On Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Iyyun 56:119 (2007)
Kuhnʼs influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,1 is often viewed as a revolt against empiricist philosophy of science. However, Friedman has reminded us lately2 that the book was commissioned by logical positivists, who were delighted with the result. In fact, the book was part of the International Encyclopedia of United Science initiated by members of the Vienna Circle, whose first volumes were published in 1938.3 The project aimed at providing a systematic positivist perspective on all the sciences, from logic and mathematics through linguistics and on to psychology and sociology. The publication of Structure as volume 12 of the encyclopedia was greeted enthusiastically by the editor, Carnap, as can be learned from the letters he wrote to Kuhn. There are several reasons for this reaction. First, as noted by Friedman, there is a resemblance between Kuhnʼs notion of changing paradigms and Carnapʼs philosophical ideas. Logical empiricism is “logical” because of its central tenet that scientific knowledge is the organization of facts within a conceptual structure; the existence of an appropriate conceptual structure is a precondition for the very possibility of scientific inquiry. Unlike Kant, however, the logical empiricists believed that the conceptual.
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