Conceptual transformations

Sociological Theory 13 (2):163-177 (1995)
Are the words in our natural language which we use to speak about natural and social phenomena actually laden with preexisting (and hence corrigible) theoretical commitments, full-blown "ontologies," or even metaphysics? Or can we appeal to rules for their use in adjudicating the sense (or otherwise) of any scientific or philosophical innovation? These questions arise most commonly in the context of claims about scientific "transformations," especially "scientific revolutions." Cognitive science, for example, announces such a "revolution" in its conceptualizations of the true nature of the "mind," "thought," "intelligence," "understanding," and so on. In this paper I shall argue that Wittgenstein's reflections on "grammar" enable us to dissolve many of the perplexities that confront us when we invoke Kuhnian "incommensurability" in distinguishing between genuine scientific revolutions and pseudo-revolutions. Indeed, the Kuhnian thesis itself is seen to depend on a range of contestable claims about "words" and "meanings."
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DOI 10.2307/202159
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