Two questions should be considered when assessing the Kantian dimensions of Kuhn’s thought. Was Kuhn a Kantian? Did Kuhn have an influence on later Kantians and neo-Kantians? Kuhn mentioned Kant as an inspiration, and his focus on explanatory frameworks and the conditions of knowledge appear Kantian. But Kuhn’s emphasis on learning; on activities of symbolization; on paradigms as practical, not just theoretical; and on the social and community aspects of scientific research as constitutive of scientific reasoning are outside the Kantian perspective. Kuhn’s admiration for Kant is tempered by his desire to understand the processes of learning, initiation into a scientific community, experimentation using instruments, and persuasion, drawing on the work of Piaget, Koyré, Wittgenstein, and others. Both Kuhn and Kant were interested in the status of science, and the role of the scientist in its development and justification. But Kuhn presents science in a much more messy, historically contingent, and socially charged way than Kant does. The paper’s conclusion evaluates Kuhn’s reception among researchers including Richardson and Friedman, assessing the prospects for future work.
Ernst Mach’s appeal to the ‘economy of science’ has sometimes been interpreted as an overarching principle of minimisation, promoting the increasing simplification of scientific knowledge via principles that increase calculating power without adding substantively to the knowledge embedded in empirical facts. There is a growing literature arguing for a more robust understanding of Mach’s ‘economy of science’. Machian ‘economy’ appeals to the continuity between scientific experiences and concepts, but also to the increasing complexity of scientific concepts, building on connections between what Mach called world-elements or sensation-elements. Mach’s account emphasises not only continuities between experiences that allow for simplification, but also areas of divergence that promote the branching of scientific concepts and methods. I emphasise the roles of abstraction, pragmatism, and history in Mach’s economy of science and argue that these elements allowed Mach to investigate the productive tension between creative and conservative moments in the history of science.
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