Individuals, Communities, and Groups in Thomas Kuhn’s Model of Scientific Development
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn resorts to concepts from several disciplines in order to describe the general patterns of scientific development. This blend of disciplines can be explained in part by Kuhn's intellectual path, from physics to history and then to philosophy of science; but it also points to a deeper methodological problem, which is the question of what is the real unity of analysis in his model of science. The primary intention of this article is, thus, to give a solution to this difficulty. The answer, I believe, rests on identifying three fundamental units present in Kuhn's theory of scientific development. They are, respectively, the individual, responsible for producing evidence, spreading information, and choosing theories; the community, a set of scientists investigating a series of phenomena; and the groups, individuals with similar behavior but with looser institutional or social ties — a usually neglected category in Kuhnian literature, but equally fundamental for the final outcome of scientific debates. After investigating these categories in detail, I propose a way of integrating them into a general model for explaining the resolution of scientific controversies. Finally, I try to resolve the apparent conflict among disciplinary vocabularies by offering an account of the function of sociological, psychological, and epistemological concepts for describing controversies, and some of the methodologies appropriate for each of these tasks.
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