Rowman and Littlefield International

The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation?


Published on Thursday 08 Feb 2018 by Moti Mizrahi
“History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed” (Kuhn 1962/1996, 1).

Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) beings with a great idea, namely, to use the history of science, not as a repository for anecdotes, but as a source of data that will inform philosophical accounts of science. As Wray (2011, p. 87) puts it, “Kuhn was part of the vanguard that ushered in the historical turn in philosophy of science which looked to the history of science as a source of data for developing a philosophy of science.” Systematically mining the historical record of science for data that can inform philosophers’ theorizing about science would have been a great way to do philosophy of science. But is that actually what Kuhn did?

 

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Instead of using the history of science as a source of data for developing a philosophy of science, Kuhn used it as a repository of anecdotes. Contrary to his own methodological prescription, Kuhn cherry-picked case studies from the history of science to develop his influential philosophy of science. Or so I argue in the introduction to The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? (2017, pp. 1-22).

 

If this is correct, the question is what we should do with Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Should we defend the Kuhnian image of science? Is there more than anecdotal evidence in the history of science that supports the Kuhnian image of science? If so, what is that evidence?

 

If there is no such evidence, then perhaps we should we revise the Kuhnian image of science. If so, how? What revisions are required in order to make the Kuhnian image of science immune to the criticism that it lacks support from the history of science? (See Mizrahi 2015a, 2015b, and 2015c. Cf. Patton 2015 and Marcum 2015.)

 

If revisions to the Kuhnian image of science are not forthcoming, then perhaps we should abandon it. If so, what alternative images of science could replace it? The contributors to The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? (2017) consider each of these options and provide arguments for and against them. What most of the contributors agree on, apparently, is that there is more to science than Kuhn has imagined.

 

References

 

Kuhn, T. S. (1962/1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Third Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

 

Mizrahi, M. (2015a). Kuhn’s Incommensurability Thesis: What’s the Argument? Social Epistemology 29 (4): 361-378.

 

Mizrahi, M. (2015b). A Reply to Patton's "Incommensurability and the Bonfire of the Meta-Theories". Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4 (10): 51-53.

 

Mizrahi, M. (2015c). A Reply to James Marcum’s “What’s the Support for Kuhn’s Incommensurability Thesis?”. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4 (11): 21-24.

 

Mizrahi, M. (2017). Introduction. In M. Mizrahi (ed.), The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? (pp. 1-22). London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

 

Wray, K. B. (2011). Kuhn’s Evolutionary Social Epistemology. New York: Cambridge University Press.