About this topic
Summary Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922-1996) was a historian and philosopher of science whose extremely popular book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, has had a profound and enduring impact on the philosophy of science.  In Structure, Kuhn proposed a model of scientific theory change according to which science advances by revolutionary displacement of the theoretical structures he called "paradigms".  Kuhn's account of such scientific revolutions was controversial because it appeared to suggest that such theoretical change cannot be made on a rational basis due to the incommensurability of alternative paradigms.  It also contains a challenge to the scientific realist view that scientific progress constitutes a continual progression toward the truth about the world.  Kuhn continued to develop his ideas in later publications in a way which led to a moderation of his views about theory choice, though he retained his anti-realist view.  He later claimed that science is governed by a set of epistemic values that provide the rationale for theory choice, though these values do not constitute an algorithm for theory choice.  He also developed a refined view of the incommensurability thesis, according to which there is a translation failure between a narrow group of interdefined terms within competing theories, but this untranslatability does not prevent mutual understanding between advocates of rival theories.  Kuhn is best known for his model of scientific theory change and some of the controversial philosophical ideas associated with this model.  But he was also the author of several major works in the history of physics.
Key works Kuhn develops his model of scientific change in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, originally published in 1962.  He discusses the idea of epistemic values in chapter 13 of  The Essential Tension.  Refined statements of many of his philosophical ideas may be found in the posthumous collection of his essays entitled The Road Since Structure.  For general analysis of Kuhn's work see Alexander Bird's Thomas Kuhn and Paul Hoyningen-Huene's Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions.  Two excellent collections of essays on Kuhn are Thomas Nickles' Thomas Kuhn and Vasso Kindi and Theodore Arabatzis Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited.
Introductions For an introduction to Kuhn, see Alexander Bird's entry on Kuhn in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Related categories

736 found
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  1. added 2018-12-21
    ‘Working in a New World’: Kuhn, Constructivism, and Mind-Dependence.Michela Massimi - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 50:83-89.
  2. added 2018-12-21
    What Do Scientists and Engineers Do All Day? On the Structure of Scientific Normalcy.Cyrus C. M. Mody - 2015 - In Alisa Bokulich & William J. Devlin (eds.), Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions - 50 Years On. Springer Verlag.
  3. added 2018-12-21
    Pt. 1: General Reflections. Thomas Kuhn and Interdisciplinary Conversation : Why Historians and Philosophers of Science Stopped Talking to One Another / Jan Golinski ; The History and Philosophy of Science History / David Marshall Miller ; What in Truth Divides Historians and Philosophers of Science? / Kenneth L. Caneva ; History and Philosophy of Science : Thirty-Five Years Later / Ronald N. Giere ; Philosophy of Science and its Historical Reconstruction / Peter Dear ; The Underdetermination Debate : How Lack of History Leads to Bad Philosophy. [REVIEW]Wolfgang Pietsch - 2011 - In Seymour H. Mauskopf & Tad M. Schmaltz (eds.), Integrating History and Philosophy of Science: Problems and Prospects. Springer Verlag.
  4. added 2018-12-21
    Saving Kuhn From the Sociologists of Science.Robert Nola - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):77-90.
  5. added 2018-12-21
    A Comment on Polanyi and Kuhn.Maben Walter Poirier - 1989 - The Thomist 53 (2):259-279.
  6. added 2018-12-21
    Science, History and Methodology: Review of Lakatos and Musgrave Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge; and Buck and Cohen Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Vol 8. [REVIEW]J. J. C. Smart - 1972 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):266-274.
  7. added 2018-12-20
    Sobre el relativismo de Thomas Samuel Kuhn.Alejandro Victor Thiry - 2017 - Trazos, Revista de Estudiantes de Filosofía 1 (1):53-71.
    El impacto de la obra de Thomas Samuel Kuhn se debe, en gran parte, al énfasis con que este autor destacó la relevancia de factores externos al conocimiento científico en el desarrollo de la práctica científica. Pero también las consecuencias relativistas y subjetivistas que se desprenden de muchas de las posiciones que defendió en sus primeras publicaciones contribuyeron con la amplia difusión de sus ideas. No obstante, en sus últimos escritos, Kuhn parece haber matizado algunas de sus concepciones más radicales. (...)
