Anticipations of revolutions

Sun 26 Feb 2006 10:23 PM

In the same vein as my remark about Peter Winch: Today I ran across another anticipation of the Kuhnian distinction between normal and revolutionary science.

In his 1960 introductory text Philosophy of Science, Stephen Toulmin discusses what it means for a theory to count as 'fundamental.' He argues that a fundamental theory would explain all of the things that need explaining. These standards are, as he puts it, "something with which scientists grow familiar in the course of their training, but which is hardly ever stated" [p. 117]. Sometimes, he adds, they change in non-incremental ways: "From time to time... the ideal changes in a way which cannot be described so simply, and these are occasions when disputes of a philosophical kind arise" [p. 117-8].

This is consonant with Winch's remark about the "accepted view" among philosophers at the time. Although I don't have much sense of Toulmin's intellectual biography, I suspect that he was led to this kind of thinking-- as Winch was-- by way of Wittgenstein.

I don't know if Wittgenstein ever read Ludwik Fleck who, as Greg commented in the previous thread, practically wrote The Structure three decades before Kuhn.