Kuhn the Contextualist?

Aristos 5 (1):1-15 (2020)
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Abstract
According to Kuhn’s account of the nature of scientific paradigms, how one experiences the world varies drastically from one context to another depending on the accepted paradigm of the context in question. In other words, one’s pre-existing conceptual structure concerning the world not only acts as an epistemological framework for its possible understanding, but also fundamentally affects the phenomenological observations of the world as something; this latter function of the conceptual structure motivates the view that mature scientific paradigms/theories and the data of scientific observation/experimentation are essentially two sides of the same coin. What is interesting, then, is that even between different historical eras that generally regarded the world in clearly incompatible ways, albeit still informed by paradigms, Kuhn still attributes scientific knowledge to each. To make sense of this, the explanatory resources of epistemological contextualism are used to specify potentially one way in which epistemic standards for knowledge must change between different historical eras for one to justifiably claim scientific knowledge within these different contexts. As we shall see, the argument for Kuhn’s account of paradigm being contextualist in character is apparently best made through the notion of doubt-driven context-shifts as actualising change in the form of P between different contexts in which “S knows that P” is asserted. As such, this paper first explores Kuhn’s account of scientific knowledge and paradigms before considering how the account can be considered contextualist in nature. Moreover, other context-concerned systems, such as Traditional, and Subject-Sensitive Invariantism, are briefly investigated to substantiate claims of what cannot be accurately ascribed to Kuhn’s epistemology.
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