Topoi 32 (1):111-122 (2013)

Alexandra Bradner
Kenyon College
When read as a theory that is supposed to mirror, represent or fit some collection of historical data, critics argue that Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shift in Structure of Scientific Revolutions fails by cherry-picking and underdetermination. When read as the ground for a socio-epistemological conception of rationality, critics argue that Kuhn’s theory fails by either the naturalistic fallacy or underarticulation. This paper suggests that we need not view Structure as a historian’s attempt to accurately depict scientific theory change or a philosopher’s attempt to suggest, more normatively, the factors we ought to consider in theory choice. Instead, we might use Kuhn’s theory as a metaphilosophical frame through which to better understand the limits of otherwise intractable philosophical debates. We can focus on Kuhn’s theory not as a proposition or model to confirm, but as something we might use as a tool for understanding. Philosophers have discussed the justice and care orientations in ethics as two theories for which there will be some common, constraining set of intuitions to confirm one theory over the other, to demonstrate that protecting rights is fundamentally more valuable that fulfilling needs or that fulfilling needs is fundamentally more valuable that protecting rights. Instead of conceptualizing this conversation as a choice between two theories, this paper looks to Ian Hacking’s interpretation of Kuhn’s paradigm concept to suggest that working in the world of justice is very different than working in the world of care, as each orientation is a paradigm with its own cognitive and contextual standards of theory assessment. To start, after Larry Laudan, each has its own ontology, methodology, aims and values. But moreover, after Ian Hacking, each has an even larger, entrenched collection of projectible predicates. Though Carol Gilligan herself uses the metaphor of gestalt shift in a few places to characterize the move from the justice to the care perspective, the insight—that what many assume to be a standard exercise in theory choice is really more of a paradigm shift—has been under theorized by ethicists and ignored by philosophers of science. This paper brings the full resources of Structure and its secondary literature to this metaethical issue, while making the larger point that Structure has an important pragmatic role to play, when it comes to the understanding philosophical debates, even if we cannot secure the truth of Kuhn’s theory
Keywords Care ethics  Incommensurability  Understanding  Entrenchment
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11245-012-9134-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,107
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
Reason, Truth and History.Hilary Putnam - 1981 - Cambridge University Press.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 26 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited.Vasso P. Kindi - 1995 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 26 (1):75 - 92.
Thomas Kuhn‘s Latest Notion of Incommensurability.Xiang Chen - 1997 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 28 (2):257-273.
Did Tom Kuhn Actually Meet Tom Bayes?Lefteris Farmakis - 2008 - Erkenntnis 68 (1):41 - 53.
Taxonomic Incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1998 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (1):7 – 16.


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #353,989 of 2,454,610 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #449,377 of 2,454,610 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes