often changes when there is a change of theory, and (ii) that competing theories do not address the same problems. The former type of incommensurability has come to be called meaning or semantic incommensurability. Kuhn gives the example of the term “mass” changing its meaning with the change from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian physics. The latter type of incommensurability is called topic incommensurability. Because two competing theories do not address exactly the same set of problems, when scientists disagree about which problems are most important they may disagree about which of the theories is superior. Thus, Kuhn believed that rational scientists can disagree about which of two competing theories is superior. Recently, there has been a flurry of scholarship on the concept of incommensurability, usually taking as its starting point Kuhn’s use of the term. Hoyningen-Huene 1990 argues that understanding Kuhn’s view on incommensurability is the key to understanding Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Sankey and Hoyningen-Huene 2001 provides an accessible but thorough account of the recent debates about incommensurability in science. Much of the recent literature on incommensurability is concerned with meaning incommensurability (see, for example, Sankey 1993). Written by a historian of science, Biagioli 1990 offers an alternative perspective on incommensurability. Biagioli examines the incommensurability between scientific specialties. Kuhn found Biagioli’s analysis insightful and emphasized the importance of this form of incommensurability in later work. Bird 2008 discusses methodological and other forms of incommensurability. Brown 2005 examines Kuhn’s mature account of incommensurability. Andersen, et al. 2006 argues that there are grades of incommensurability and that incommensurability need not threaten the rationality of theory change. Demir 2008 distinguishes between the sort of incommensurability that scientists experience when they are confronted with two competing theories and the incommensurability that historians of science experience when they attempt to understand scientific theories from the past. Chang 2012 argues for the importance of methodological incommensurability and insists that semantic incommensurability is relatively unimportant. Sankey 2018 raises doubts about the notion of incommensurability, arguing that no cases of incommensurability have been identified as of yet.

  • Andersen, Hanne, Peter Barker, and Xiang Chen. The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Argues that there are grades of incommensurability, as there are grades of scientific revolutions. Argues that revolutionary changes do not pose a threat to the rationality of science.

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  • Biagioli, Mario. “The Anthropology of Incommensurability.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21.2 (1990): 183–209.

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    Notes the incommensurability between scientific specialties, a feature Kuhn focused on in later writings. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Bird, Alexander. “Incommensurability Naturalized.” In Rethinking Scientific Change and Theory Comparison: Stabilities, Ruptures, Incommensurabilities? Edited by Lena Soler, Howard Sankey, and Paul Hoyningen-Huene, 21–39. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6279-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn’s earlier work on incommensurability was more insightful than his later work, which focused on meaning incommensurability. Claims that incommensurability results when scientists have different habits of mind, different ways of seeing phenomena.

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  • Brown, Harold I. “Incommensurability Reconsidered.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (2005): 149–169.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2004.12.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Kuhn’s mature view of incommensurability. Argues that incommensurability no longer poses a threat to the rationality of theory change, but also argues that Kuhn’s new conception of incommensurability is incompatible with certain forms of realism. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Chang, Hasok. “Incommensurability: Revisiting the Chemical Revolution.” In Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited. Edited by Vasso Kindi and Theodore Arabatzis, 153–176. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    Distinguishes between semantic incommensurability and methodological incommensurability. Argues that only the latter is important. Because different theories address different problems, scientists cannot always agree about which of the two competing theories is superior.

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  • Demir, Ipek. “Incommensurabilities in the Work of Thomas Kuhn.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39.1 (2008): 133–142.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2007.11.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Distinguishes between the historian’s experience of trying to understand a scientific theory from the past, like Kuhn’s experience with Aristotle’s physics, and a scientist’s experience with a new theory that competes with the one she currently accepts. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. “Kuhn’s Conception of Incommensurability.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21.3 (1990): 481–492.

    DOI: 10.1016/0039-3681(90)90006-TSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that understanding Kuhn’s conception of incommensurability is key to understanding his philosophy of science. Discusses the evolution of Kuhn’s views on incommensurability, and a challenge that Kuhn’s view faces. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sankey, Howard. “Kuhn’s Changing Conception of Incommensurability.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44.4 (1993): 759–774.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjps/44.4.759Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the changes in Kuhn’s conception of incommensurability, from (i) an early focus on methodological incommensurability, through (ii) a middle period that focused on meaning incommensurability, to (iii) a later phase that focuses on local failures of translation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sankey, Howard. “The Demise of the Incommensurability Thesis.” In The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? Edited by Moti Mizrahi, 75–91. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

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    Argues that there has not yet been a case of incommensurability identified, and the problems associated with the notion are not genuine threats.

