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| Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Thomas Samuel Kuhn, although trained as a
physicist at Harvard University, became an
historian and philosopher of science through
the support of Harvards president, James
Conant. In 1962, Kuhns renowned The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions
(Structure) helped to inaugurate a revolution
the 1960s historiographic revolutionby
providing a new image of science. For Kuhn,
scientific revolutions involved paradigm
shifts that punctuated periods of stasis or normal science. Towards the end of his
career, however, Kuhn underwent a paradigm shift of his ownfrom a historical
philosophy of science to an evolutionary one.

In this article, Kuhns philosophy of science is reconstructed chronologically. To

that end, the following questions are entertained: What was Kuhns early life and
career? What was the road towards Structure? What is Structure? Why did Kuhn
revise Structure? What was the road Kuhn took after Structure? At the heart of
the answers to these questions is the person of Kuhn himself, especially the
intellectual and social context in which he practiced his trade. This chronological
reconstruction of Kuhns philosophy begins with his work in the 1950s on physical
theory in the Lowell lectures and on the Copernican revolution and ends with his
work in the 1990s on an evolutionary philosophy of science. Rather than present
Kuhns philosophy as a finished product, this approach endeavors to capture it in
the process of its formation so as to represent it accurately and faithfully.

TableofContents 1/45
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1. Early Life and Career
2. The Road to Structure
a. The Lowell Lectures
b. The Copernican Revolution
c. The Last Mile to Structure
3. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
4. The Road after Structure
a. Historical and Historiographic Studies
b. Metahistorical Studies
c. Evolutionary Philosophy of Science
5. Conclusion
6. References and Further Reading
a. Kuhns Work
b. Secondary Sources

Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 18 July 1922. He was the first of two
children born to Samuel L. and Minette (ne Stroock) Kuhn, with a brother Roger
born several years later. His father was a native Cincinnatian and his mother a
native New Yorker. Kuhns father, Sam, was a hydraulic engineer, trained at
Harvard University and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) prior to
World War I. He entered the war, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers.
After leaving the armed services, Sam returned to Cincinnati for several years
before moving to New York to help his recently widowed mother Setty (ne
Swartz) Kuhn. Kuhns mother, Minette, was a liberally educated person who came
from an affluent family.

Kuhns early education reflected the familys liberal progressiveness. In 1927,

Kuhn began schooling at the progressive Lincoln School in Manhattan. His early
education taught him to think independently, but by his own admission, there was
little content to the thinking. He remembered that by the second grade, for
instance, he was unable to read proficiently, much to the consternation of his
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Beginning in the sixth grade, Kuhns family moved to Croton-on-Hudson, a small

town about fifty miles from Manhattan, and the adolescent Kuhn attended the
progressive Hessian Hills School. According to Kuhn the school was staffed by
left-oriented radical teachers, who taught the students pacifism. When he left the
school after the ninth grade, Kuhn felt he was a bright and independent thinker.
After spending an uninspired year at the preparatory school Solebury in
Pennsylvania, Kuhn spent his last two years of high school at the Yale-preparatory
Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. He graduated third in his class of 105
students and was inducted into the National Honor Society. He also received the
prestigious Rensselaer Alumni Association Medal.

Kuhn matriculated to Harvard College in the fall of 1940, following his fathers
and uncles footsteps. At Harvard, he acquired a better sense of himself socially by
participating in various organizations. During his first year, Kuhn took a yearlong
philosophy course. In the first semester, he studied Plato and Aristotle; while in
the second semester, he studied Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant. He intended
to take additional philosophy courses but could not find time. He attended,
however, several of George Sartons lectures on the history of science, but he found
them boring.

At Harvard, Kuhn agonized over majoring in either physics or mathematics. After

seeking his fathers counsel, he chose physics because of career opportunities.
Interestingly, the attraction of physics or mathematics was their problem-solving
traditions. In the fall of his sophomore year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
and Kuhn expedited his undergraduate education by going to summer school. The
physics department focused on teaching predominantly electronics, and Kuhn
followed suit.

Kuhn underwent another radical transformation, also during his sophomore year.
Although he was trained a pacifist the atrocities perpetrated in Europe during
World War II, especially by Hitler, horrified him. Kuhn experienced a crisis, since
he was unable to defend pacifism reasonably. The outcome was that he became an
interventionist, which was the position of many at Harvardespecially its
president, Conant. The episode left a lasting impact upon him. In a Harvard
Crimson editorial, Kuhn supported Conants effort to militarize the universities in 3/45
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the United States. The editorial came to the attention of the administration, and
eventually Conant and Kuhn met.

In the spring of 1943, Kuhn graduated summacumlaude from Harvard College

with an S.B. After graduation, he worked for the Radio Research Laboratory
located in Harvards biology building. He conducted research on radar counter
technology, under John van Vlecks supervision. The job procured for Kuhn a
deferment from the draft. After a year, he requested a transfer to England and
then to the continent, where he worked in association with the U.S. Office of
Scientific Research and Development. The trip was Kuhns first abroad and he felt
invigorated by the experience. However, Kuhn realized that he did not like radar
work, which led him to reconsider whether he wanted to continue as a physicist.
But, these doubts did not dampen his enthusiasm for or belief in science. During
this time, Kuhn had the opportunity to read what he wanted; he read in the
philosophy of science, including authors such as Bertrand Russell, P.W. Bridgman,
Rudolf Carnap, and Philipp Frank.

After V.E. day in 1945, Kuhn returned to Harvard. As the war abated with the
dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, Kuhn activated an earlier acceptance into
graduate school and began studies in the physics department. Although Kuhn
persuaded the department to permit him to take philosophy courses during his
first year, he again chose the pragmatic course and focused on physics. In 1946,
Kuhn passed the general examinations and received a masters degree in physics.
He then began dissertation research on theoretical solid-state physics, under the
direction of van Vleck. In 1949, Harvard awarded Kuhn a doctorate in physics.

Although Kuhn had high regard for science, especially physics, he was unfulfilled
as a physicist and continually harbored doubts during graduate school about a
career in physics. He had chosen both a dissertation topic and an advisor to
expedite obtaining a degree. But, he was to find direction for his career through
Conants invitation in 1947 to help prepare a historical case-based course on
science for upper-level undergraduates. Kuhn accepted the invitation to be one of
two assistants for Conants course. He undertook a project investigating the
origins of seventeenth-century mechanics, a project that would transform his
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That transformation came, as Kuhn recounted later, on a summer day in 1947 as

he struggled to understand Aristotles idea of motion in Physics. The problem was
that Kuhn tried to make sense of Aristotles idea of motion using Newtonian
assumptions and categories of motion. Once he realized that he had to read
Aristotles Physics using assumptions and categories contemporary to when the
Greek philosopher wrote it, suddenly Aristotles idea of motion made sense.

After this experience, Kuhn realized that he wanted to be a philosopher of science

by doing history of science. His interest was not strictly history of science but
philosophy, for he felt that philosophy was the way to truth and truth was what he
was after. To achieve that goal, Kuhn asked Conant to sponsor him as a junior
fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. Harvard initiated the society to provide
promising young scholars freedom from teaching for three years to develop a
scholarly program. Kuhns colleagues stimulated him professionally, especially a
senior fellow by the name of Willard Quine. At the time, Quine was publishing his
critique on the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic, which Kuhn
found reassuring for his own thinking.

Kuhn began as a fellow in the fall of 1948, which provided him the opportunity to
retool as a historian of science. Kuhn took advantage of the opportunity and read
widely over the next year and a half in the humanities and sciences. Just prior to
his appointment as a fellow, Kuhn was also undergoing psychoanalysis. This
experience allowed him to see other peoples perspectives and contributed to his
approach for conducting historical research.


In 1950, the trustee of the Lowell Institute, Ralph Lowell, invited Kuhn to deliver
the 1951 Lowell lectures. In these lectures, Kuhn outlined a conception of science
in contrast to the traditional philosophy of sciences conception in which facts are
slowly accumulated and stockpiled in textbooks. Kuhn began by assuring his
audience that he, as a once practicing scientist, believed that science produces
useful and cumulative knowledge of the world, but that traditional analysis of 5/45
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science distorts the process by which scientific knowledge develops. He went on to

inform the audience that the history of science could be instructive for identifying
the process by which creative science advances, rather than focusing on the
finished product promulgated in textbooks. Because textbooks only state the
immutable scientific laws and marshal forth the experimental evidence to support
those laws, they cover over the creative process that leads to the laws in the first

Kuhn then presented an alternative historical approach to scientific methodology.

He claimed that the traditional position in which Galileo rejected Aristotles
physics because of Galileos experiments is a fallacy. Rather, Galileo rejected
Aristotelianism as an entire system. In other words, Galileos evidence was
necessary but not sufficient; rather, the Aristotelian system was under evaluation,
which also included its logic. Next, Kuhn proposed an alternative image of science
based on the new approach to the history of science. He introduced the notion of
conceptual frameworks, and drew from psychology to defend the advancement of
science though scientists predispositions. These predispositions allow scientists to
negotiate a professional world and to learn from their experiences. Moreover, they
are important in organizing the scientists professional world and scientists do not
dispense with them easily. Change in them represents a foundational alteration in
a professional world.

