Unification and Revolution: A Paradigm for Paradigms

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Abstract
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
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2012, 2014
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First archival date: 2012-04-10
Latest version: 5 (2014-04-13)
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2012-04-10

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