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  • Sankey, Howard, and Paul Hoyningen-Huene. “Introduction.” In Incommensurability and Related Matters. Edited by Paul Hoyningen-Huene and Howard Sankey, vii–xxxiv. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 2001.

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    An up-to-date and thorough summary of the various debates surrounding the notion of incommensurability. Attempts to disentangle the various issues that are implicated in analyses and critical discussions of incommensurability in science.

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Scientific Revolutions

According to Kuhn, periods of normal science are interrupted by scientific revolutions. A revolution involves the replacement of a long-accepted theory by a new alternative theory. The new theory is accepted because it can address anomalies that the older theory was unable to address. The new theory and the older theory it replaced are incommensurable. They do not classify the phenomena in the same way, nor do they address the same problems. Revolutionary changes of theory as Kuhn characterizes them seem to preclude a straightforward account of scientific progress according to which each change of theory brings us closer to the truth. Rather, Kuhn insisted that the growth of scientific knowledge was noncumulative. With revolutionary changes of theory there was “Kuhn-loss,” as it came to be called. Many of Kuhn’s critics took issue with this aspect of his account of scientific change. Both McMullin 1993 and Laudan 1984 claim that changes in theory happen in a more piecemeal fashion than Kuhn’s account of theory change suggests. Kline 1988 examines Kuhn’s claim that the evaluation of theories is comparative. Kline believes that Kuhn’s claim is not supported by the historical record. Many have examined specific changes of theory in the history of science with the aim of evaluating Kuhn’s account of theory change. Marx and Bornmann 2010 and Hoyningen-Huene 2008 provide analyses of two cases of theory change, the Big Bang theory and the revolution in chemistry, respectively. Blumenthal 2013 raises challenges for Hoyningen-Huene’s account of the so-called chemical revolution associated with Lavoisier. There have also been studies of changes of theory in psychology, economics, biology, and geology. Kuhn clarified his view of scientific revolutions in his later work. His paper “The Road since Structure” provides the clearest explication of his revised view (see Kuhn 2000). There, Kuhn characterizes scientific revolutions as changes to the accepted scientific lexicon that violate the no-overlap principle. The no-overlap principle requires that the extension of any two kind terms, terms like “dolphins” and “mammals,” must be related either exclusively or inclusively; there can be no partial overlap between the members of two classes or kinds. Revolutions occur when a new scientific lexicon or taxonomy is introduced that violates this restriction. Wray 2011 provides an exposition and defense of Kuhn’s revised account of scientific revolutions, where Kuhn characterizes a revolution as involving a lexical change that violates the no-overlap principle. Wray 2018 provides an analysis of a hitherto unnoticed revolution in chemistry in terms of Kuhn’s notion of revolutions as lexical changes.

  • Blumenthal, Geoffrey. “Kuhn and the Chemical Revolution: A Re-assessment.” Foundations of Chemistry 15.1 (2013): 93–101.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10698-011-9129-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the alleged scientific revolution in 18th-century chemistry associated with Lavoisier does not fit Kuhn’s model of scientific revolutions, contrary to what Hoyningen-Huene argues.

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  • Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. “Thomas Kuhn and the Chemical Revolution.” Foundations of Chemistry 10 (2008): 101–115.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10698-008-9044-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the chemical revolution did in fact follow the pattern of theory change described by Kuhn. Also argues that the chemical revolution was one of the few cases from the history of science from which Kuhn developed his view. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Kline, A. David. “On the Intertheoretic Competition Hypothesis.” Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1 (1988): 33–40.

    DOI: 10.1086/psaprocbienmeetp.1988.1.192966Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn is mistaken to claim that (1) theory evaluation is always comparative and (2) scientists do not reject a theory until they have an alternative theory to take its place. Available online by subscription.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “The Road since Structure.” In The Road since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970–1993, with an Autobiographical Interview. Edited by James Conant and John Haugeland, 90–104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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    Presents Kuhn’s mature view of scientific revolutions. Revolutions are characterized as lexical changes that violate the no-overlap principle.