Kuhn argued that although logic is important for deriving meaning and for
managing and manipulating knowledge, scientific languageas naturaloutstrips
such formalization. He upended the tables on an important tool for the traditional
analysis of science. By revealing the limitations of logical analysis, he showed that
logic is necessary but insufficient for justifying scientific knowledge. Logic, then,
cannot guarantee the traditional image of science as the progressive accumulation
of scientific facts. Kuhn next examined logical analysis in terms of language and
meaning. His position was that language is a way of dissecting the professional
world in which scientists operate. But, there is always ambiguity or overlap in the
meaning of terms as that world is dissected. Certainly, scientists attempt to
increase the precision of their terms but not to the point that they can eliminate
ambiguity. Kuhn concluded by distinguishing between creative and textbook
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In the same year of the Lowell lectures, Harvard appointed Kuhn as an instructor
and the following year as an assistant professor. Kuhns primary teaching duty was
in the general education curriculum, where he taught Natural Sciences 4 along
with Leonard Nash. He also taught courses in the history of science. And, it was
during this time that Kuhn developed a course on the history of cosmology. Kuhn
utilized course preparation for scholarly writing projects. For example, he handed
out draft chapters of TheCopernicanRevolution to his classes.

A part of Kuhns motivation for developing a new image of science was the
misconceptions of science held by the public. He blamed its misconceptions on
introductory courses that stressed the textbook image of science as a fixed body of
facts. After discussing this state of affairs with friends and Conant, Kuhn provided
students with a more accurate image of science. The key to that image, claimed
Kuhn, was sciences history, which displays the creative and dynamic nature of

In The Copernican Revolution, Kuhn claimed he had identified an important
feature of the revolution, which previous scholars had missed: its plurality. What
Kuhn meant by plurality was that scientists have philosophical and even religious
commitments, which are important for the justification of scientific knowledge.
This stance was anathema to traditional philosophers of science, who believed that
such commitments played littleif anyrole in the justification of scientific
knowledge and relegated them to the discovery process.

Kuhn began reconstruction of the Copernican revolution by establishing the

genuine scientific character of ancient cosmological conceptual schemes,
especially the two-sphere cosmology composed of an inner sphere for the earth
and an outer sphere for the heavens. For Kuhn, conceptual schemes exhibit three
important features. They are comprehensive in terms of scientific predictions,
there is no final proof for them, and they are derived from other schemes. Finally,
to be successful conceptual schemes must perform logical and psychological
functions. The logical function is expressed in explanatory terms, while the
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two-sphere cosmology continued to be problematic, its psychological function

afforded adherents a comprehensive worldview that included even religious

The major logical problem with the two-sphere cosmology was the movement and
positions of the planets. The conceptual scheme Ptolemy developed in the second
century guided research for the next millennium. But, problems surfaced with the
scheme and predecessors could only correct it so far with ad hoc modifications.
Kuhn asked at this point in the narrative why the Ptolemaic system, given its
imperfection, was not overthrown sooner. The answer, for Kuhn, depended on a
distinction between the logical and psychological dimensions of scientific
revolutions. According to Kuhn, there are logically different conceptual schemes
that can organize and account for observations. The difference among these
schemes is their predictive power. Consequently, if an observation is made that is
not compatible with a prediction the scheme must be replaced. But, before change
can occur, there is also the psychological dimension to a revolution.

Copernicus had to overcome not only the logical dimension of the Ptolemaic
system but also its psychological dimension. Aristotle had established this latter
dimension by wedding the two-sphere cosmology to a philosophical system.
Through the Aristotelian notion of motion among the earthly and heavenly
spheres, the inner sphere was connected and depended on the outer sphere. The
ability to presage future events linked astronomy to astrology. Such an alliance,
according to Kuhn, provided a formidable obstacle to change of any kind.

But change began to take place, albeit slowly. From Aristotle to Ptolemy, a sharp
distinction arose between the psychological dimensions of cosmology and the
mathematical precision of astronomy. By Ptolemys time, astronomy was less
concerned with the psychological dimensions of data interpretation and more with
the accuracy of theoretical prediction. To some extent, this aided Copernicus, since
whether the earth moved could be determined by theoretical analysis of the
empirical data. But still, the earth as center of the universe gave existential
consolation to people. The strands of the Copernican revolution, then, included
not only astronomical concerns but also theological, economic, and social ones.
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also paved the way for the Copernican revolution, including the Protestant
revolution, navigation for oceanic voyages, calendar reform, and Renaissance
humanism and Neoplatonism.

Copernicus, according to Kuhn, was the immediate inheritor of Aristotelian-

Ptolemaic cosmological tradition and, except for the position of the earth, was
closer to that tradition than to modern astronomy. For Kuhn, De Revolutionibus
precipitated a revolution and was not the revolution itself. Although the problem
Copernicus addressed was the same as for his predecessors, that is, planetary
motion, his solution was to revise the mathematical model for that motion by
making the earth a planet that moves around the sun. Essentially, Copernicus
maintained the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic universe but exchanged the sun for the
earth, as the universes center. Although Copernicus had eliminated major
epicycles, he still used minor ones and the accuracy of planetary position was no
better than Ptolemys. Kuhn concluded that Copernicus did not really solve the
problem of planetary motion.

Initially, according to Kuhn, there were only a few supporters of Copernicus

cosmology. Although the majority of astronomers accepted the mathematical
harmonies of De Revolutionibus after its publication in 1543, they rejected or
ignored its cosmology. Tycho Brahe, for example, although relying on Copernican
harmonies to explain astronomical data, proposed a system in which the earth was
still the universes center. Essentially, it was a compromise between ancient
cosmology and Copernican mathematical astronomy. However, Brahe recorded
accurate and precise astronomical observations, which helped to compel others
towards Copernicanismparticularly Johannes Kepler, who used its mathematical
precision to solve the planetary motion problem. The final player Kuhn considered
in the revolution was Galileo, who, Kuhn claimed, provided through telescopic
observations not proof of but rather propaganda for Copernicanism.

Although astronomers achieved consensus during the seventeenth century,

Copernicanism still faced serious resistance from Christianity. The Copernican
revolution was completed with the Newtonian universe, which not only had an
impact on astronomy but also on other sciences and even non-sciences. For
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For Kuhn, Newtonians impact on disciplines other than astronomy was an

example of its fruitfulness. Scientific progress, concluded Kuhn, is not the linear
process, as championed by traditional philosophers of science, in which scientific
facts are stockpiled in a warehouse. Rather, it is the repeated destruction and
replacement of scientific theories.

The professional reviews of The Copernican Revolution signaled Kuhns

acceptance into the philosophical and historical communities. His reconstruction
of the revolution was considered for the most part scientifically accurate and
methodologically appropriate. Reviewers considered integration of the science and
the social an advance over other histories that ignored these dimensions of the
historical narrative. Although philosophers appreciated the historical dimension
of Kuhns study, they found its analysis imprecise according to their standards.
Overall, both the historical and philosophical communities expressed no major
objections to the image of science that animated Kuhns narrative.

Kuhns reconstruction of the Copernican revolution portrayed a radically different

image of science than that of traditional philosophers of science. Justification of
scientific knowledge was not simply a logical or objective affair but also included
non-logical or subjective factors. According to Kuhn, scientific progress is not a
clear-sighted linear process aimed directly at the truth. Rather, there are
contingencies that can divert and forestall the progress of science. Moreover,
Copernicus revolution changed the way astronomers and non-astronomers
viewed the world. This change in perceiving the world was the result of new sets of
challenges, new techniques, and a new hermeneutics for interpreting data.

Besides differing from traditional philosophers of science, Kuhns image of science

put him at odds with Whig historians of science. These historians underrated
ancient cosmologies by degrading them to myth or religious belief. Such a move
was often a rhetorical ploy on the part of the victors to enhance the status of the
current scientific theory. Only by showing how Aristotelian-Ptolemaic geocentric
astronomy was authentic science could Kuhn argue for the radical transformation
(revolution) that Copernican heliocentric astronomy invoked. Kuhn also asserted
that Copernicus theory was not accepted simply for its predictive ability, since it
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empirical factors, such as the simplicity of Copernicans system in which certain

ad hoc modifications for accounting for the orbits of various planets were

In 1956, Harvard denied Kuhn tenure because the tenure committee felt his book
on the Copernican revolution was too popular in its approach and analysis. A
friend of Kuhn knew Steven Pepper, who was chair of the philosophy department
at the University of California at Berkeley. Kuhns friend told Pepper that Kuhn
was looking for an academic position. Peppers department was searching for
someone to establish a program in the history and philosophy of science. Berkeley
eventually offered Kuhn a position in the philosophy department and later asked if
he also wanted an appointment in the history department. Kuhn accepted both
positions and joined the Berkeley faculty as an assistant professor.

Kuhn found Stanley Cavell in the philosophy department, a soulmate to replace

Nash. Kuhn had meet Cavell earlier while they were both fellows at Harvard.
Cavell was an ethicist and aesthetician, whom Kuhn found intellectually
stimulating. He introduced Kuhn to Wittgensteins notion of language games.
Besides Cavell, Kuhn developed a professional relationship with Paul Feyerabend,
who was also working on the notion of incommensurability.

In 1958, Berkeley promoted Kuhn to associate professor and granted him tenure.
Moreover, having completed several historical projects, he was ready to return to
the philosophical issues that first attracted him to the history of science. Beginning
in the fall of 1958, he spent a year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in
the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California. What struck Kuhn about the
relationships among behavioral and social scientists was their inability to agree on
the fundamental problems and practices of their discipline. Although natural
scientists do not necessarily have the right answers to their questions, there is an
agreement over fundamentals. This difference between natural and social
scientists eventually led Kuhn to formulate the paradigm concept.

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Although TheCopernicanRevolution represented a significant advance in Kuhns

articulation of a revolutionary theory of science, several issues still needed
attention. What was missing from Kuhns reconstruction of the Copernican
revolution was an understanding of how scientists function on a daily basis, when
an impending revolution is not looming. That understanding emerged gradually
during the last mile on the road to Structure in terms of three papers written from
the mid-fifties to the early sixties.

In the first paper, The function of measurement in modern physical science,

Kuhn challenged the belief that if scientists cannot measure a phenomenon then
their knowledge of it is inadequate or not scientific. Part of the reason for Kuhns
concern over measurement in science was its textbook tradition, which he believed
perpetuates a myth about measurement that is misleading. Kuhn compared the
textbook presentation of measurement to a machine in which scientists feed laws
and theories along with initial conditions into the machines hopper at the top,
turn a handle on the side representing logical and mathematical operations, and
then collect numerical predictions exiting the machines chute in the front.
Scientists finally compare experimental observations to theoretical predictions.
The function of these measurements serves as a test of the theory, which is the
confirmation function of measurement.

Kuhn claimed that the above function is not why measurements are reported in
textbooks; rather, measurements are reported to give the reader an idea of what
the professional community believes is reasonable agreement between theoretical
predictions and experimental observations. Reasonable agreement, however,
depends upon approximate, not exact, agreement between theory and data and
differs from one science to the next. Moreover, external criteria do not exist for
determining reasonableness. For Kuhn, the actual function of normal
measurement in science is found in its journal articles. That function is neither
invention of novel theories nor the confirmation of older ones. Discovery and
exploratory measurements in science instead are rare. The reason is that changes
in theories, which require discovery or confirmation, occur during revolutions,
which are also quite rare. Once a revolution occurs, moreover, the new theory only
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normal measurement is to tighten reasonable agreement between novel

theoretical predictions and experimental observations.

The textbook tradition is also misleading in terms of normal measurements

effects. It claims that theories must conform to quantitative facts. Such facts are
not the given but the expected and the scientists task is to obtain them. This
obligation to obtain the expected quantitative fact is often the incentive for
developing novel technology. Moreover, a well-developed theoretical system is
required for meaningful measurement in science. Besides the function of normal
or expected measurement, Kuhn also examined the function of extraordinary
measurementwhich pertain to unexpected results. It is this latter type of
measurement that exhibits the discovery and confirmatory functions. When
normal scientific practice results consistently in unexpected anomalies, this leads
to crisis, and extraordinary measurement often aids to resolve it. Crisis then leads
to the invention of new theories. Again, extraordinary measurement plays a
critical role in this process. Theory invention in response to quantitative
anomalies leads to decisive measurements for judging a novel theorys adequacy,
whereas qualitative anomalies generally lead to adhoc modifications of theories.
Extraordinary measurement allows scientists to choose among competing

Kuhn was moving closer towards a notion of normal science through an analysis of
normal measurement, in contrast to extraordinary measurement, in science. His
conception of science continued to distance him from traditional philosophers of
science. But, the notion of normal measurement was not as robust as he needed.
Importantly, Kuhn was changing the agenda for philosophy of science from
justification of scientific theories as finished products in textbooks to dynamic
process by which theories are tested and assimilated into the professional
literature. A robust notion of normal science was the revolutionary concept he
needed, to overturn the traditional image of science as an accumulated body of

With the introduction of normal and extraordinary measurement, the step

towards the notions of normal and extraordinary science in Kuhns revolutionary
image of science was imminent. Kuhn worked out those notions in The Essential 13/45
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Tension. He began by addressing the notion that creative thinking in science

assumes a particular assumption of science in which science advances through
unbridled imagination and divergent thinkingwhich involves identifying
multiple avenues by which to solve a problem and determining which one works
best. Kuhn acknowledged that such thinking is responsible for some scientific
progress, but he proposed that convergent thinkingwhich limits itself to well-
defined, often logical, steps for solving a problemis also an important means of
progress. While revolutions, which depend on divergent thinking, are an obvious
means for scientific progress, Kuhn insisted that few scientists consciously design
revolutionary experiments. Rather, most scientists engage in normal research,
which represents convergent thinking. But, occasionally scientists may break with
the tradition of normal science and replace it with a new tradition. Science, as a
profession, is both traditional and iconoclastic, and the tension between them
often creates a space in which to practice it.

Next, Kuhn utilized the term paradigm, while discussing the pedagogical
advantages of convergent thinkingespecially as displayed in science textbooks.
Whereas textbooks in other disciplines include the methodological and conceptual
conflicts prevalent within the discipline, science textbooks do not. Rather, science
education is the transmission of a tradition that guides the activities of
practitioners. In science education, students are taught not to evaluate the
tradition but to accept it.

Progress within normal research projects represents attempts to bring theory and
observation into closer agreement and to extend a theorys scope to new
phenomena. Given the convergent and tradition-bound nature of science
education and of scientific practice, how can normal research be a means for the
generation of revolutionary knowledge and technology? According to Kuhn, a
mature science provides the background that allows practitioners to identify non-
trivial problems or anomalies with a paradigm. In other words, without mature
science there can be no revolution.

Kuhn continued to develop the notion of normal research and its convergent
thinking in The function of dogma in scientific research. He began with the
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the ideal, the reality is that often scientists already know what to expect from their
investigations of natural phenomena. If the expected is not forthcoming, then
scientists must struggle to find conformity between what they expect and what
they observe, which textbooks encode as dogmas. Dogmas are critical for the
practice of normal science and for advancement in it because they define the
puzzles for the profession and stipulate the criteria for their solution.

Kuhn next expanded the range of paradigms to embrace scientific practice in

general, rather than simply as a model for research. Specifically, paradigms
include not only a communitys previous scientific achievements but also its
theoretical concepts, the experimental techniques and protocols, and even the
natural entities. In short, they are the communitys body of beliefs or foundations.
Paradigms are also open-ended in terms of solving problems. Moreover, they are
exclusive in their nature, in that there is only one paradigm per mature science.
Finally, they are not permanent fixtures of the scientific landscape, for eventually
paradigms are replaceable. Importantly, for Kuhn, when a paradigm replaces
another the two paradigms are radically different.

Having done paradigmatic spadework, Kuhn then discussed the notion of normal
scientific research. The process of matching paradigm and nature includes
extending and applying the paradigm to expected but also unexpected parts of
nature. This does not necessarily mean discovering the unknown as it does
explaining the known. Although the dogma paper is only a fragment of the
solution to problems associated with the traditional image of science, the complete
solution was soon to appear in Structure.

In July 1961, Kuhn completed a draft of Structure; and in 1962, it was published as
the final monograph in the second volume of Neuraths International
Encyclopedia of Unified Science. Charles Morris was instrumental in its
publication and Carnap served as its editor. Structure was not a single publishing
event in 1962; rather, it covered the years from 1962 to 1970. After its publication,
Kuhn was engrossed for the rest of the sixties addressing criticisms directed to the
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continued to develop and refine his new image of science. The endpoint was a
second edition of Structure that appeared in 1970. The text of the revised edition,
however, remained essentially unaltered and only a Postscript1969 was added
in which Kuhn addressed his critics.

What Kuhn proposed in Structure was a new image of science. That image differed
radically from the traditional one. The difference hinged on a shift from a logical
analysis and an explanation of scientific knowledge as finished product to a
historical narration and description of scientific practices by which a community
of practitioners produces scientific knowledge. In short, it was a shift from the
subject (the product) to the verb (to produce).

According to the traditional image, science is a repository of accumulated facts,

discovered by individuals at specific periods in history. One of the central tasks of
traditional historians, given this image of science, was to answer questions about
who discovered what and when. Even though the task seemed straightforward,
many historians found it difficult and doubted whether these were the right kinds
of questions to ask concerning sciences historical record. The historiographic
revolution in the study of science changed the sorts of questions historians asked
by revising the underlying assumptions concerning the approach to reading the
historical record. Rather than reading history backwards and imposing current
ideas and values on the past, texts are read within their historical context thereby
maintaining their integrity. The historiographic revolution also had implications
for how to analyze and understand science philosophically. The goal of Structure,
declared Kuhn, was to cash out those implications.

The structure of scientific development, according to Kuhn, may be illustrated

schematically, as follows: pre-paradigm science normal science
extraordinary science new normal science. The step from pre-paradigm science
to normal science involves consensus of the community around a single paradigm,
where no prior consensus existed. This is the step required for transitioning from
immature to mature science. The step from normal science to extraordinary
science includes the communitys recognition that the reigning paradigm is unable
to account for accumulating anomalies. A crisis ensues, and community
practitioners engage in extraordinary science to resolve its anomalies. A scientific 16/45
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revolution occurs with crisis resolution. Once a community selects a new

paradigm, it discards the old one and another period of new normal science
follows. The revolution or paradigm shift is now complete, and the cycle from
normal science to new normal science through revolution is free to occur again.

