In his later writings (from 1969 on), Thomas Kuhn stopped talking about "paradigms" or "disciplinary matrixes" and started talking about "theories" instead. Some Kuhnians say that from then on, when he wrote "theory", he meant "paradigm"/"disciplinary matrix". Did Kuhn say that he was doing this? If so, where in his writings?


1 Answer 1


See SST (1962), page 10:

By choosing it [the term "paradigm"] I mean to suggest that some accepted examples of actual scientific practice - examples which include law, theory, application, and instrumentation together - provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research.

Thus, the original meaning of "paradigm" includes theories.

And see also Second Thoughts on Paradigms (1974), reprinted into The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (University Of Chicago Press (1977), page 316, where the term paradigm has been "redefined" to name

"shared [by the scientific community] examples of successful practice. [...] Those examples were its paradigms."

For the source of so-called "linguistic turn" in Kuhn's philosophy:

In the 1980s Kuhn employed the concept of lexicon and its structure as a new tool for explicating incommensurability.[...] As a consequence of the “linguistic turn”, several significant changes affect Kuhn’s philosophy, each of which is connected to the notion of taxonomic change. First of all, the terms “paradigm” and “disciplinary matrix” disappear: Kuhn preferred to employ simply the term “theory”. It is not simply a terminological change, since while the notion of paradigm is too wide to allow for talking about the lexicon of a paradigm, it is perfectly meaningful to speak about the lexicon of a theory.

Thus, according to this reading, it is still true that the notion of paradigm is wider than that of theory.

The main source is Commensurability, Comparability, Communicability (1983), reprinted as Chapter Two of The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970-1993 (The Univ.of Chicago Press, 2000).

Here Kuhn says [page57]: "the members of a speech community agree on a number of standard examples (paradigms)".

See also the following chapter of the same book, reprinting: Possibly Worlds in History of Science (1986).

In both chapters, the discussion is about the translations between different (and competing) scientific theories, a topic that was already present in SST.

See also Kuhn’s Later Account of Scientific Revolutions.

  • I would read this as denying that Kuhn did what I was asking about. This quote explicitly says that he changed to "theory" because "theory" is semantically narrower than "paradigm" or "disciplinary matrix". If it is narrower, then it's not the same, and is probably what everybody else understands by "theory". Do you have a different interpretation of this? Oct 12, 2020 at 12:12
  • @Philosopherofscience The bibliography of SEP's entry 'Scientific Revolutions' such as in the last link of Allegranza's response, contains publications as late as 2000. I'd start there.
    – J D
    Oct 12, 2020 at 14:01
  • @JD I know, I think the point of asking questions here is getting the answer without having to read all the bibliography on every subject that bugs us. On the things on which I have read the whole bibliography, I write answers, not questions. That's the most efficient way and the way in which this site should work, in my opinion. The exception would be when someone doesn't understand what they read, which is fine too. Oct 12, 2020 at 15:07
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Which writings? Basically everything after 1977, I believe. Who says that? For example, I'm almost sure, Lorenzano (personal communication, I don't know whether it's in writing). Oct 12, 2020 at 15:33
  • @Philosopherofscience lol Should. To get to a destination, you can demand the map conform to the land, or you can navigate the land. You get what you pay for. Good luck!
    – J D
    Oct 12, 2020 at 16:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .