Kuhn, Naturalism, and the Positivist Legacy

AJ Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


I defend against criticism the following claims concerning Thomas Kuhn: (i) there is a strong naturalist streak in The structure of scientific revolutions, whereby Kuhn used the results of a posteriori enquiry in addressing philosophical questions; (ii) as Kuhn’s career as a philosopher of science developed he tended to drop the naturalistic elements and to replace them with more traditionally philosophical, a priori approaches; (iii) at the same time there is a significant residue of positivist thought in Kuhn, which Kuhn did not recognise as such; (iv) the naturalistic elements referred to in (i) are the most original and fruitful elements of Kuhn’s thinking; (v) the positivistic elements referred to in (iii) vitiated his thought and acted as factors in preventing Kuhn from developing the naturalistic elements and from following the path taken by much subsequent philosophy of science. Preston presents an alternative reading of Kuhn which emphasizes the Wittgensteinian elements in Kuhn. I argue that this alternative view is, descriptively, poorly supported by the textual evidence and the facts of the history of philosophy of science in the twentieth century. I provide some defence of the naturalistic approach and related themes.
Translated title of the contributionKuhn, Naturalism, and the Positivist Legacy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-356
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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