Reconsidering the Carnap-Kuhn Connection

In Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions - 50 Years On. Springer Verlag (2015)
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Abstract

Recently, some philosophers of science (e.g., Gürol Irzik, Michael Friedman) have challenged the ‘received view’ on the relationship between Rudolf Carnap and Thomas Kuhn, suggesting that there is a close affinity (rather than opposition) between their philosophical views. In support of this argument, these authors cite Carnap and Kuhn’s similar views on incommensurability, theory-choice, and scientific revolutions. Against this revisionist view, I argue that the philosophical relationship between Carnap and Kuhn should be regarded as opposed rather than complementary. In particular, I argue that a consideration of the fundamentally disparate nature of the broader philosophical projects of Carnap (logic of science) and Kuhn (providing a theory of scientific revolutions)renders the alleged similarities between their views superficial in comparison to their fundamental differences. In defense of the received view, I suggest that Carnap and Kuhn are model representatives of two contrasting styles of doing philosophy of science, viz., logical analysis and historical analysis respectively. This analysis clarifies the role played by Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions in the demise of logical empiricism in the second half of the twentieth-century.

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Jonathan Y. Tsou
University of Texas at Dallas

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