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Kuhn, Thomas Samuel (1922–96)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q055-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

The early 1960s saw substantial turmoil in the philosophy of science, then dominated by logical empiricism. Most important was the confrontation of the prevailing philosophical tradition with the history of science. Whereas the philosophy of science was mainly normatively oriented, that is it tried to delineate what good science should look like, historical studies seemed to indicate that the practice of science both past and present did not follow those prescriptions.

Thomas S. Kuhn was educated as a theoretical physicist but soon turned to the history and philosophy of science. In 1962, he published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (SSR). This book was the single most important publication advancing the confrontation between the history and the philosophy of science; it is now a classic in science studies. SSR was most influential not only in the discussion within philosophy but also in various other fields, especially the social sciences. The central concepts of SSR, like scientific revolution, paradigm shift and incommensurability, have been in the focus of philosophical discussion for many years, and the term ‘paradigm’ has even become a household word (although mostly not in Kuhn’s intended sense). After SSR, Kuhn continued to develop his theory; apart from minor modifications it is mainly the explication of SSR’s more intricate philosophical topics, especially of incommensurability, which is characteristic of his later work.

Citing this article:
Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. Kuhn, Thomas Samuel (1922–96), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q055-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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