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  • Laudan, Larry. Science and Values: The Aims of Science and Their Role in Scientific Debate. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

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    Argues that Kuhn’s holistic theory of scientific change is not supported by the history of science. Changes of theory happen in a more piecemeal fashion than Kuhn suggests.

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  • Marx, Werner, and Lutz Bornmann. “How Accurately Does Thomas Kuhn’s Model of Paradigm Change Describe the Transition from the Static View of the Universe to the Big Bang Theory in Cosmology? A Historical Reconstruction and Citation Analysis.” Scientometrics 84 (2010): 441–464.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11192-009-0107-xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the transition to the Big Bang theory does not follow the pattern of theory change described by Kuhn. Instead, the revolution happened in a piecemeal fashion. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • McMullin, E. “Rationality and Paradigm Change in Science.” In World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science. Edited by Paul Horwich, 55–78. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

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    Argues that there is far more continuity through changes of theory than Kuhn’s account of scientific revolutions suggests. Argues that scientific revolutions differ in depth from shallow revolutions, which pose no threat to the rationality of science, to deeper revolutions, which are in fact very rare.

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  • Wray, K. Brad. Kuhn’s Evolutionary Social Epistemology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511997990Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 1 presents Kuhn’s final statement on scientific revolutions, where revolutions are characterized as lexical changes that violate the no-overlap principle. Chapter 2 examines a particular case of theory change, the change in astronomy from the Ptolemaic theory accepted in the 1500s to the Copernican theory.

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  • Wray, K. Brad. “The Atomic Number Revolution in Chemistry: A Kuhnian Analysis.” Foundations of Chemistry 20.3 (2018): 209–217.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10698-017-9303-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that there was a revolutionary change of theory in chemistry when chemists classified chemical elements according to their atomic number, rather than their atomic weight. Though the periodic table did not change in significant ways, chemists’ conceptual understanding changed profoundly.

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Rationality and Relativism

Kuhn’s discussions of incommensurability and scientific revolutions raised concerns about the rationality and progress of science. His claim that after a revolution, scientists work in a different world led many to believe Kuhn endorses relativism. Lakatos 1970, for example, claims Kuhn makes the process of theory change look irrational. It becomes a matter of mob psychology. Scheffler 1967 also interpreted Kuhn this way. But Kuhn never doubted the rationality of science. What he questioned was the traditional conception of scientific rationality, which he believed assumed that theory choice could be reduced to an algorithm. Some critics were never satisfied with Kuhn’s attempts to address the charge of relativism. Laudan 1984 expresses the concerns of many in a clear and forceful manner, arguing that if Kuhn’s holistic account of theory change were correct, competing theories could not be rationally evaluated. Laudan believes Kuhn’s account cannot be reconciled with the historical record. Changes of theory happen in a more piecemeal fashion than Kuhn’s holism implies. Doppelt 1978 provides a defense of Kuhn’s view. Doppelt believes that Kuhn is a relativist by virtue of the fact that he believes different theories address different problems. Doppelt does not believe that this sort of relativism poses a threat to the rationality of science, however. Carrier 2008 argues that Kuhn is responsible for drawing our attention to a hitherto-neglected form of underdetermination. Standards of evaluation underdetermine theory choice. Rather than threatening the rationality of science, Carrier claims this form of underdetermination is an asset. Andersen, et al. 2006 provides an analysis of conceptual change that shows how such changes can be rationally defended. They argue that Kuhn’s account of concept learning is supported by recent research in cognitive science. Ghins 2003 examines how Kuhn’s response to the new-world problem changes as his view develops. In Structure, Kuhn claims that scientists seem to work in different worlds after they experience a revolutionary change of theory. These remarks raise serious concerns about whether scientists can claim to have knowledge of the real world. Kuhn attempted to address this problem in different ways. Ghins does not believe that Kuhn provides an acceptable response. Kuhn believed one of the reasons crises are resolved in a rational manner was that scientific research communities in crisis encourage scientists to pursue different theories, thus ensuring there is an effective division of cognitive labor. This dimension of Kuhn’s view is discussed in D’Agostino 2004. Friedman 2001 argues that Kuhn has left us with the post-Kuhnian predicament, which suggests that the norms of rationality vary from culture to culture.

  • Andersen, Hanne, Peter Barker, and Xiang Chen. The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that revolutionary changes of theory can be rationally defended. Argues that Kuhn’s account of concept learning is supported by recent research in cognitive science.

