Aarhus Universitets segl

New article by Brad Wray: "A Defense of Structure in Structure of Scientific Revolutions"

In Perspectives on Kuhn: Contemporary Approaches to the Philosophy of Thomas Kuhn, eds. Leandro Giri, Pablo Melogno, and Hernán Miguel (The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science, Springer, 2023): 25-40


Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions has been attacked for many reasons. Key analytic terms, most importantly “paradigm,” were widely regarded as poorly defined. To many readers Structure seemed to suggest that the process of theory change is irrational, or at least non-rational. And even his characterization of normal science seemed to some readers to paint a very unflattering picture of scientists as excessively dogmatic and uncritical. More recently, Lorraine Daston has argued that the notion of “structure” that figures in the title of the book, as well as in the analysis of the history of science discussed throughout the book, is “dusty and dated”. Historians of science tend to focus on the particular, in recognition that the sorts of events they study are unique. My aim in this paper is to defend Kuhn’s appeal to the notion of structure. First, I argue that Structure of Scientific Revolutions is not primarily a contribution to the history of science, despite the fact that it cites many historical sources and articles in the history of science. Consequently, it is a mistake to regard Kuhn’s appeal to the notion of structure as a case of badly written history of science. Second, I argue that insofar as the book is a contribution to philosophy, the sort of thing Kuhn means by “structure” is perfectly respectable, and is often presupposed in many philosophical studies, especially in general philosophy of science. Third, I defend Kuhn’s analysis of science, especially the enterprise of identifying the structure of scientific revolutions.