  8. added 2018-12-19
    James Marcum, Thomas Kuhn's Revolutions.Vasso Kindi - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
  9. added 2018-12-01
    Kuhn's Legacy: Epistemology, Metaphilosophy, and Pragmatism. [REVIEW]Howard Sankey - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (4):532-535.
    This is a book review of Bojana Mladenovic, Kuhn's Legacy: Epistemology, Metaphilosophy, and Pragmatism .
  10. added 2018-10-10
    Review of Paul Horwich (Ed.) World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science. [REVIEW]Howard Sankey - 1995 - Metascience 8:140-142.
    This is a book review of Paul Horwich (ed.) World Changes.
  11. added 2018-09-21
    Incommensurability and Theory Change.Howard Sankey - 2011 - In Steven Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 456-474.
    The paper explores the relativistic implications of the thesis of incommensurability. A semantic form of incommensurability due to semantic variation between theories is distinguished from a methodological form due to variation in methodological standards between theories. Two responses to the thesis of semantic incommensurability are dealt with: the first challenges the idea of untranslatability to which semantic incommensurability gives rise; the second holds that relations of referential continuity eliminate semantic incommensurability. It is then argued that methodological incommensurability poses little risk (...)
  12. added 2018-09-21
    Paul Hoyningen-Huene Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S. Kuhn's Philosophy of Science. [REVIEW]Howard Sankey - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (3):487-489.
    This is a book review of Paul Hoyningen-Huene's Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S. Kuhn's Philosophy of Science.
  13. added 2018-09-09
    From Conant's Education Strategy to Kuhn's Research Strategy.Steve Fuller - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):21-37.
  14. added 2018-08-22
    Reality and the Ashtray: Book Review of Errol Morris The Ashtray. [REVIEW]Howard Sankey - forthcoming - Metascience:1-3.
    This is a book review of Errol Morris's book The Ashtray (Or the Man Who Denied Reality).
  15. added 2018-08-19
    Kuhn, the History of Chemistry, and the Philosophy of Science.K. Brad Wray - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science:000-000.
    I draw attention to one of the most important sources of Kuhn’s ideas in Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Contrary to the popular trend of focusing on external factors in explaining Kuhn’s views, factors related to his social milieu or personal experiences, I focus on the influence of the books and articles he was reading and thinking about in the history of science, specifically, sources in the history of chemistry. I argue that there is good reason to think that the history (...)
  16. added 2018-07-17
    The (Lack of) Evidence for the Kuhnian Image of Science.Moti Mizrahi - 2018 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7 (7):19-24.
    In their reviews of The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? (2018), both Markus Arnold (2018) and Amanda Bryant (2018) complain that the contributors who criticize Kuhn’s theory of scientific change have misconstrued his philosophy of science and they praise those who seek to defend the Kuhnian image of science. In what follows, then, I would like to address their claims about misconstruing Kuhn’s theory of scientific change. But my focus here, as in the book, will be (...)
  17. added 2018-06-22
    Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston, Eds. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Pp. 202. $25.00. [REVIEW]Christian Damböck - 2017 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 7 (1):154-156.
  18. added 2018-06-06
    Die Kuhn'sche Wende.Paul Hoyningen Huene & Simon Lohse - 2012 - In S. Maasen, M. Kaiser, M. Reinhart & B. Sutter (eds.), Handbuch Wissenschaftssoziologie. Wiesbaden, Deutschland: Springer. pp. 73-84.
  19. added 2018-03-03
    Kuhn's "Wrong Turning" and Legacy Today.Yafeng Shan - 2018 - Synthese.
    Alexander Bird indicates that the significance of Thomas Kuhn in the history of philosophy of science is somehow paradoxical. On the one hand, Kuhn was one of the most influential and important philosophers of science in the second half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, nowadays there is little distinctively Kuhn’s legacy in the sense that most of Kuhn’s work has no longer any philosophical significance. Bird argues that the explanation of the paradox of Kuhn’s legacy is that (...)
