Kuhn [1962/1970], in the chapter *Revolutions as Changes of World View *, says:

[…] this very usual view of what occurs when scientists change their minds about fundamental matters can be neither all wrong nor a mere mistake. Rather it is an essential part of a philosophical paradigm initiated by Descartes [...] Today research in parts of philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and even art history, all converge to suggest that the traditional paradigm is somehow askew. That failure to fit is also made increasingly apparent by the historical study of science to which most of our attention is necessarily directed here. […] What occurs during a scientific revolution is not fully reducible to a reinterpretation of individual and stable data. In the first place, the data are not unequivocally stable. A pendulum is not a falling stone, nor is oxygen dephlogisticated air. Consequently, the data that scientists collect from these diverse objects are, as we shall shortly see, themselves different. More important, the process by which either the individual or the community makes the transition from constrained fall to the pendulum or from dephlogisticated air to oxygen is not one that resembles interpretation. How could it do so in the absence of fixed data for the scientist to interpret? Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses. Confronting the same constellation of objects as before and knowing that he does so, he nevertheless finds them transformed through and through in many of their details. None of these remarks is intended to indicate that scientists do not characteristically interpret observations and data. On the contrary, Galileo interpreted observations on the pendulum, Aristotle observations on falling stones, Musschenbroek observations on a chargefilled bottle, and Franklin observations on a condenser. But each of these interpretations presupposed a paradigm.

[Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 121-122]

Given the quote above and the general thoughts of Kuhn about observational and semantic incommensurability, is it correct to argue that:

  1. observation is equivalent to stimulus;
  2. Descartes equated perception with stimulus/observation (but not interpretation with observation and perception);
  3. Kuhn objected the fact that Descartes equated perception with stimulus/observation.


  • 1
    The statement "philosophical paradigm initiated by Descartes" does not refer to a specific and detailed critique of D's philosophy but only to a broad view that we can link back to D's rationalism. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Aug 8 '18 at 9:09

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