Happy Birthday, STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS

It’s 50 years this year since the publication of one of the biggest-selling philosophy books of all time, and in my opinion one of the major works of philosophy of the last century, Kuhn’s STRUCTURE.
(It’s also btw the 90th anniversary of Kuhn’s birth, this year.)
I went on Radio 3’s NIGHT WAVES to discuss STRUCTURE at 50, recently. Have a listen again here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kkp42 (16 minutes in).
There are all sorts of books and conferences coming out / happening to celebrate the anniversary.
One of my contributions is this [see link below] much smaller offering: a review of an interesting recent book on Kuhn’s philosophy, which argues (I don’t really agree, as you’ll see) that Kuhn’s post-STRUCTURE writings are much better. The review will be appearing in the BJPS. If you are interested in Kuhn, you might be interested in this. The link here goes to the ‘full-length’ version. The version that will appear in BJPS will be much shorter, and further-edited.
So: suggestions of changes welcome!
Here it is: http://rupertread.fastmail.co.uk/Critical%20notice%20of%20Wray%20on%20Kuhn.doc [NB This link downloads a copy of the file onto your machine.]
This review btw is co-authored by me and Jessica Woolley, a student of mine. So she gets at least half the credit for this. (But not, please, half the blame, if any! ;-)

  1. I agree it’s a classic. It still causes debate as to the extent of how historicity and the social study of science has a genuine role.

    His main contribution for me is: Science is what human scientists do, there’s a method to it (to ensure its not a madness).

    The paradigms that it offers as explanatory sets are not something to “believe in” in any other respect than they are (tentatively and for the time being since they are in principle falsifiable, an inheritance form Popper) the best fit to empiricism whilst being analytically sound. Other contending paradigms may be offered up, and there;s a variety of means of valuing them (e.g., Occam’s razor), but these valuing systems are human “investments”, and a paradigm shift may well occur when these investments change as well as the empirical data set is updated. Arguments ensue in the community of scientists when values are held/clinged onto at the expense of confirmation bias with the data set.

    Hence science is a subject for philosophy to engage in with respect to looking at these value investments.

    Something that is topical these days with some scientists still not getting it as to what they are doing, and on what value system, that they may not be reflecting over, that underpins them.

    See… http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/sep/09/science-philosophy-debate-julian-baggini-lawrence-krauss

  2. I also came cross a related article in TPM and another interview by Julian Baggini. Whilst Baggini seems to get on well with Krauss he doesn’t so much with Pirsing. Why? Perhaps Baggini shares more of the values of Krauss than he does with Pirsig?

    Kuhn is also mentioned, this time as a book within the mainstream of expert opinion. Ironic in a way! :)

    Zen and the art of dialogue…

    “What is the most important work of philosophy to be written in the last fifty years? Ask a panel of experts and you’ll probably be told it’s something like Rawls’s Theory of Justice, MacIntyre’s After Virtue, or Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – all books the average person in the street has never heard of.

    Jo Public is most likely to remember an international bestseller: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into values by Robert M Pirsig, published in 1974.”

    See… http://www.thephilosophersmagazine.com/TPM/article/view/13142/10163

  3. It’s 50 years this year since the publication of one of the biggest-selling philosophy books of all time…

    Which makes it a Kuhnquagenarian…

    I’ll get me coat.

  4. Structure is in no way a philosophy book. It is about the sociology of science.

  5. Though I’m sure some would agree with Mark, that the work as being part of science studies, but I think that this view can be curbed by putting the work in context. In “Dynamics of Reason”, Michael Friedman successfully and vividly explains how Kuhn has a distinctive place in the broader epistemic and intellectual tradition. In particular, he shows that there is a complicated (and interesting) intellectual debt/rivalry going on between Kuhn and Carnap. Moreover, the philosophy of science owes Kuhn a great debt for SSR, and his ensuing exchanges with Popper make for a useful introduction to theoretical philosophy courses.

    All of this embarrasses me a little, because I haven’t read the damned thing, apart from selections…

Leave a Comment


NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>