The problem of Kuhnian rationality

Philosophica 86:11-31 (2012)
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Abstract

According to Thomas Kuhn (1962/1970), science is characterized by two levels, one within and one between paradigms. The problem of Kuhnian rationality concerns the choice between paradigms, for which no rational basis appears to exist because this choice is inevitably circular to some extent. This is the main reason why Kuhn's view is perceived to glorify irrationality. (ibid. 199) I present two interpretations of the problem of Kuhnian rationality, one based on concepts (the neo-positivist interpretation) and one based on values. I also describe two notions of rationality, optimizing and satisficing. Neither interpretation supports the notion of optimizing, but the values-interpretation supports satisficing, suggesting that if Kuhnian scientists are rational, as Kuhn insisted, they are satisficers. An agent-based model demonstrates that aggregating the behaviour of satisficing agents can account for Kuhn's view on the dynamics of scientific change.

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Rogier De Langhe
Tilburg University

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sour Grapes: Studies in the Subversion of Rationality.Jon Elster - 1983 - Editions De La Maison des Sciences De L'Homme.
Rational Choice and the Structure of the Environment.Herbert A. Simon - 1956 - Psychological Review 63 (2):129-138.
The Essential Tension.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (4):649-652.

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