The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Critical Context - Essay

Thomas S. Kuhn

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

With the publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn came to be recognized as a provocative contemporary philosopher of science. He joined the company of previously established figures as Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, and Paul Feyerabend. While it is not appropriate here to compare and contrast the writings of these various philosophers of science, two comments are relevant.

In 1965, a symposium focusing on Kuhn’s work was held in London under the auspices of the Division of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science. Kuhn, Popper, Lakatos, and Feyerabend were all contributors to the resulting volume Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 1970. Two essays by Kuhn are included, “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research” and “Reflections on My Critics.” In these essays, Kuhn discusses the differences between himself and the other three; he also tries to correct some misinterpretations of his work.

Despite these attempts by Kuhn to clarify his writings, David Stove, an Australian philosopher of science, published a sharply critical commentary, Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists, with Kuhn one of the four. In particular, Stove charges these theorists with expounding the view that scientific knowledge is never true or false and that even the best scientific opinion at any given time is an unjustified conjecture, deeply influenced by its contemporary context.

Other philosophers of science who have found themselves at odds with Kuhn’s views are Israel Scheffler and Dudley Shapere. Scheffler is disturbed by the subjectivity that Kuhn attributes to scientific investigation, and Shapere is critical of the notion of paradigms set forth by Kuhn. Margaret Masterson, another...

(The entire section is 774 words.)