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  • Carrier, Martin. “The Aim and Structure of Methodological Theory.” In Rethinking Scientific Change and Theory Comparison: Stabilities, Ruptures, Incommensurabilities? Edited by Lena Soler, Howard Sankey, and Paul Hoyningen-Huene, 273–290. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6279-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn identified an important neglected form of underdetermination. The standards by which scientists evaluate competing theories underdetermines theory choice. But Kuhn believed this was an asset, ensuring that competing theories are developed until scientists can determine which theory is epistemically superior.

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  • D’Agostino, Fred. “Kuhn’s Risk-Spreading Argument and the Organization of Scientific Communities.” Episteme 1.3 (2004): 201–209.

    DOI: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.3.201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defends Kuhn’s claim that the values of individual scientists play a crucial role in ensuring that competing hypotheses are developed when the available data underdetermines theory choice in a research community. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Doppelt, Gerald. “Kuhn’s Epistemological Relativism: An Interpretation and Defense.” Inquiry 21.1 (1978): 33–86.

    DOI: 10.1080/00201747808601839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn is a relativist, but not in a way that his critics suggest or a way that threatens science. Kuhn believes that competing theories have incommensurable standards and do not address the same problems. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Friedman, Michael. Dynamics of Reason. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 2001.

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    Argues that Kuhn left us in a post-Kuhnian predicament according to which the standards of rationality vary from culture to culture. Argues that the Strong Programme in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge is a skeptical response to this predicament.

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  • Ghins, Michel. “Thomas Kuhn on the Existence of the World.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17.3 (2003): 265–279.

    DOI: 10.1080/0269859032000169460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Kuhn’s changing responses to the concern that his view precludes the possibility of scientists having knowledge of the external world. Finds both Kuhn’s original response and his later response to this problem unsatisfactory. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Lakatos, Imre. “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes.” In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. Vol. 4. Edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, 91–196. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    Sections 1 and 4 argue that Kuhn’s view makes theory change an irrational process. Uses Kuhn and Popper as foils for Lakatos’ own theory of scientific rationality.

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  • Laudan, Larry. Science and Values: The Aims of Science and Their Role in Scientific Debate. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

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    Argues that on the standard reading of Kuhn’s view, changes of theory would be irrational. Argues that the history of science suggests that the standard reading gives us a false picture of science.

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  • Scheffler, Israel. Science and Subjectivity. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1967.

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    Influential early critical interpretation of Kuhn’s Structure. Argues that Kuhn believes that incommensurability creates insurmountable barriers between advocates of competing theories.

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The History of Science

Kuhn’s most important historical works are Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity: 1894–1912 (cited under Kuhn’s Work), The Copernican Revolution (cited under Kuhn’s Work), and the various historical papers in Part 1 of The Essential Tension (cited under Kuhn’s Work. Some of the essays in the latter work are concerned with the methodological issue of the relationship between the history of science and the philosophy of science. Kuhn always regarded the history of science and the philosophy of science as distinct and autonomous fields, though he did believe that philosophers could learn about the nature of science and scientific knowledge from a study of the history of science. Kuhn 1977, a paper entitled “The Relations between the History and the Philosophy of Science,” provides an excellent introduction to his views on this topic. Numerous philosophers have taken up this issue of how philosophers could use the history of science in their efforts to develop an adequate philosophy of science. Radder 1997 takes issue with the claim that the history of science could be used to test philosophical claims about science. Kindi 2005 argues that Kuhn did not think that we could discover generalizations about the nature of science on the basis of a survey of historical cases. Mladenović 2007 traces developments in Kuhn’s views about the relevance of the history of science to the philosophy of science. Burian 2001 and Pitt 2001 present competing accounts of the value of case studies for the philosophy of science; Pitt is skeptical about their value, and Burian defends the use of case studies. Brush 2000, by a historian of science, examines the impact of Kuhn’s work on the history of science. Surprisingly, Kuhn had little impact on that field. Galison 2016 and Daston 2016 each provide insightful reflections on the impact of Structure on the history of science. Bird 2015 provides an account of Kuhn’s use of the history of science as a means to develop a new philosophy of science.

