The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

July 18, 2016

July 18, 1922

If, as Thomas Kuhn (July 18, 1922 to June 17, 1996) says, "Controversy about scientific matters sometimes looked much like a cat fight." this is partly because of his acuteness in analysing the assumptions and presumptions of the thinking behind modern science.

His paper, The Trouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science (1992) , from which we quoted, was decades after his groundbreaking The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)
and in that wake, Kuhn knew controversy. A main point he repeats is that the terms scientists used are assumed to have a stable meaning throughout modern history, and this careless ignorance explains a lot of the arguments in science. Kuhn examined the bigger picture of words and things and from this context suggested both the inevitable limitation of human knowledge and the implications of this for an appreciation of man's ideas.

Kuhn points out that the simple “the cat sat on the mat” has no straightforward translation into French because the word “mat” has no exact French counterpart....Words like “tapis”, “carpette”, and so on get fairly close, [but the connections to other aspects of the French language prevent a one to one correspondence.] (Thomas Kuhn, Alexander Bird (2000)).

The philosophical subtlety of Kuhn's analysis has not been without critics, of course.

Stefano Gattei in Thomas Kuhn's 'Linguistic Turn' and the Legacy of Logical Empiricism: Incommensurability, Rationality and the Search for Truth (
2012) includes this kind of counter argument:

"There are no dogs that are also cats, no gold rings that are also silver rings, and so on: that's what makes dogs, cats, silver, and gold each a kind...” But the real argument is not really at the level of a Sears Catalog, but involves including man as part of that which must be known.

I have not looked at one of Kuhn's last books, (co-authored) The Tiger and the Shark: Empirical Roots of Wave-Particle Dualism (1991) but it sounds very interesting.

No comments: