The many encounters of Thomas Kuhn and French epistemology

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 61:41-50 (2017)
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The work of Thomas Kuhn has been very influential in Anglo-American philosophy of science and it is claimed that it has initiated the historical turn. Although this might be the case for English speaking countries, in France an historical approach has always been the rule. This article aims to investigate the similarities and differences between Kuhn and French philosophy of science or ‘French epistemology’. The first part will argue that he is influenced by French epistemologists, but by lesser known authors than often thought. The second part focuses on the reactions of French epistemologists on Kuhn’s work, which were often very critical. It is argued that behind some superficial similarities there are deep disagreements between Kuhn and French epistemology. This is finally shown by a brief comparison with the reaction of more recent French philosophers of science, who distance themselves from French epistemology and are more positive about Kuhn. Based on these diverse appreciations of Kuhn, a typology of the different positions within the philosophy of science is suggested.

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Massimiliano Simons
Maastricht University


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