prophilosophy

Professional philosophy news

Scientific American on Thomas Kuhn

ProPhi has mentioned (here, here, and here) several recent pieces on Thomas Kuhn in light of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Now John Horgan of Scientific American revisits his 1996 write-up of Kuhn here.

Kuhn tried, throughout his career, to remain true to that original epiphany he experienced in his dormitory at Harvard. During that moment Kuhn saw—he knew!—that reality is ultimately unknowable; any attempt to describe it obscures as much as it illuminates. But Kuhn’s insight forced him to take the untenable position that because all scientific theories fall short of absolute, mystical truth, they are all equally untrue. Because we cannot discover The Answer, we cannot find any answers. His mysticism led him toward a position as absurd as that of the literary sophists who argue that all texts—from The Tempest to an ad for a new brand of vodka—are equally meaningless, or meaningful.

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