  20. added 2018-02-18
    Kuhn, Relativism and Realism.Howard Sankey - 2018 - In Juha Saatsi (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 72-83.
    The aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between Kuhn’s views about science and scientific realism. I present an overview of key features of Kuhn’s model of scientific change. The model suggests a relativistic approach to the methods of science. I bring out a conflict between this relativistic approach and a realist approach to the norms of method. I next consider the question of progress and truth. Kuhn’s model is a problem-solving model that proceeds by way of puzzles (...)
  21. added 2018-02-18
    The Demise of the Incommensurability Thesis.Howard Sankey - 2016 - In Moti Mizrahi (ed.), The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? London and New York: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 75-91.
    The paper briefly reviews the main formulations of the incommensurability thesis by Feyerabend and Kuhn, as well as the main criticisms leveled against it. The question is then raised of whether there is a "phenomenon" of incommensurability that has been "discovered". It is argued that there is no such phenomenon.
  22. added 2018-02-18
    Philosophy and History of Science: Beyond the Kuhnian Paradigm.Hans Radder - 1997 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 28 (4):633-655.
    At issue in this paper is the question of the appropriate relationship between the philosophy and history of science. The discussion starts with a brief sketch of Kuhn's approach, followed by an analysis of the so-called ‘testing-theories-of-scientific-change programme’. This programme is an attempt at a more rigorous approach to the historical philosophy of science. Since my conclusion is that, by and large, this attempt has failed, I proceed to examine some more promising approaches. First, I deal with Hacking's recent views (...)
  23. added 2018-02-17
    The Paranoid Style in American History of Science.George Reisch - 2012 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 27 (3):323-342.
    Historian Richard Hofstadter’s observations about American cold-war politics are used to contextualize Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and argue that substantive claims about the nature of scientific knowledge and scientific change found in Structure were adopted from this cold-war political culture.Las observaciones del historiador Richard Hofstadter sobre la política americana en la Guerra Fría se utilizan para contextualizar La estructura de las revoluciones científicas de Thomas Kuhn y sostener que algunas afirmaciones fundamentales sobre la naturaleza del conocimiento científico (...)
  24. added 2018-02-17
    A Rosa Multiflora by Any Other Name: Taxonomic Incommensurability and Scientific Kinds.Jeffrey K. McDonough - 2003 - Synthese 136 (3):337-358.
    The following paper attempts to explore, criticize and develop Thomas Kuhn's most mature -- and surprisingly neglected -- view of incommensurability. More specifically, it focuses on undermining an influential picture of scientific kinds that lies at the heart of Kuhn's understanding of taxonomic incommensurability; sketching an alternative picture of scientific kinds that takes advantage of Kuhn's partially developed theory of disciplinary matrices; and using these two results to motivate revisions to Kuhn's theory of taxonomic incompatibility, as well as, to the (...)
  25. added 2018-02-17
    Taxonomy, Truth-Value Gaps and Incommensurability: A Reconstruction of Kuhn's Taxonomic Interpretation of Incommensurability.Xinli Wang - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):465-485.
    Kuhn's alleged taxonomic interpretation of incommensurability is grounded on an ill defined notion of untranslatability and is hence radically incomplete. To supplement it, I reconstruct Kuhn's taxonomic interpretation on the basis of a logical-semantic theory of taxonomy, a semantic theory of truth-value, and a truth-value conditional theory of cross-language communication. According to the reconstruction, two scientific languages are incommensurable when core sentences of one language, which have truth values when considered within its own context, lack truth values when considered within (...)
  26. added 2018-02-17
    Thomas S. Kuhn's Mysterious Worlds.Katherine Hawley - 1996 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (2):291-300.
    An essay review of two books about Kuhn and Kuhnian ideas.
  27. added 2018-02-17
    Two Letters of Paul Feyerabend to Thomas S. Kühn on a Draft of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Paul Hoyningen-Huene - 1995 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (3):353-387.
  28. added 2018-02-16
    Kuhn, Naturalism and the Positivist Legacy.Alexander Bird - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (2):337-356.
