Unification and Revolution: A Paradigm for Paradigms

Nicholas Maxwell
University College London
Incommensurability was Kuhn’s worst mistake. If it is to be found anywhere in science, it would be in physics. But revolutions in theoretical physics all embody theoretical unification. Far from obliterating the idea that there is a persisting theoretical idea in physics, revolutions do just the opposite: they all actually exemplify the persisting idea of underlying unity. Furthermore, persistent acceptance of unifying theories in physics when empirically more successful disunified rivals can always be concocted means that physics makes a persistent implicit assumption concerning unity. To put it in Kuhnian terms, underlying unity is a paradigm for paradigms. We need a conception of science which represents problematic assumptions concerning the physical comprehensibility and knowability of the universe in the form of a hierarchy, these assumptions becoming less and less substantial and more and more such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge, to be possible at all, as one goes up the hierarchy. This hierarchical conception of science has important Kuhnian features, but also differs dramatically from the view Kuhn expounds in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In this paper, I compare and contrast these two views in a much more detailed way than has been done hitherto. I show how the hierarchical view can be construed to emerge from Kuhn’s view as it is modified to overcome objections. I argue that the hierarchical conception of science is to be preferred to Kuhn’s view
Keywords T. S. Kuhn  Incommensurability  Unification  Physical comprehensibility of the universe  Metaphysical paradigm  Science without revolutions
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Reprint years 2012, 2014
DOI 10.1007/s10838-013-9225-5
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Explanation and Scientific Understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
The Need for a Revolution in the Philosophy of Science.Nicholas Maxwell - 2002 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 33 (2):381-408.
The Rationality of Science.David Christensen & W. H. Newton-Smith - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):471.

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Understanding Scientific Progress: Aim-Oriented Empiricism. [REVIEW]Shan Gao - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):435-438.

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