Kuhnian revolutions revisited

Synthese 158 (1):61-73 (2007)
I re-examine Kuhn’s account of scientific revolutions. I argue that the sorts of events Kuhn regards as scientific revolutions are a diverse lot, differing in significant ways. But, I also argue that Kuhn does provide us with a principled way to distinguish revolutionary changes from non-revolutionary changes in science. Scientific revolutions are those changes in science that (1) involve taxonomic changes, (2) are precipitated by disappointment with existing practices, and (3) cannot be resolved by appealing to shared standards. I argue that an important and often overlooked dimension of the Kuhnian account of scientific change is the shift in focus from theories to research communities. Failing to make this shift in perspective might lead one to think that when individual scientists change theories a scientific revolution has occurred. But, according to Kuhn, it is research communities that undergo revolutionary changes, not individual scientists. I show that the change in early modern astronomy is aptly characterized as a Kuhnian revolution.
Keywords Kuhn  Scientific revolution  Scientific change  Research communities  Taxonomic change
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