Paradigms, rationality, and partial communication

Summary Critics have said that Kuhn's account of scientific revolutions represents them as subjective and irrational processes, in which mystical conversions and community pressures rather than good reasons determine choices between theories. Kuhn rejects the charge, insisting that there is partial communication among proponents of competing paradigm candidates and their arguments are rational though not coercive. The critics reply that in fact Kuhn's position entails total non-communication and irrationality. A Kuhnian account of partial communication is thus necessary. Kuhn's attempt to give one, based on the notion that the good reasons advanced in paradigm debates function asvalues, fails. But a more satisfactory account can be given if it is recognized that paradigm-debaters will, in one or both of two ways, share paradigmsother than the ones at issue. Further, Kuhn's position both should and can accommodate a notion of theory reduction; his unqualified rejection of reduction is an unnecessary weakness, even apart from questions about the rationality of revolutions. The paper concludes with a brief examination of the contrast between Kuhn's and Feyerabend's strategies for the advancement of science
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