For Kuhn, the origin of a scientific discipline begins with the identification of a
natural phenomenon, which members of the discipline investigate experimentally
and attempt to explain theoretically. But, each member of that nascent discipline
is at cross-purposes with other members; for each member often represents a
school working from different foundations. Scientists, operating under these
conditions, share few, if any, theoretical concepts, experimental techniques, or
phenomenal entities. Rather, each school is in competition for monetary and
social resources and for the allegiance of the professional guild. An outcome of this
lack of consensus is that all facts seem equally relevant to the problem(s) at hand
and fact gathering itself is often a random activity. There is then a proliferation of
facts and hence little progress in solving the problem(s) under these conditions.
Kuhn called this state pre-paradigm or immature science, which is non-directed
and flexible, providing a community of practitioners little guidance.

To achieve the status of a science, a discipline must reach consensus with respect
to a single paradigm. This is realized when, during the competition involved in
pre-paradigm science, one school makes a stunning achievement that catches the
professional communitys attention. The candidate paradigm elicits the
communitys confidence that the problems are solvable with precision and in
detail. The communitys confidence in a paradigm to guide research is the basis for
the conversion of its members, who now commit to it. After paradigm consensus,
Kuhn claimed that scientists are in the position to commence with the practice of
normal science. The prerequisite of normal science then includes a commitment to
a shared paradigm that defines the rules and standards by which to practice
science. Whereas pre-paradigm science is non-directed and flexible, normal or
paradigm science is highly directed and rigid. Because of its directedness and
rigidity, normal scientists are able to make the progress they do.

The paradigm concept loomed large in Kuhns new image of science. He defined
the concept in terms of the communitys concrete achievements, such as 17/45
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Newtonian mechanics, which the professional can commonly recognize but cannot
fully describe or explain. A paradigm is certainly not just a set of rules or
algorithms by which scientists blindly practice their trade. In fact, there is no easy
way to abstract a paradigms essence or to define its features exhaustively.
Moreover, a paradigm defines a family resemblance, la Wittgenstein, of
problems and procedures for solving problems that are part of a single research

Although scientists rely, at times, on rules to guide research, these rules do not
precede paradigms. Importantly, Kuhn was not claiming that rules are
unnecessary for guiding research but rather that they are not always sufficient,
either pedagogically or professionally. Kuhn compared the paradigm concept to
Polanyis notion of tacit knowledge, in which knowledge production depends on
the investigators acquisition of skills that do not reduce to methodological rules
and protocols.

As noted above, Newtonian mechanics represents an example of a Kuhnian

paradigm. The three laws of motion comprising it provided the scientific
community with the resources to investigate natural phenomena in terms of both
precision and predictability. In terms of precision, Newtonian mechanics allowed
physicists to measure and explain accuratelywith clockwork exactitudethe
motion not only of celestial but also terrestrial bodies. With respect to prediction,
physicists used the Newtonian paradigm to determine the potential movement of
heavenly and earthly bodies. Thus, Newtonian mechanics qua paradigm equipped
physicists with the ability to explain and manipulate natural phenomena. In sum,
it became a way of viewing the world.

According to Kuhn, a paradigm allows scientists to ignore concerns over a

disciplines fundamentals and to concentrate on solving its puzzlesas the
Newtonian paradigm permitted physicists to do for several centuries. It not only
guides scientists in terms of identifying soluble puzzles, but it also prevents
scientists from tackling insoluble ones. Kuhn compared paradigms to maps that
guide and direct the communitys investigations. Only when a paradigm guides the
communitys activities is scientific advancement as cumulative progress possible. 18/45
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The activity of practitioners engaged in normal science is paradigm articulation

and extension to new areas. Indeed, the Newtonian paradigm was adapted even
for medicine. When a new paradigm is established, it solves only a few critical
problems that faced the community. But, it does offer the promise for solving
many more problems. Much of normal science involves mopping up, in which the
community forces nature into a conceptually rigid frameworkthe paradigm.
Rather than being dull and routine, however, such activity, according to Kuhn, is
exciting and rewarding and requires practitioners who are creative and

Normal scientists are not out to make new discoveries or to invent new theories,
outside the paradigms aegis. Rather, they are involved in using the paradigm to
understand nature precisely and in detail. From the experimental end of this task,
normal scientists go to great pains to increase the precision and reliability of their
measurements and facts. They are also involved in closing the gap between
observations and theoretical predictions, and they attempt to clarify ambiguities
left over from the paradigms initial adoption. They also strive to extend the scope
of the paradigm by including phenomena not heretofore investigated. Much of this
activity requires exploratory investigation, in which normal scientists make novel
discoveries but anticipated visvis the paradigm. To solve these experimental
puzzles often requires considerable technological ingenuity and innovation on the
part of the scientific community. As Kuhn notes, Atwoods machinedeveloped
almost a century after Newton, is a good illustration of this.

Besides experimental puzzles, there are also the theoretical puzzles of normal
science, which obviously mirror the types of experimental puzzles. Normal
scientists conduct theoretical analyses to enhance the match between theoretical
predictions and experimental observations, especially in terms of increasing the
paradigms precision and scope. Again, just as experimental ingenuity is required
so is theoretical ingenuity to explain natural phenomena successfully.

Normal science, according to Kuhn, is puzzle-solving activity, and its practitioners

are puzzle solvers and not paradigm testers. The paradigms power over a
community of practitioners is that it can transform seemingly insoluble problems
into soluble ones through the practitioners ingenuity and skill. Besides the 19/45
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assured solution, Kuhns paradigm concept also involved rules of the puzzle-
solving game not in a narrow sense of algorithms but in a broad sense of
viewpoints or preconceptions. Besides these rules of the game, as it were, there are
also metaphysical commitments, which inform the community as to the types of
natural entities, and methodological commitments, which inform the community
as to kinds of laws and explanations. Although rules are often necessary for
normal scientific research, they are not always required. Normal science can
proceed in the absence of such rules.

Although scientists engaged in normal science do not intentionally attempt to

make unexpected discoveries, such discoveries do occur. Paradigms are imperfect
and rifts in the match between paradigm and nature are inevitable. For Kuhn,
discoveries not only occur in terms of new facts but there is also invention in terms
of novel theories. Both discoveries of new facts and invention of novel theories
begin with anomalies, which are violations of paradigm expectations during the
practice of normal science. Anomalies can lead to unexpected discoveries. For
Kuhn, unexpected discoveries involve complex processes that include the
intertwining of both new facts and novel theories. Facts and theories go hand-in-
hand, for such discoveries cannot be made by simple inspection. Because
discoveries depend upon the intertwining of observations and theories, the
discovery process takes time for the conceptual integration of the novel with the
known. Moreover, that process is complicated by the fact that novelties are often
resisted due to prior expectations. Because of allegiance to a paradigm, scientists
are loathed to abandon it simply because of an anomaly or even several anomalies.
In other words, anomalies are generally not counter-instances that falsify a

Just as anomalies are critical for discovery of new facts or phenomena, so they are
essential for the invention of novel theories. Although facts and theories are
intertwined, the emergence of novel theories is the outcome of a crisis. The crisis is
the result of the paradigms breakdown or inability to provide solutions to its
anomalies. The community then begins to harbor questions about the ability of the
paradigm to guide research, which has a profound impact upon it. The chief
characteristic of a crisis is the proliferation of theories. As members of a
community in crisis attempt to resolve its anomalies, they offer more and varied 20/45
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theories. Interestingly, anomalies that are responsible for the crisis may not
necessarily be new since they may have been present all along. This helps to
explain why anomalies lead to a period of crisis in the first place. The paradigm
promised resolution of them but was unable to fulfill its promise. The overall effect
is a return to a situation very similar to pre-paradigm science.

Closure of a crisis occurs in one of three possible ways, according to Kuhn. First,
on occasion that the paradigm is sufficiently robust to resolve anomalies and to
restore normal science practice. Second, even the most radical methods are unable
to revolve the anomalies. Under these circumstances, the community tables them
until future investigation and analysis. Third, the crisis is resolved with the
replacement of the old paradigm by a new one but only after a period of
extraordinary science.

Kuhn stressed that the initial response of a community in crisis is not to abandon
its paradigm. Rather, its members make every effort to salvage it through adhoc
modifications until the anomalies can be resolved, either theoretically or
experimentally. The reason for this strong allegiance, claimed Kuhn, is that a
community must first have an alternative candidate to take the original
paradigms place. For science, at least normal science, is possible only with a
paradigm, and to reject it without a substitute is to reject science itself, which
reflects poorly on the community and not on the paradigm. Moreover, a
community does not reject a paradigm simply because of a fissure in the
paradigm-nature fit. Kuhns aim was to reject a nave Popperian falsificationism in
which single counter-instances are sufficient to reject a theory. In fact, he reversed
the tables and contended that counter-instances are essential for the practice of
vibrant normal science. Although the goal of normal science is not necessarily to
generate counter-instances, normal science practice does provide the occasion for
their possible occurrence. Normal science, then, serves as an opportunity for
scientific revolutions. If there are no counter-instances, reasoned Kuhn, scientific
development comes to a halt.

