In an earlier post, I hinted that I might take up the question of conceptual schemes, and the question of whether conceptual relativity should be seen as a problem. Donald Davidson has argued that the idea of a conceptual scheme is incoherent. I disagree, and will explain why.
It is around 50 years since Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published, and there have been retrospectives at various sites. I want to look at the retrospective in Scientific American, written by Gary Stix.
Stix begins with:
Scientific American’s review of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1964 ended with the pat pronouncement that the book was “much ado about very little.” The short piece, which appeared two years after the initial publication of Structure as a monograph in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, discarded as unoriginal Kuhn’s critique of the positivist argument that science progresses relentlessly forward toward the truth.
The reviewer’s glib dismissal missed the mark.
David Weinberger discusses Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in a recent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education. I want to discuss that here, because it illustrates where I disagree with much of what is written as philosophy of science.
By far the most consistently attacked idea was what Kuhn referred to as incommensurability, a term taken from geometry, where it refers to the lack of a shared measurement. In SSR it means something like the inability to understand one paradigm from within another. In the book, Kuhn borders on putting incommensurability in its strongest imaginable form: A new paradigm causes scientists to “see the world of their researcher-engagement differently. In so far as their only recourse to that world is through what they see and do, we may want to say that after a revolution scientists are responding to a different world.”read more »