Kuhn’s Lowell lectures: Thomas S. Kuhn: The quest for physical theory: problems in the methodology of scientific research, ed. George A. Reisch. Boston: The M. I. T. Libraries, Department of Distinctive Collections, 2021, xxxvi+169pp, $12.99 PB [Book Review]

Metascience 30 (3):383-386 (2021)
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Abstract

The Quest for Physical Theory (QPT) comprises the eight Lowell lectures that Kuhn gave on Tuesdays and Fridays in March 1951 in the Lecture Hall of the Boston Library. He was 28 years old at the time, a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, a recent Harvard PhD in Physics (1949), and an instructor in the general-education course on science set up by James Conant, Harvard’s President. Kuhn seized the opportunity of the Lowell Lectures to present his new, and ground-breaking at the time, take on science which was shaped by Kuhn’s forays in psychology, philosophy, history, and logic. It is obvious from reading the lectures that Kuhn was very confident of his views and was aiming to jolt the public with his revisionary account. To a complacent audience, accustomed to the standard, textbook picture of science, he hurled the provocative claims that there are no pure facts, that prejudice plays a decisive role in scientific practice, that the then-current history of science fabricated mythologies about past science, that perception is not passive, and that the overthrow of a theory does not add to previous knowledge. All these claims more than foreshadow the basic elements of Kuhn’s model in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (SSR). It is not just that the lectures speak to the emergence of Kuhn’s ideas that were later refined, as George Reisch, the editor of QPT, says in his introductory essay. The lectures show that Kuhn had conceived his model, almost in its entirety, very early on, which means that the much-debated influence exercised on him by later works, such as Toulmin’s, Hanson’s, or Polanyi’s in the 1950s, was secondary to the exploratory readings of his youth. These later influences must have solidified his early conception.

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Vasso Kindi
University of Athens

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References found in this work

The Trouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1992 - Dept. Of the History of Science, Harvard University.
The Politics of Paradigms.George Reisch - 2019 - Albany, NY, USA: SUNY.
A Discussion with Thomas Kuhn.Thomas Kuhn - 1995 - In James Conant & J. Haugeland (eds.), The Road Since Structure. University of Chicago Press.

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