The transition from normal science through crisis to extraordinary science

involves two key events. First, the paradigms boundaries become blurred when
faced with recalcitrant anomalies; and, second, its rules are relaxed leading to 21/45
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proliferation of theories and ultimately to the emergence of a new paradigm. Often

relaxing the rules allows practitioners to see exactly where the problem is and how
to solve it. This state has tremendous impact upon a communitys practitioners,
similar to that during pre-paradigm science. Extraordinary scientists, according to
Kuhn, behave erraticallybecause scientists are trained under a paradigm to be
puzzle-solvers, not paradigm-testers. In other words, they are not trained to do
extraordinary science and must learn as they go. For Kuhn, this type of behavior is
more open to psychological than logical analysis. Moreover, during periods of
extraordinary science practitioners may even examine the disciplines
philosophical foundations. To that end, they analyze their assumptions in order to
loosen the old paradigms grip on the community and to suggest alternative
approaches to the generation of a new paradigm.

Although the process of extraordinary science is convoluted and complex, a

replacement paradigm may emerge suddenly. Often the source of its inspiration is
rooted in the practice of extraordinary science itself, in terms of the
interconnections among various anomalies. Finally, whereas normal science is a
cumulative process, adding one paradigm achievement to the next, extraordinary
science is not; rather, it is likeusing Herbert Butterfields analogygrabbing
hold of a sticks other end. That other end of the stick is a scientific revolution.

The transition from extraordinary science to a new normal science represents a

scientific revolution. According to Kuhn, a scientific revolution is non-cumulative
in which a newer paradigm replaces an older oneeither partially or completely. It
can come in two sizes: a major revolution such as the shift from geocentric
universe to heliocentric universe or a minor revolution such as the discovery of X-
rays or oxygen. But whether big or small, all revolutions have the same structure:
generation of a crisis through irresolvable anomalies and establishment of a new
paradigm that resolves the crisis-producing anomalies.

Because of the extreme positions taken by participants in a revolution, opposing

camps often become galvanized in their positions, and communication between
them breaks down and discourse fails. The ultimate source for the establishment
of a new paradigm during a crisis is community consensus, that is, when enough
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evidence or logical analysis. Moreover, to accept the new paradigm, community

practitioners must be assured that there is no chance for the old paradigm to solve
its anomalies.

Persuasion loomed large in Kuhns scientific revolutions because the new

paradigm solves the anomalies the old paradigm could not. Thus, the two
paradigms are radically different from each other, often with little overlap between
them. For Kuhn, a community can only accept the new paradigm if it considers the
old one wrong. The radical difference between old and new paradigms, such that
the old cannot be derived from the new, is the basis of the incommensurability
thesis. In essence, there is no common measure or standard for the two
paradigms. This is evident, claimed Kuhn, when looking at the meaning of
theoretical terms. Although the terms from an older paradigm can be compared to
those of a newer one, the older terms must be transformed with respect to the
newer ones. But, there is a serious problem with restating the old paradigm in
transformed terms. The older, transformed paradigm may have some utility, for
example pedagogically, but a community cannot use it to guide its research. Like a
fossil, it reminds the community of its history but it can no longer direct its future.

The establishment of a new paradigm resolves a scientific revolution and issues

forth a new period of normal science. With its establishment, Kuhns new image of
a mature science comes full circle. Only after a period on intense competition
among rival paradigms, does the community choose a new paradigm and
scientists once again become puzzle-solvers rather than paradigm-testers. The
resolution of a scientific revolution is not a straightforward process that depends
only upon reason or evidence. Part of the problem is that proponents of competing
paradigms cannot agree on the relevant evidence or proof or even on the relevant
anomalies that require resolution, since their paradigms are incommensurable.

Another factor that leads to difficulties in resolving scientific revolutions is that

communication among members in crisis is only partial. This results from the new
paradigm borrowing from the old paradigm theoretical terms and concepts, and
laboratory protocols. Although they share borrowed vocabulary and technology,
the new paradigm gives new meaning and uses to them. The net result is that
members of competing paradigms talk past one another. Moreover, the change in 23/45
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paradigms is not a gradual process in which different parts of the paradigm are
changed piecemeal; rather, the change must be as a whole and suddenly.
Convincing scientists to make such a wholesale transformation takes time.

How then does one segment of the community convince or persuade another to
switch paradigms? For members who worked for decades under the old paradigm,
they may never accept the new paradigm. Rather, it is often the younger members
who accept the new paradigm through something like a religious conversion.
According to Kuhn, faith is the basis for conversion, especially faith in the
potential of the new paradigm to solve future puzzles. By invoking the terms
conversion and faith, Kuhn was not implying that arguments and reason are
unimportant in a paradigm shift. Indeed, the most common reason for accepting a
new paradigm is that it solves the anomalies the old paradigm could not. However,
Kuhn point was that argument and reason alone are insufficient. Aesthetic or
subjective factors also play an important role in a paradigm shift, since the new
paradigm solves only a few, but critical, anomalies. These factors weigh heavily in
the shift initially by reassuring community members that the new paradigm
represents the disciplines future.

From the resolution of revolutions, Kuhn made several important philosophical

points concerning the principles of verification and falsification. As Kuhn
acknowledged, philosophers no longer search for absolute verification, since no
theory can be tested exhaustively; rather, they calculate the probability of a
theorys verification. According to probabilistic verification, every imaginable
theory must be compared with one another visvis the available data. The
problem in terms of Kuhns new image of science is that a theory is tested with
respect to a given paradigm, and such a restriction precludes access to every
imaginable theory. Moreover, Kuhn rejected falsifying instances because no
paradigm resolves every problem facing a community. Under these conditions, no
paradigm would ever be accepted. For Kuhn, the process of verification and
falsification must include imprecision associated with theory-fact fit.

An interesting feature of scientific revolutions, according to Kuhn, is their

invisibility. What he meant by this is that in the process of writing textbooks,
popular scientific essays, and even philosophy of science, the path to the current 24/45
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paradigm is sanitized to make it appear as if it was in some sense born mature.

Disguising a paradigms history is an outcome of a belief about scientific
knowledge, which considers it as invariable and its accumulation as linear. This
disguising serves the winner of the crisis by establishing its authority, especially as
a pedagogical aid for indoctrinating students into a community of practitioners.
Another important effect of a revolution, related to a paradigm shift, is a shift in
the communitys image of science. The change in sciences image should be no
surprise, since the prevailing paradigm defines science. Change that paradigm and
science itself changes, at least how to practice it. In other words, the shift in
sciences image is a result of a change in the communitys standards for what
constitutes its puzzles and its puzzles solutions. Finally, revolutions transform
scientists from practitioners of normal science, who are puzzle-solvers, to
practitioners of extraordinary science, who are paradigm-testers. Besides
transforming science, revolutions also transform the world that scientists inhabit
and investigate.

One of the major impacts of a scientific revolution is a change of the world in

which scientists practice their trade. Kuhns world-changes thesis, as it has
become known, is certainly one of his most radical and controversial ideas, besides
the associated incommensurability thesis. The issue is how far ontologically does
the change go, or is it simply an epistemological ploy to reinforce the
comprehensive effects of scientific revolutions. In other words, does the world
really change or simply the worldview, that is, ones perspective on or perception
of the world? For Kuhn, the answer relied not on a logical or even a philosophical
but rather a psychological analysis of the change.

Kuhn analyzed the changes in worldview by analogizing it to a gestalt switch, for

example, duck-rabbit. Although the gestalt analogy is suggestive, it is limited to
only perceptual changes and says little about the role of previous experience in
such transformations. Previous experience is important because it influences what
a scientist sees when making an observation. Moreover, with a gestalt switch, the
person can stand above or outside of it acknowledging with certainty that one sees
now a duck or now a rabbit. Such an independent perspective, which eventually is
an authoritarian stance, is not available to the community of practitioners; there is
no answer sheet, as it were. Because the communitys access to the world is limited 25/45
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by what it can observe, any change in what is observed has important

consequences for the nature of what is observed, that is, the change has
ontological significance.

Thus, for Kuhn, the change revolution brings about is more than simply seeing or
observing a different world; it also involves working in a different world. The
perceptual transformation is more than reinterpretation of data. For, data are not
stable but they too change during a paradigm shift. Data interpretation is a
function of normal science, while data transformation is a function of
extraordinary science. That transformation is often a result of intuitions.
Moreover, besides a change in data, revolutions change the relationships among
data. Although traditional western philosophy has searched for three centuries for
stable theory-neutral data or observations to justify theories, that search has been
in vain. Sensory experience occurs through a paradigm of some sort, argued Kuhn,
even articulations of that experience. Hence, no one can step outside a paradigm
to make an observation; it is simply impossible given the limits of human

Kuhn then took on the nature of scientific progress. For normal science, progress
is cumulative in that the solutions to puzzles form a repository of information and
knowledge about the world. This progress is the result of the direction a paradigm
provides a community of practitioners. Importantly, the progress achieved
through normal science, in terms of the information and knowledge, is used to
educate the next generation of scientists and to manipulate the world for human
welfare. Scientific revolutions change all that. For Kuhn, revolutionary progress is
not cumulative but non-cumulative.

What, then, does a community of practitioners gain by going through a revolution

or paradigm shift? Has it made any kind of progress in its rejection of a previous
paradigm and the fruit that paradigm yielded? Of course, the victors of the
revolution are going to claim that progress was made after the revolution. To do
otherwise would be to admit that they were wrong. Rather advocates of the new
normal science are going to do everything they can to ensure that their winning
paradigm is seen as pushing forward a better understanding of the world. The
progress achieved through a revolution is two-fold, according to Kuhn. The first is 26/45
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the successful solution of anomalies that a previous paradigm could not solve. The
second is the promise to solve additional problems or puzzles that arise from these

But has the community gotten closer to the truth, that is, the notion of
verisimilitude, by going through a revolution? According to Kuhn the answer is no.
For Kuhn, progress in science is not directed activity towards some goal like truth.
Rather, scientific progress is evolutionary. Just as natural selection operates
during biological evolution in the emergence of a new species, so community
selection during a scientific revolution functions similarly in the emergence of a
new theory. And, just as species are adapted to their environments, so theories are
adapted to the world. Kuhn had no answer to the question why this should be
other than the world and the community that investigates it exhibit unique
features. What these features are, Kuhn did not know, but he concluded that the
new image of science he had proposed would resolve, like a new paradigm after a
scientific revolution, these problems. He invited the next generation of
philosophers of science to join him in a new philosophy of science
incommensurate with its predecessor.

The reaction to Kuhns Structure was at first congenial, especially by historians of

science, but within a few years it turned critical, particularly by philosophers.
Critics charged him with irrationalism and epistemic relativism. Although he felt
the reviews of Structure were good, his chief concerns were the tags of
irrationalism and relativismat least a pernicious kind of relativism. Kuhn
believed the charges were inaccurate, however, simply because he maintained that
science does not progress toward a predetermined goal. But, like evolutionary
change, one theory replaces another with a better fit between theory and nature
visvis competitors. Moreover, he believed that use of the Darwinian evolution
was the correct framework for discussing sciences progress. But, he felt no one
took it seriously.

On 13 July 1965, Kuhn participated in an International Colloquium in the

Philosophy of Science, held at Bedford College in London. The colloquium was
organized jointly by the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and by the
London School of Economics and Political Science. Kuhn delivered the initial 27/45
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paper comparing his and Karl Poppers conceptions of the growth of scientific
knowledge. John Watkins then delivered a paper criticizing Kuhns notion of
normal science, with Popper chairing the session. Popper also presented a paper
criticizing Kuhn, as did several other members of the philosophy of science
community, including Stephen Toulmin, L. Pearce Williams, and Margaret
Masterman, who identified twenty-one senses of Kuhns use of paradigm in
Structure. Masterman concluded her paper inviting others to join in clarifying
Kuhns paradigm concept.

Kuhn himself took up Mastermans challenge and clarified the paradigm concept
in the second edition of Structure, particularly in its Postscript1969. To that
end, he divided paradigm into disciplinary matrix and exemplars. The former
represents the milieu of the professional practice, consisting of symbolic
generalizations, models, and values, while the latter represents solutions to
concrete problems that a community accepts as paradigmatic. In other words,
exemplars serve as templates for solving problems or puzzles facing the scientific
community and thereby for advancing the communitys scientific knowledge. For
Kuhn, scientific knowledge is not localized simply within theories and rules;
rather, it is localized within exemplars. The basis for an exemplar to function in
puzzle solving is the scientists ability to see the similarity between a previously
solved puzzle and a currently unsolved one.

In the early sixties, van Vleck invited Kuhn to direct a project collecting materials
on the history of quantum mechanics. In August 1960, Hunter Dupree, Charles
Kittel, Kuhn, John Wheeler, and Harry Wolff, met in Berkeley to discuss the
projects organization. Wheeler next met with Richard Shryock and a joint
committee of the American Physical Society and the American Philosophical
Society on the History of Theoretical Physics in the Twentieth Century was formed
to sponsor and develop the project. The project lasted for three years, with the first
and last years of the project conducted in Berkeley and the middle year in Europe.
The National Science Foundation funded the project.

The project led to a publication, by John Heilbron and Kuhn, on the origins of the
Bohr atom. They provided a revisionist narrative of Bohrs path to the quantized
atom, beginning with his 1911 doctoral dissertation and concluding with his 1913 28/45
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three-part paper on atomic structure. The intrigue of this historical study was that
within a six-week period in mid-1912 Bohr went from little interest in models of
the atom to producing a quantized model of J.J. Rutherfords atom and applying
that model to several perplexing problems. The authors explored Bohrs sudden
interest in atomic models. They proposed that his interest stemmed from specific
problems, which guided Bohr in terms of both his reading and research toward the
potential of the atomic structure for solving them. The solutions to those problems
resulted from what Heilbron and Kuhn called a 1913 February transformation in
Bohrs research. What initiated the transformation, claimed the authors, was that
Bohr had read a few months earlier J.W. Nicholsons papers on the application of
Max Plancks constant to generate an atomic model. Although Nicholsons model
was incorrect, it led Bohr in the right direction. Then in February 1913, Bohr, in a
conversation with H.R. Hansen, obtained the last piece of the puzzle. After the
transformation, Bohr completed the atomic model project within the year.

Besides completing a draft of Structure in 1961, Kuhn was made full professor at
Berkeley, but only in the history department. Members of philosophy department
voted to deny him promotion in their department, a denial that angered and hurt
Kuhn tremendously. Princeton University made Kuhn an offer to join its faculty,
while he was in Europe. The university had recently inaugurated a history and
philosophy of science program. The programs chair was Charles Gillispie and its
staff included John Murdoch, Hilary Putnam, and Carl Hempel. Upon returning to
the United States in 1963, Kuhn visited Princeton. He decided to accept the offer
and joined its faculty in 1964. He became the programs director in 1967 and the
following year Princeton appointed him the Moses Taylor Pyne Professor of
History. As the sixties ended, Structure was becoming increasingly popular,
especially among student radicals who believed it liberated them from the tyranny
of tradition.

In 1979, Kuhn moved to M.I.T.s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. In
1983, he was appointed the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy. At
M.I.T., he took a linguistic turn in his thinking, reflecting his new environment, 29/45
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which had a major impact on his subsequent work, especially on the

incommensurability thesis.

Structures success not only established the historiographic revolution in the study
of science in either historically or philosophically or what came to be called the
discipline of history and philosophy of science, but also supported the rise of
science studies in general and specifically the sociology and anthropology of
science, particularly the sociology of scientific knowledge. Kuhn rejected both
these trajectories often attributed to Structure, for what he called historical
philosophy of science. He conductedas he categorized his work in the Essential
Tensioneither historical studies on science or their historiographic implications,
or either metahistorical studies or their philosophical implications. In other
words, his scholarly work was either historical or philosophical.

Kuhns final major historical study was on Plancks black-body radiation theory
and the origins of quantum discontinuity. The transition from classical physicsin
which particles pass through intermediate energy stagesto quantum physicsin
which energy change is discontinuousis traditionally attributed to Plancks 1900
and 1901 quantum papers. According to Kuhn, this traditional account was
inaccurate and the transition was initiated by Albert Einsteins and Paul
Ehrenfests independent 1906 quantum papers. Kuhns realization of this
inaccuracy was similar to the enlightenment he experienced when struggling to
make sense of Aristotles notion of mechanical motion. His initial epiphany
occurred while reading Plancks 1895 paper on black-body radiation. Through that
experience, he realized that Plancks 1900 and 1901 quantum papers were not the
initiation of a new theory of quantum discontinuity, but rather they represented
Plancks effort to derive the black-body distribution law based on classical
statistical mechanics. Kuhn concluded the study with an analysis of Plancks
second black-body theory, first published in 1911, in which Planck used the notion
of discontinuity to derive the second theory. Rather than the traditional position,
which claimed the second theory represents a regression on Plancks part to
classical physics, Kuhn argued that it represents the first time Planck incorporated
into his theoretical work a theory in which he was not completely confident. 30/45
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In the black-body radiation and quantum discontinuity historical study, Kuhn did
not use paradigm, normal science, anomaly, crisis, or incommensurability, which
he championed in Structure. Critics, especially within the history and philosophy
of science discipline, were disappointed. Kuhn bemoaned the books reception,
even by its supporters. However, he later explored the historiographic and
philosophical issues raised in BlackBody Theory with respect to Structure. The
historiographic issues that the former book addressed were the same raised in the
1962 monograph. Specifically, he claimed that current historiography should
attempt to understand previous scientific texts in terms of their contemporary
context and not in terms of modern science. Kuhns concern was more than
historical accuracy; rather, he was interested in recapturing the thought processes
that lead to a change in theory. Although Structure was Kuhns articulation of this
process for scientific change, the terminology in the monograph did not represent
a straightjacket for narrating history. For Kuhn, the terminology and vocabulary,
like paradigm and normal science, used in Structure were not products, such as
metaphysical categories, to which a historical narrative must conform; rather, they
had a different metaphysical functionas presuppositions towards an historical
narrative as process. In other words, Structures terminology and vocabulary were
tools by which to reconstruct a scientific historical narrative and not a template for
articulating it.

The purpose of history of science, according to Kuhn, was not just getting the facts
straight but providing philosophers of science with an accurate image of science to
practice their trade. Kuhn fervently believed that the new historiography of science
would prevent philosophers from engaging in the excesses and distortions
prevalent within traditional philosophy of science. He envisioned history of
science informing philosophy of science as historical philosophy of science rather
than history and philosophy of science, since the relationship was asymmetrical.

