History of science and history of art: An introduction to Kuhn's theory


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This paper is intended to be an outline of Kuhn's conception of the relations between the history of science and the history of art and, at the same time, an introduction to Kuhn's philosophy of science. Kuhn considers that his influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is a portrayal of the development of science as a succession of periods dominated by tradition and punctuated by non-cumulative ruptures. He borrows this idea of development from other fields, including the history of art. Thus, I follow here the footsteps of the Austrian historian of art, Ernst Gombrich, whose name is suggested by Kuhn himself. And I strive to show what Kuhn has in mind when he speaks of a transposition of the idea of non-cumulative development, found in the history of art, to the realm of science. This allows us to introduce some of Kuhn's fundamental notions of the philosophy of science, such as the concepts of "paradigm" and "incommensurability", understanding them beforehand, more intuitively, within the context of the history of art.
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