    I defend against criticism the following claims concening Thomas Kuhn: (i) there is a strong naturalist streak in The structure of scientific revolutions, whereby Kuhn used the results of a posteriori enquiry in addressing philosophical questions; (ii) as Kuhn's career as a philosopher of science developed he tended to drop the naturalistic elements and to replace them with more traditionally philosophical a prior approaches; (iii) at the same there is a significant residue of positivist thought in Kuhm, which Kuhn did (...)
  29. added 2018-02-16
    Kuhn’s Wrong Turning.Alexander Bird - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):443-463.
    Why, despite his enormous influence in the latter part of the twentieth century, has Kuhn left no distinctively Kuhnian legacy? I argue that this is because the development of Kuhn’s own thought was in a direction opposite to that of the mainstream of the philosophy of science. In the 1970s and 1980s the philosophy of science took on board the lessons of externalism as regards reference and knowledge, and became more sympathetic to a naturalistic approach to philosophical problems. Kuhn, on (...)
  30. added 2017-12-05
    Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Modern Cosmology: The Case For a Kuhnian Paradigm Shift.Jorge Horvath - 2009 - Cosmos and History 5 (2):287-303.
    Several works in the last few years devoted to measure fundamental probes of contemporary cosmology have suggested the existence of a delocalized dominant component , in addition to the several-decade-old evidence for “dark matter” other than ordinary baryons, both assuming the description of gravity to be correct. Either we are faced to accept the ignorance of at least 95 % of the content of the universe or consider a deep change of the conceptual framework to understand the data. Thus, the (...)
  31. added 2017-11-03
    Ordinary Language Criticisms of Logical Positivism.Paul L. Franco - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (1):157-190.
    In this paper, I fill out the received view of logical positivism within professional philosophy against which Thomas Kuhn’s Structure appeared. To do this, I look at the methodological dimensions of ordinary language criticisms of logical positivist analysis from P.F. Strawson and J.L. Austin. While no one would confuse Strawson and Austin for philosophers of science, I look to their criticisms given the general porousness of sub-disciplinary boundaries in mid-20th century philosophy, the prominence of ordinary language philosophy in the 1950s, (...)
  32. added 2017-09-15
    Robert J. Richards and Lorraine Daston, Eds., Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty: Reflections on a Science Classic. [REVIEW]Christian Damböck - 2017 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 7 (1):154-156.
  33. added 2017-09-04
    Beyond Kuhn: Methodological Contextualism and Partial Paradigms.Darrell P. Rowbottom - forthcoming - In Moti Mizrahi (ed.), The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? Rowman & Littlefield.
  34. added 2017-07-12
    The Sciences, the Humanities, and the Illusion of Progress: A Comment on Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Berlin's Divorce Between the Sciences and the Humanities.Raymond D. Pruitt - 1981 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 25 (1):136-143.
  35. added 2017-07-09
    Some Reflections on the Personal Impact of Thomas Kuhn.Mick Nott - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1):207-211.
  36. added 2017-07-09
    Thomas Kuhn and Science Education.Berry van Berkel & Wobbe de Vos Adri H. Verdonk - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):214.
  37. added 2017-07-09
    Thomas Kuhn's Influence on Astronomers.Harry L. Shipman - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):161-171.
  38. added 2017-07-09
    Review of T.S Kuhn The Copernican Revolution. Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. [REVIEW]Harry Woolf - 1958 - Isis 49 (3):366-367.
  39. added 2017-07-07
    Kuhn, Pedagogy, and Practice: A Local Reading of Structure.Lydia Patton - 2018 - In Moti Mizrahi (ed.), The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation? Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
    Moti Mizrahi has argued that Thomas Kuhn does not have a good argument for the incommensurability of successive scientific paradigms. With Rouse, Andersen, and others, I defend a view on which Kuhn primarily was trying to explain scientific practice in Structure. Kuhn, like Hilary Putnam, incorporated sociological and psychological methods into his history of science. On Kuhn’s account, the education and initiation of scientists into a research tradition is a key element in scientific training and in his explanation of incommensurability (...)
  40. added 2017-07-04
    The Nature of Physical Theories.Fg Nagasaka - 1990 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 7 (5):217-231.
