Kuhn, Relativism and Realism

In Juha Saatsi (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 72-83 (2018)
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The aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between Kuhn’s views about science and scientific realism. I present an overview of key features of Kuhn’s model of scientific change. The model suggests a relativistic approach to the methods of science. I bring out a conflict between this relativistic approach and a realist approach to the norms of method. I next consider the question of progress and truth. Kuhn’s model is a problem-solving model that proceeds by way of puzzles and anomalies rather than progress toward truth. I explore Kuhn’s views about scientific progress in connection with scientific realist views about truth and progress. This leads to consideration of Kuhn’s views about the incommensurability of paradigms, as well as brief consideration of an anti-realist interpretation of his talk of world-change. I conclude by indicating that the scientific realist may endorse some aspects of Kuhn’s view.

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Howard Sankey
University of Melbourne


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