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Did Kuhn ever recover from 'Structure'?
on February 7, 2003
As with (to a lesser extent) Feyerabend, Kuhn wrote his contreversial opus in the mid 60's. I think it's safe to say that anything hinting at anti-authoritarianism, as it seemed to do on the surface, was begging to be misunderstood. Honestly, after 'paradigm shift' became a bastardized slogan for everything from class-struggle to new-age revelations through meditation, I'm not sure Thomas Kuhn ever recovered from this world-wide misunderstanding. What I read in "The Road Since Structure" corroborates that as we find an author that constantly needs to clarify, "This is what I'm saying. This is what I'm not saying. Now that we're clear, let me repeat myself!"
First, as anyone who's read "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" knows, Kuhn has no talent for clear writing. Nothing's changed since. These essays, although more concise and to the point (perhaps that's Kuhn having learned his lesson) are still difficult reads. The first section, I think, is the book's 'payoff'. It is here that he reiterates, clarifies and expands on what is and is not scientific revolution, incommensurability and paradigm. Two essays in particular, "What are Scientific Revolutions?" and "The Road Since Structure" are worth the price of the book alone.
The second section consists of replies to Kuhns many and in an ideological sense, far ranging critics. Most of these papers were written for symposia and are difficult in the sense of listening to only one end of a phone dialogue. As he is generally responding to papers of others, without access to those papers, it is akward reading to say the least. Still, for those of us scientific philosophy nuts, the essays "Reflections on My Critics" (part of a symposium featuring Lakatos, Popper and Feyerabend amongst others) and "The Natural and the Human Sciences" are excellent illucidations of Kuhns thought.
Honestly, the interview, I didn't like. Much of it is Thomas Kuhns history and as for the reviewer below that bemoans a self-absorbed Kuhn talking about himself and his "intellectual project", I'm not sure what else you should expect from an interview of a philosopher. Interviewers like to ask about the interviewee and philosopher's like to talk about what they work on. Honestly though, if you are at all familiar with Kuhns life, this interview offers little that you didn't already know.