  41. added 2017-06-30
    Carnap, Kuhn, and the History of Science: A Reply to Thomas Uebel.J. C. Pinto de Oliveira - 2015 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 46 (1):215-223.
    The purpose of this article is to respond to Thomas Uebel’s criticisms of my comments regarding the current revisionism of Carnap’s work and its relations to Kuhn. I begin by pointing out some misunderstandings in the interpretation of my article. I then discuss some aspects related to Carnap’s view of the history of science. First, I emphasize that it was not due to a supposed affinity between Kuhn’s conceptions and those of logical positivists that Kuhn was invited to write the (...)
  42. added 2017-06-28
    The Kuhnian Image of Science: Time for a Decisive Transformation?Moti Mizrahi (ed.) - 2018 - London: Rowman & Littlefield.
    More than 50 years after the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s seminal book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this volume assesses the adequacy of the Kuhnian model in explaining certain aspects of science, particularly the social and epistemic aspects of science. One argument put forward is that there are no good reasons to accept Kuhn’s incommensurability thesis, according to which scientific revolutions involve the replacement of theories with conceptually incompatible ones. Perhaps, therefore, it is time for another “decisive transformation in the (...)
  43. added 2017-02-15
    The Revolutions of Scientific Structure.C. G. Hales - 2014 - World Scientific.
  44. added 2017-02-11
    Ética y Genética: Los Problemas Morales de la Genética Humana.Diana Cohen - 2004 - Análisis Filosófico 24 (2):219-222.
    En el presente trabajo se pone de relieve una tesis del último Kuhn que ha sido, y aún es, desatendida: el carácter no universal del lenguaje. Luego de ubicarla en los textos y contextos teóricos donde aparece, se intenta aclararla a partir de algunos de sus textos posteriores. En este afán, el trabajo presente en primer lugar muestra, cómo, deben ser modificadas algunas de las propuestas filosóficas atribuidas al Kuhn clásico para poder comprender esta tesis y en segundo lugar, intenta (...)
  45. added 2017-02-09
    The Many Encounters of Thomas Kuhn and French Epistemology.Simons Massimiliano - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 61:41-50.
    The work of Thomas Kuhn has been very influential in Anglo-American philosophy of science and it is claimed that it has initiated the historical turn. Although this might be the case for English speaking countries, in France an historical approach has always been the rule. This article aims to investigate the similarities and differences between Kuhn and French philosophy of science or ‘French epistemology’. The first part will argue that he is influenced by French epistemologists, but by lesser known authors (...)
  46. added 2017-01-31
    Bird, Kuhn and Positivism.John Miles Preston - unknown
  47. added 2017-01-31
    Kuhn, Instrumentalism, and the Progress of Science.John Miles Preston - unknown
  48. added 2017-01-31
    Kuhn, Instrumentalism, and the Progress of Science.John Miles Preston - unknown
  49. added 2017-01-27
    The Concept of Paradigm and the Ideal of Science in the Reconstructions of the History of Knowledge.Anna Michalska - 2013 - Archiwum Historii Filozofii I Myśli Społecznej 58.
    The paper’s main objective is to bring out the original project of philosophy and history of science, underlying the famous works of Thomas Kuhn. In defiance of what is commonly envisaged, the model of scientific revolutions is demonstrated as a promising conceptual frame to be used with the purpose to reconstruct the development of modern and contemporary science. The analysis of the logic of explanation of scientific changes elaborated by Kuhn is based on two canonical monographs: The Structure of Scientific (...)
  50. added 2017-01-27
    Science: A Greatest Integer Function– A Punctuated, Cumulative Approach to the Inquisitive Nature of Science.Kristianne Anor - 2012 - Stance 5:19-30.
    Thomas Kuhn argues that scientific advancements sometimes involve paradigm shifts between incommunsurable theories, thoughts, and concepts. I argue that the phenomenon Kuhn is attempting to describe is better explained as akin to a greatest integer function of punctuated equilibrium. I conclude that Kuhn is mistaken in thinking that science is an actively vigorous, cumulative discipline.
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