  • Bird, Alexander. “Kuhn and the Historiography of Science.” In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions—50 Years On. Edited by William J. Devlin and Alisa Bokulich, 23–38. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2015.

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    Argues that Kuhn’s appeal to the history of science is directed against the logical empiricists’ account of science. Kuhn takes issue with their normative prescriptions as well as their descriptive account of how science works.

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  • Brush, Stephen G. “Thomas Kuhn as a Historian of Science.” Science & Education 9 (2000): 39–58.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008761217221Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the influence of Kuhn’s historical work on the history of science. Finds that Kuhn had little lasting impact on the field, as internalist histories of science became less popular with the rise of social histories of science. Argues that scientists generally did not accept Kuhn’s claim that Planck did not introduce quantum discontinuity in 1900. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Burian, Richard M. “The Dilemma of Case Studies Resolved: The Virtues of Using Case Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.” Perspectives on Science 9.4 (2001): 383–404.

    DOI: 10.1162/106361401760375794Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that case studies can lead us to ask new questions and see aspects of scientific practice that otherwise elude us. Addresses Pitt 2001. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Daston, Lorraine. “History of Science without Structure.” In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. Edited by Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston, 115–132. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226317175.003.0006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the notion of “structure” that figures in Kuhn’s analysis has no place in contemporary historical studies of science. Though Structure provided a blueprint for the professionalization of the history of science, the book does not meet contemporary standards of historical scholarship.

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  • Galison, Peter. “Practice All the Way Down.” In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. Edited by Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston, 42–69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226317175.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Structure provides an obsolete view of science, one especially unfit to make sense of the sort of collaborative research conducted in particle physics at institutions like the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

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  • Kindi, Vasso P. “The Relation of History of Science to Philosophy of Science in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Kuhn’s Later Philosophical Work.” Perspectives on Science 13.4 (2005): 495–530.

    DOI: 10.1162/106361405775466117Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn appeals to the historical record as a means to undermine various essentialist claims philosophers make about science. Contrary to what some claim, Kuhn does not aim to generalize from a survey of historical cases. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “The Relations between the History and the Philosophy of Science.” In The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Edited by Thomas S. Kuhn, 3–20. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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    Argues that history of science and philosophy of science are autonomous fields, concerned with different problems and employing different methods. Also discusses Kuhn’s own experiences with trying to teach across disciplinary lines.

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  • Mladenović, Bojana. “‘Muckraking in History’: The Role of History of Science in Kuhn’s Philosophy.” Perspectives on Science 15.3 (2007): 261–294.

    DOI: 10.1162/posc.2007.15.3.261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the changes in Kuhn’s view about the relationship between the history of science and the philosophy of science. Notes a significant change in Kuhn’s later work. Kuhn came to believe that the key insight that philosophers can gain from the history of science is a historical perspective. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Pitt, Joseph C. “The Dilemma of Case Studies: Toward a Heraclitian Philosophy of Science.” Perspectives on Science 9.4 (2001): 373–382.

    DOI: 10.1162/106361401760375785Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that case studies cannot serve the goals of philosophers, for philosophers are not warranted in making generalizations about science from a few cases. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Radder, Hans. “Philosophy and History of Science: Beyond the Kuhnian Paradigm.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 28.4 (1997): 633–655.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0039-3681(97)00015-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attacks Kuhn’s view of the relationship between the history of science and the philosophy of science. Criticizes the claim that the history of science can serve the philosophy of science, providing data to test philosophical claims about science. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Sociology of Science and Science Studies

Kuhn had a profound impact on developments in the sociology of science, especially the Strong Programme in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK). Barnes, et al. 1996 provides a clear and comprehensive presentation of the views of the Strong Programme; chapter 3 presents the Strong Programme’s finitist account of concept application, which is inspired by Kuhn’s account of concept application. One of the most creative applications and extensions of Kuhn’s work by a sociologist is Brannigan 1981, The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries. Kuhn was disappointed at the way sociologists built on his view. His criticism of the Strong Programme changed as the Strong Programme evolved. Kuhn’s “Reflections on Receiving the John Desmond Bernal Award” was written when he was honored by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) (see Kuhn 1983). At that time, Kuhn argued that sociological studies of science focused on the wrong sorts of interests. These studies focus on economic and social interests. Kuhn, though, believed that scientists were moved by epistemic interests. Kuhn’s most developed response to the Strong Programme’s appropriation of his view is in his paper “The Trouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science” (Kuhn 2000). Here, Kuhn argues that the Strong Programme has failed to explain what role nature plays in science. Many sociologists were dismayed at the way Kuhn’s view developed, as Kuhn sought to address critics and to distinguish his own view from the views of the Strong Programme. Klein, et al. 1979 and Pinch 1997 suggest that, faced with criticism, Kuhn disavowed his most contentious and interesting claims. These are the claims, though, that had the most lasting impact on developments in the sociology of science. Hoyningen-Huene 1992 examines Kuhn’s views on the relationship between history of science, sociology of science, and philosophy of science. Nola 2000, by a philosopher, believes that Kuhn is correct to insist that his view is distinct from the view of the Strong Programme. Nola believes that Kuhn had philosophical aims in view, unlike sociologists of science. Bird 2012 defends a similar view, insisting on distinguishing between Kuhn’s project and the project of the Strong Programme. Wray 2017 provides a summary of the variety of ways in which Kuhn influenced the social sciences.

  • Barnes, Barry, David Bloor, and John Henry. Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

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    Presents the view of the Strong Programme, including its finitist account of concept application.

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  • Bird, Alexander. “Kuhn, Naturalism, and the Social Study of Science.” In Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited. Edited by Vasso Kindi and Theodore Arabatzis, 205–230. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    Argues that though both Kuhn and the Strong Programme are interested in understanding the social dimensions of science, their views differ fundamentally. Kuhn is an internalist, interested in the social structure of science only insofar as it explains how scientists are able to achieve their epistemic goals, not in how nonscientific values influence science.

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  • Brannigan, Augustine. The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

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    Develops an account of scientific discovery that builds on Kuhn’s account. Emphasizes the social dimensions of the discovery process in science. Includes a detailed case study of Mendel’s discovery.

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  • Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. “The Interrelations between the Philosophy, History and Sociology of Science in Thomas Kuhn’s Theory of Scientific Development.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43.4 (1992): 487–501.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjps/43.4.487Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Kuhn’s views on the complex relations between philosophy of science, history of science, and sociology of science. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Klein, Martin J., Abner Shimony, and Trevor J. Pinch. “Paradigm Lost? A Review Symposium.” Isis 70 (1979): 437–440.

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    Criticizes the way Kuhn has responded to critics, noting that he retracts many of his most provocative and contentious claims. Concerned that Kuhn reinforces the old division of labor between sociologists of science and philosophers of science. Sees the real value in Kuhn’s work in his focus on scientific practice. Available online by subscription.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “Reflections on Receiving the John Desmond Bernal Award.” 4S Review 1.4 (1983): 26–30.

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    Argues that the Strong Programme’s focus on economic and social interests is misguided. Advocates an internalist approach to understanding science, focusing on scientists’ epistemic interests. Available online by subscription.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “The Trouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science.” In The Road since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970–1993, with an Autobiographical Interview. Edited by James Conant and John Haugeland, 105–120. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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    Presents Kuhn’s view on the historical philosophy of science and the sociology of science that developed in its wake. Argues that it is unclear what role nature plays in fixing beliefs in sociological accounts of science.

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  • Nola, Robert. “Saving Kuhn from the Sociologists of Science.” Science & Education 9 (2000): 77–90.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008780223240Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn’s aims are different from the aims of the Strong Programme. Kuhn’s aims are more traditionally philosophical. However, also argues that Kuhn’s position is ultimately unacceptable. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Pinch, Trevor J. “Kuhn―The Conservative and Radical Interpretations: Are Some Mertonians ‘Kuhnians’ and Some Kuhnians ‘Mertonians’?” Social Studies of Science 27.3 (1997): 465–482.

    DOI: 10.1177/030631297027003004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Notes that there are two interpretations of Kuhn. The conservative interpretation focuses on the incommensurabilities between competing paradigms. The radical interpretation gave rise to the Strong Programme’s focus on scientific practice. Available online by subscription.

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  • Wray, K. Brad. “Kuhn’s Influence on the Social Sciences.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science. Edited by Lee McIntyre and Alex Rosenberg, 65–75. London: Routledge, 2017.

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    Provides a thorough account of the influences Kuhn had on the various social sciences, noting the enthusiasm on the part of social scientists for Kuhn’s paradigm concept.

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Kuhn and Logical Positivism

There is growing interest in the relationship between Kuhn’s work and the work of the logical positivists. Some claim that Kuhn killed logical positivism, though Popper insisted on his own responsibility for the death of positivism. Those interested in the relationship between Kuhn’s work and the work of the logical positivists should read Reisch 1991, Friedman 2003, and Richardson 2007. There is an ongoing debate about the relationship between Kuhn’s view and Rudolf Carnap’s view. This topic has attracted the attention of philosophers, in large part because Carnap was the editor that Kuhn dealt with when he published Structure in the logical positivists’ International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. Some argue that there are important similarities between Kuhn’s view and Carnap’s philosophy as it had developed in the late 1950s, but others note that logical positivism is one of the key targets in Structure. The following papers address this topic: Irzik and Grünberg 1995, Pinto de Oliveira 2007, and Uebel 2011. Tsou 2015 takes stock of the debate of the influence of Carnap on Kuhn and argues that their philosophies are fundamentally different. Friedman 2012 compares the views of Kuhn and Carnap with special attention to the influence of Kant and neo-Kantians.

  • Friedman, Michael. “Kuhn and Logical Empiricism.” In Thomas Kuhn. Edited by Thomas Nickles, 19–44. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Reviews similarities between Kuhn’s view and logical positivism. Argues that Kuhn rightly draws attention to the importance of the history of science to the philosophy of science. Argues that historicizing the philosophy of science also leads to the threat of relativism, a dominant theme in post-Kuhnian studies of science.

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  • Friedman, Michael. “Kuhn and Philosophy.” Modern Intellectual History 9.1 (2012): 77–88.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1479244311000485Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares the views of Kuhn and Carnap with special attention to the influences of Kant and the neo-Kantians, especially Cassirer and Meyerson.

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  • Irzik, Gürol, and Teo Grünberg. “Carnap and Kuhn: Arch Enemies or Close Allies?” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (1995): 285–307.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjps/46.3.285Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that there are a number of significant similarities between Carnap’s view and Kuhn’s view. Most importantly, both are conventionalists, of sorts. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Pinto de Oliveira, J. C. “Carnap, Kuhn, and Revisionism: On the Publication of Structure in Encyclopedia.” Journal for General Philosophy of Science 38 (2007): 147–157.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10838-007-9034-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the similarities between Kuhn’s view and Carnap’s have been exaggerated, and that Carnap took Kuhn to be making a contribution to the history of science, not the philosophy of science. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Reisch, George A. “Did Kuhn Kill Logical Empiricism?” Philosophy of Science 58.2 (1991): 264–277.

    DOI: 10.1086/289615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn is not responsible for killing logical positivism, nor was his work perceived as a threat by the leading positivists. Explores similarities between Kuhn’s work and Carnap’s work, and notes Carnap’s enthusiasm for Structure. Available online by subscription.

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  • Richardson, Alan. “‘The Sort of Everyday Image of Logical Positivism’: Thomas Kuhn and the Decline of Logical Empiricist Philosophy of Science.” In The Cambridge Companion to Logical Empiricism. Edited by Alan Richardson and Thomas Uebel, 346–369. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521791782.015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the positivist view that Kuhn attacks was outdated. Kuhn was unaware of Carnap’s position as it had developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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  • Tsou, Jonathan. “Reconsidering the Carnap-Kuhn Connection.” In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions—50 Years On. Edited by William J. Devlin and Alisa Bokulich, 51–69. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2015.

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    Argues that the similarities between Carnap’s and Kuhn’s views have been greatly exaggerated. Insists that they differ fundamentally in a number of very significant respects, including their views on theory-choice and scientific revolutions.

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  • Uebel, Thomas. “Carnap and Kuhn: On the Relation Between the Logic of Science and the History of Science.” Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42 (2011): 129–140.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10838-011-9154-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defends the claim that Carnap’s and Kuhn’s philosophies of science are compatible, contrary to what Pinto de Oliveira 2007 claims. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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The Development of Kuhn’s View

