History and Reason: The Three Historiographic Paradigms Extracted by Kuhn from Three Scientific Theories
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The old historiography considered only cumulative, positive scientific results. Koyré’s one instead took into account both successes and errors of scientists in the context of their culture. In 1962, Kuhn introduced a completely new conception of the scientific events based on a ceaseless succession of paradigms and revolutions. The success of his book, The structure of scientific revolutions, was immediate. But more than the “revolution” cited in title of the book, his main concept was the “paradigm”, which is the set of the concepts ruling the scientific practice of a given community. Although largely accepted, Kuhn’s scheme was not spared by criticisms, also from scholars favorable to it. Therefore, throughout his life he was forced to reassess it several times, although never stopping to consider it valid, even when he renounced to apply it to the study of the birth of quanta. In this work, he opposed to the revolution of quanta that previous historians fixed in the years 1900-01, a sort of continuity between the Boltzmann’s classical concepts and the Planck’s mathematics. The debate on Kuhn’s historiographic ideas has been wide and rich in intellectual stimuli. Actually, he took advantage of those stimuli to develop a better definition of his system. Towards the end of his life, with the aim to give a final version to his original scheme, he went back to consider a parallelism between the history of science and the biological evolutionism, already introduced in SSR. The present paper is aimed at analyzing these Kuhn’s suggestions on the methodology of history of science; we will provide an interpretive framework linking each of his different historiographical suggestion with a specific scientific theory; i.e. respectively, the Newtonian mechanics, the thermodynamics and the Darwinian theory of evolution. In other words, we wanted to show that Kuhn always made use of historical categories corresponding to the basic notions of a particular scientific theory.