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    Addressing Kuhn’s challenge: conceptual continuity and natural kinds

    Fried, Magnus (2020) Addressing Kuhn’s challenge: conceptual continuity and natural kinds. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    Thomas Kuhn poses a fundamental worry about explaining scientific progress, which I call Kuhn’s Challenge. The Challenge consists of two related questions: (A) If the meanings of key terms change between theories on either side of a paradigm shift, how can we still say that these theories are about the same thing? (B) Even if we assume that two theories address the same subject matter, how can we determine which one is better? A popular reply to Kuhn is to adopt a semantics for natural kind terms influenced by Kripke in Naming and Necessity and Putnam in “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”, according to which such terms rigidly refer – independently of theory changes – to the same kinds across possible worlds and through time. I argue that this approach can explain extra-theoretical conceptual continuity only if we assume that all natural kinds have the same essence type. Though Kripke and Putnam take for granted that this essence type is microstructural, I argue that in practice, many sciences postulate natural kinds with other essence types, such as historical or functional essences; and that when new discoveries are made, prompting paradigm shifts, the relevant essence type may change. Moreover, which type is relevant to which science is as much a matter of decision as of discovery. Such a claim may seem to threaten realism about natural kinds. I argue, however, that we can be both pluralists and realists, if we recognise that conceptual continuity is secured ex post. Contrary to those who have argued for similar positions, I claim that we need not give up the rigidity of natural kind terms or the global ambitions of realism. In the end I show how the framework I have developed illuminates the debate over Kripke’s argument against Physicalism in the philosophy of mind.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 14:13
    Last Modified: 10 Jun 2021 14:59
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/40475

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