Prior to 1950, history of science was a discipline practiced mostly by eminent

scientists, who generally wrote heroic biographies or sweeping overviews of a
discipline often for pedagogical purposes. Within the past generation, historians of
science, such as Alexander Koyr, Anneliese Maier, and E.J. Dijsterhuis,
developed an approach to the history of science that was simply more than
chronicling sciences theoretical and technical achievements. An important factor 31/45
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in that development was the recognition of institutional and sociological factors in

the practice of science. A consequence of this historiographic revolution was the
distinction between internal and external histories of science. Internal history of
science is concerned with the development of the theories and methods employed
by scientists. In other words, it studies the history of events, people, and ideas
internal to scientific advancement. The historian as internalist attempts to climb
inside the mind of scientists as they push forward the boundaries of their
discipline. External history of science concentrates on the social and cultural
factors that impinge on the practice of science.

For Kuhn, the distinction between internal and external histories of science
mapped onto his pattern of scientific development. External or cultural and social
factors are important during a scientific disciplines initial establishment;
however, once established, those factors no longer have a major impact on a
communitys practice or its generation of scientific knowledge. They can have a
minor impact on a mature sciences practice, such as the timing of technological
innovation. Importantly for Kuhn, internal and external approaches to the history
of science are not necessarily mutually exclusive but complementary.

As mentioned already, Kuhn considered himself a practitioner of both the history
of science and the philosophy of science and not the history and philosophy of
science, for a very practical reason. Crassly put, the goal for history is the
particular while for philosophy the universal. Kuhn compared the differences
between the two disciplines to a duck-rabbit Gestalt switch. In other words, the
two disciplines are so fundamentally different in terms of their goals, that the
resulting images of science are incommensurable. Moreover, to see the other
disciplines image requires a conversion. For Kuhn, then, the history of science
and the philosophy of science cannot be practiced at the same time but only
alternatively, and then with difficulty.

How then can the history of science be of use to philosophers of science? The
answer for Kuhn was by providing an accurate image of science. Rejecting the
covering law model for historical explanation because it reduces historians to 32/45
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mere social scientists, Kuhn advocated an image based on ordering of historical

facts into a narrative analogous to the one he proposed for puzzle solving under
the aegis of a paradigm in the physical sciences. Historians of science, as they
narrate change in science, provide an image of science that reflects the process by
which scientific information develops, rather than the image provided by
traditional philosophers of science in which scientific knowledge is simply a
product of logical verification or falsification. Kuhn insisted that the history of
science and the philosophy of science remain distinct disciplines, so that
historians of science can provide an image of science to correct the distortion
produced by traditional philosophers of science.

According to Kuhn, the social history of science also distorts the image of science.
For social historians, scientists construct rather than discover scientific
knowledge. Although Kuhn was sympathetic to this type of history, he believed it
created a gap between older constructions and the ones replacing them, which he
challenged historians of science to fill. Besides social historians of science, Kuhn
also accused sociologists of science for distorting the image of science. Although
Kuhn acknowledged that factors such as interests, power, authority, among others,
are important in the production of scientific knowledge, the predominant use of
them by sociologists eclipses other factors such as nature itself. The key to
rectifying the distortion introduced by sociologists is to shift from a rationality of
belief, that is, the reasons scientists hold specific beliefs, to a rationality of change
in beliefs, that is, the reasons scientists change their beliefs. For Kuhn, a historical
philosophy of science was the means for correcting these distortions of the
scientific image.

Kuhns historical philosophy of science focused on the metahistorical issues

derived from historical research, particularly scientific development and the
related issues of theory choice and incommensurability. Importantly for Kuhn,
both theory choice and incommensurability are intimately linked to one another.
The former cannot be reduced to an algorithm of objective rules but requires
subjective values because of the latter.

Kuhn explored scientific development using three different approaches. The first
was in terms of problem versus puzzle solving. According to Kuhn, problems have 33/45
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no ready solution; and, problem solving is often generally pragmatic and is the
hallmark of an underdeveloped or immature science. Puzzles, on the other hand,
occupy the attention of scientists involved in a developed or mature science.
Although they have guaranteed solutions, the methods for solving puzzles are not
assured. Scientists, who solve them, demonstrate their ingenuity and are rewarded
by the community.

With this distinction in mind, Kuhn envisioned scientific development as the

transition of a scientific discipline from an underdeveloped problem-solving state
to a developed puzzle-solving one. The question then arises as to how this occurs.
The answer that many took from Structure was, adopt a paradigm. However,
Kuhn found this answer to be incorrect in that paradigms are not unique only to
the sciences. But does articulating the question in terms of puzzle-solving help?
Kuhns answer was pragmatic, that is, keep trying different solutions until one
works. In other words, philosophers of science had no exemplars by which to solve
their problems.

Kuhns second approach to scientific development was in terms of the growth of

knowledge. He proposed an alternative view to the traditional one that scientific
knowledge grows by a piecemeal accumulation of facts. To shed light on the
alternative view, Kuhn offered a different reconstruction of science. The central
ideas of a science cohere with one another, forming a set of the central ideas or
core of a particular science. Besides the core, a periphery exists, which represents
an area where scientists can investigate problems associated with a research
tradition without changing core ideas.

Kuhn then drew parallels between the current reconstruction of science and the
earlier one in Structure. Obviously, the transition in cores from one research
tradition to another is a scientific revolution. Moreover, the core represents a
paradigm that defines a particular research tradition. Finally, the periphery is
identified with normal science. The core then provides the means by which to
practice science, and to change the core requires significant retooling that
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Is this change in the core a growth of knowledge? To answer the question, Kuhn
examined the standard account of knowledge as justified true belief. What he
found problematic with the account is the amount or nature of the evidence
needed to justify a belief. And this, of course, raises the issue of truth for which he
had no ready solution. Ultimately, Kuhn equivocated on the question of the
growth of knowledge.

Kuhns final approach to scientific development was through the analysis of three
scientific revolutions: the shift from Aristotelian to Newtonian physics, Voltas
discovery of the electric cell, and Plancks black-body radiation research and
quantum discontinuity. From these examples, Kuhn derived three characteristics
of scientific revolutions. The first was holistic in that scientific revolutions are all-
or-none events. The second was the way referents change after revolutions,
especially in terms of taxonomic categories. According to Kuhn, revolutions
redistribute objects among these categories. The final characteristic of scientific
revolutions was a change in a disciplines analogy, metaphor, or model, which
represents the connection between taxonomic categories and the worlds

According to traditional philosophers of science, the objective features of a good

scientific theory include accuracy, consistency, scope, simplicity, and fecundity.
However, these features, when used individually as criteria for theory choice,
argued Kuhn, are imprecise and often conflict with one another. Although
necessary for theory choice, they are insufficient and must include the
characteristics of the scientists making the choices. These characteristics involve
personal experiences or biography and personality or psychological traits. In other
words, not only does theory choice rely on a theorys objective features but also on
individual scientists subjective characteristics.

Why have traditional philosophers of science ignored or neglected subjective

factors in theory choice? Part of the answer is that they confined the subjective to
the context of discovery, while restricting the objective to the context of
justification. Kuhn insisted that this distinction does not fit with observations of
scientific practice. It is artificial, reflecting science pedagogy. But, actual scientific
practice reveals that textbook presentations of theory choice are stylized, to 35/45
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convince students who rely on the authority of their instructors. What else can
students do? Textbook science discloses only the product of science, not its
process. For Kuhn, since subjective factors are present at the discovery phase of
science, they should also be present at the justification phase.

According to Kuhn, objective criteria function as values, which do not dictate

theory choice but rather influence it. Values help to explain scientists behavior,
which for the traditional philosopher of science may at times appear irrational.
Most importantly, values account for disagreement over theories and help to
distribute risk during debates over theories. Kuhns position had important
consequences for the philosophy of science. He maintained that critics
misinterpreted his position on theory choice as subjective. For them, the term
denoted a matter of taste that is not rationally discussable. But, his use of the term
did involve the discussable with respect to standards. Moreover, Kuhn denied that
facts are theory independent and that there is strictly a rational choice to be made.
Rather, he contended scientists do not choose a theory based on objective criteria
alone but are converted based on subjective values.

Finally, Kuhn discussed theory choice with respect to the incommensurability

thesis. The question he entertained was what type of communication is possible
among community members holding competing theories. The answer, according
to Kuhn, is that communication is partial. The answer raised a second, and more
important, question for Kuhn and his critics. Is good reason visvis empirical
evidence available to justify theory choice, given such partial communication? The
answer would be straightforward if communication was complete, but it is not. For
Kuhn, this situation meant that ultimately reasonable evaluation of the empirical
evidence is not compelling for theory choice and, of course, raised the charge of
irrationality, which he denied.