There is not yet an authoritative biography of Kuhn. Kuhn 2000 provides some insight into what sources and thinkers influenced him as he developed his view in an extended interview conducted near the end of his life. Some of the more insightful sources on the development of Kuhn’s view were written as obituaries for academic journals. Heilbron 1998 provides an account written from the perspective of a historian and former student of Kuhn, published in Isis, the leading journal in the history of science. Fuller 2000 provides a rather contested account of the development and effects of Kuhn’s philosophical views. Fuller focuses on the larger cultural impact of Structure. Swerdlow 2004 provides some insightful background into the writing of The Copernican Revolution, including tracing the influence of James B. Conant on Kuhn’s thought. Forrester 2007 offers an insightful analysis of the influence of psychoanalysis on Kuhn’s thinking and method of studying the history of science. Reisch 2016 and Kaiser 2016 argue that Kuhn was profoundly influenced by developments in psychology as he wrote Structure, though their analyses differ with respect to the role and impact they attribute to psychology. Wray 2011 also discusses the development of certain aspects of Kuhn’s view, though his focus is on the latter part of Kuhn’s career, where Kuhn presents his revised views on scientific revolutions and paradigms, and where specialization figures more importantly. Hufbauer 2012 provides a comprehensive account of Kuhn’s education and early career, from 1940 to 1958. Wray 2016 argues that James B. Conant, Kuhn’s mentor at Harvard, provided Kuhn with many of the concepts that figure in Structure.

Miscellaneous Themes

Kuhn made significant contributions to a variety of topics in the philosophy of science, including the nature of scientific discovery and the role of thought experiments in science. Philosophers of science have traditionally neglected scientific discovery because it was commonly believed that there was no logic of scientific discovery, only a logic of confirmation. Kuhn, though, developed an influential account of scientific discovery according to which discovery is a drawn-out process. Kuhn argues that not only is it difficult to determine when a particular discovery was made, it can be challenging to determine who made the discovery. Kuhn’s “The Historical Structure of Scientific Discovery” (Kuhn 1977a) is thus an important contribution to our understanding of scientific discovery. Hudson 2001 critically examines Kuhn’s account of discovery and suggests that we can in fact determine when and by whom specific scientific discoveries are made. Sociologists of science were also influenced by Kuhn’s work on this topic. Brannigan 1981 builds on Kuhn’s account of discovery, emphasizing the social dimensions of the process. Brannigan argues that a crucial part of the discovery process involves getting recognized as the discoverer by other scientists. Kuhn is also responsible for drawing philosophers’ attention to the role of thought experiments in science. Kuhn’s paper “A Function for Thought Experiments” is his most important contribution to this topic (see Kuhn 1977b). There is now an enormous body of philosophical literature on thought experiments and their role in science. Nickles 1997 develops an account of scientific discovery, and scientific inquiry in general, that builds on Kuhn’s account of discovery. Sorensen 1998 provides a thorough study of thought experiments, acknowledging a debt to Kuhn’s work on the topic.

  • Brannigan, Augustine. The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

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    Builds on Kuhn’s account of scientific discovery. Argues that there is a social dimension to scientific discovery. Examines Mendel’s discovery in detail.

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  • Hudson, Robert G. “Discoveries, When and By Whom?” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (2001): 75–93.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjps/52.1.75Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Kuhn’s account of discovery is flawed. Presents criteria for identifying when and by whom specific scientific discoveries are made. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “The Historical Structure of Scientific Discovery.” In The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Edited by Thomas S. Kuhn, 165–177. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977a.

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    Argues that scientific discoveries are drawn out. Also claims that it is often only with hindsight that the discoverer can be identified. Examines the discovery of oxygen.

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  • Kuhn, Thomas S. “A Function for Thought Experiments.” In The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Edited by Thomas S. Kuhn, 240–265. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977b.

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    Argues that when a scientific field is in crisis and the accepted theory appears to be failing, scientists often appeal to thought experiments. Argues that thought experiments lead scientists to learn about both nature and their concepts. Examines a thought experiment developed by Galileo in detail.

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  • Nickles, Thomas. “A Multi-pass Conception of Scientific Inquiry.” Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 32 (1997): 11–14.

    DOI: 10.1163/24689300_0320103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops an account of scientific inquiry and discovery inspired by Kuhn’s account of discovery. Argues that the initial implications of a discovery are often obscure. Argues that discovery is an iterative process. It is through multiple passes that discoveries are developed and their full implications are revealed.

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  • Sorensen, Roy A. Thought Experiments. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Provides a detailed study of thought experiments. Chapter 5 provides a detailed analysis of Kuhn’s view on thought experiments.

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