Kuhn identified two common misconceptions of his version of the

incommensurability thesis. The first was that since two incommensurable theories
cannot be stated in a common language, then they be cannot compared to one
another in order to choose between them. The second was that since an older
theory cannot be translated into modern expression, it cannot be articulated
meaningfully. 36/45
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Kuhn addressed the first misconception by distinguishing between

incommensurability as no common measure and as no common language. He
defined the incommensurability thesis in terms of the latter rather than the
former. Most theoretical terms are homophonic and can have the same meaning in
two competing theories. However, only a handful of terms are incommensurable
or untranslatable. Kuhn considered this a modest version of the
incommensurability thesis, calling it local incommensurability, and claimed that it
was his originally intention. Although there may be no common language to
compare terms that change their meaning during a scientific revolution, there is a
partially common language composed of the invariant terms that do permit some
semblance of comparison. Thus, Kuhn argued, the first criticism fails; because,
and this was his main point, an incommensurate residue remains even with a
partially common language.

As for the second misconception, Kuhn claimed that critics conflate the difference
between translation and interpretation. The conflation is understandable since
translation often involves interpretation. Translation for Kuhn is the process by
which words or phrases of one language substitute for another. Interpretation,
however, involves attempts to make sense of a statement or to make it intelligible.
Incommensurability, then, does not mean that a theoretical term cannot be
interpreted, that is, cannot be made intelligible; rather, it means that the term
cannot be translated, that is, there is no equivalent for the term in the competing
theoretical language. In other words, in order for the theoretical term to have
meaning the scientist must go native in its use.

Kuhn introduced the notion of the lexicon and its attendant taxonomy to capture
both a terms reference and intention or sense. In the lexicon, there are referring
terms that are interrelated to other referring terms, that is, the holistic principle.
The lexicons structure of interrelated terms resembles the worlds structure in
terms of its taxonomic categories. A particular scientific community uses its
lexicon to describe and explain the world in terms of this taxonomy. And,
members of a community or of different communities must share the same lexicon
if they are to communicate fully with one another. Moreover, claimed Kuhn, if full
translation is to be achieved the two languages must share a similar structure with
respect to their respective lexicons. Incommensurability, then, reflects lexicons 37/45
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that have different taxonomic structures by which the world is carved up and

Kuhn also addressed a problem that involves communication among communities

who hold incommensurable theories, or who occupy positions across a historical
divide. Kuhn noted that although lexicons can change dramatically, this does not
deter members from reconstructing their past in the current lexicons vocabulary.
Such reconstruction obviously plays an important function in the community. But
the issue is that, given the incommensurable nature of theories, assessments of
true and false or right and wrong are unwarranted, for which critics charged Kuhn
with a relativist positiona position he was less inclined to deny.

The charge stemmed from the fact that Kuhn advocated no privileged position
from which to evaluate a theory. Rather, evaluations must be made within the
context of a particular lexicon. And thus, evaluations are relative to the relevant
lexicon. But, Kuhn found the charge of relativism trivial. He acknowledged that his
position on the relativity of truth and objectivity, with respect to the communitys
lexicon, left him no option but to take literally world changes associated with
lexical changes. But, is this an idealist position? Kuhn admitted that it appears to
be, but he claimed that it is an idealism like none other. On the one hand, the
world is composed of the communitys lexicon, but one the other hand,
preconceived ideas cannot mold it.

From the mid-1980s to early-1990s, Kuhn transitioned from historical philosophy
of science and the paradigm concept to an evolutionary philosophy of science and
the lexicon notion. To that end, he identified an alternative role for the
incommensurability thesis with respect to segregating or isolating lexicons and
their associated worlds from one another. Incommensurability now functioned for
Kuhn as a mechanism to isolate a communitys lexicon from anothers and as a
means to underpin a notion of scientific progress as the proliferation of scientific
specialties. In other words, as the taxonomical structure of the two lexicons
become isolated and thereby incommensurable with one another, according to
Kuhn, a new specialty and its lexicon split off from the old or parent specialty and 38/45
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its lexicon. This process accounts for a notion of scientific progress as an increase
in the number of scientific specialties after a revolution.

Scientific progress, then, is akin to biological speciation, argued Kuhn, with

incommensurability serving as the isolation mechanism. The result is a tree-like
structure with increased specialization at the tips of the branches. Finally, Kuhns
evolutionary philosophy of science is non-teleological in the sense that science
progresses not towards an ultimate truth about the world but simply away from a
lexicon that cannot be used to solve its anomalies to one that can. However, he still
articulated incommensurability in terms of no common language, with its
attendant problems involving the notion of meaning, and did not transform it fully
with respect to an evolutionary philosophy of science.

Kuhn was working out an evolutionary philosophy of science in a proposed book,

WordsandWorlds:AnEvolutionaryViewofScientificDevelopment. He divided
it into three parts, with three chapters in each. In the first part, Kuhn framed the
problem associated with the incommensurability thesis and addressed the
difficulties accessing past scientific achievements. In the first chapter, he
presented an evolutionary view of scientific development. Without an
Archimedean platform to guide theory assessment, Kuhn proposed a comparative
method for assessing theoretical changes. The method forbids assessment of
theories in isolation and methodological solecism. In the next chapter, he
discussed the problems associated with examining past historical studies in
science. Based on several historical cases, he claimed that anomalies in older
scientific texts could be understood only through an interpretative process
involving an ethnographic or a hermeneutical reading. He had now laid the
groundwork for examining the incommensurability thesis. In the third chapter,
Kuhn discussed the changes of word-meanings as changes in a taxonomy
embedded in a lexiconan apparatus of a languages referring terms. The result of
these changes was an untranslatable gap between two incommensurable theories.
Finally, the lexical terms referring to objects change as the number of scientific
specialties proliferate.

In the books second part, Kuhn continued to explore the nature of a communitys
lexicon, which he explicated in terms of taxonomic categories. These categories are 39/45
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grouped as contrast sets and no overlap of categories exists within the same
contrast set, which Kuhn called the no-overlap principle. The principle prohibits
the reference of terms to objects unless related to one another as species to genus.
Moreover, the properties of the categories are reflected in the properties of their
names. A terms meaning then is a function of its taxonomic category. And, this
restriction is the origin of untranslatability. In the first chapter of this part, Kuhn
discussed the nature of substances in terms of sortal predicates. This move
allowed Kuhn to introduce plasticity into the lexicons usage. Moreover, the
differentiating set is not strictly conventional but relies on the world to which the
different sets connect. In the next chapter, Kuhn extended the lexicon notion to
artifacts, abstractions, and theoretical entities.

In the final chapter of the second part, Kuhn specified the means by which
community members acquire a lexicon. First, they must already possess a
vocabulary about physical entities and forces. Next, definitions play little, if any,
role in learning new terms; rather, those terms are acquired through ostensive
examples, especially through problem solving and laboratory demonstrations.
Third, a single example is inadequate to learn the meaning of a term; rather,
multiple examples are required. Next, acquisition of a new term within a
statement also requires acquisition of other new terms within that statement. And
lastly, students can acquire the terms of a lexicon through different pedagogical

In the books concluding part, Kuhn discussed what occurs during a change in the
lexicon and the implications for scientific development. In chapter seven, he
examined the means by which lexicons change and the repercussions such change
has for communication among communities with different lexicons. Moreover, he
explored the role of arguments in lexical change. In the subsequent chapter, Kuhn
identified the type of progress achieved with changes in lexicons. He maintained
that progress is not the type that aims at a specific goal but rather is instrumental.
In the final chapter, he broached the issues of relativism and realism not in
traditional terms of truth and objectivity but rather with respect to the capability
of making a statement. Statements from incommensurable theories that cannot be
translated are ultimately ineffable. They can be neither true nor false but their
capability of being stated is relative to the communitys history. 40/45
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In sum, the books aim was certainly to address the philosophical issues left over
from Structure, but more importantly, it was to resolve the problems generated by
a historical philosophy of science. Although others were also responsible for its
creation, Kuhn assumed responsibility for resolving the problems; and the sine
qua non for resolving them was the incommensurability thesis. For Kuhn, the
thesis was required more than ever to defend rationality from the post-modern
development of the strong program.

In May 1990, a conferenceor as Hempel called it, a Kuhnfestwas held in
Kuhns honor at MIT, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation and organized by Paul
Horwich and Judith Thomson. The conference speakers included Jed Buchwald,
Nancy Cartwright, John Earman, Michael Friedman, Ian Hacking, John Heilbron,
Ernan McMullin, N.M Swerdlow, and Norton Wise. The papers reflected Kuhns
impact on the history and the philosophy of science. Hempel made a special
appearance on the last day, followed by Kuhns remarks on the conference papers.
As he approached the podium after Hempels remarks, before a standing-room-
only audience, Kuhn was visibly moved by the outpouring of professional
appreciation for his contributions, to a discipline that he cherished and from its
members whom he truly respected.

Kuhn retired from teaching in 1991 and became an emeritus professor at MIT.
During Kuhns career, he received numerous awards and accolades. He was the
recipient of honorary degrees from around a dozen academic institutions, such as
University of Chicago, Columbia University, University of Padua, and University of
Notre Dame. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciencethe
most prestigious society for U.S. scientistsand was an honorary life member of
the New York Academy of Science and a corresponding fellow of the British
Academy. He was president of the History of Science Society from 1968 to 1970
and the society awarded him its highest honor, the Sarton Medal, in 1982. Kuhn
was also the recipient in 1977 of the Howard T. Behrman Award for distinguished
achievement in the humanities and in 1983 of the celebrated John Desmond
Bernal award. Kuhn died on 17 June 1996 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after
suffering for two years from cancer of the throat and bronchial tubes.

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