An Analysis of Truth in Kuhn's Philosophical Enterprise

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Book Chapter


In his essay “Afterwords”, Kuhn describes his “double goal” as (1) To justify that science achieves knowledge of nature, and at the same time, (2) To show that science neither achieves, nor should aim towards achieving, truth. I hold that Kuhn’s denial of truth helps to bring out a tension between the two goals of his enterprise: Kuhn cannot both maintain that science achieves knowledge of nature and dismiss the notion of truth altogether from his philosophy of science. The same arguments that attack truth will ultimately damage the quest for knowledge. In this chapter, I intend explore this problem—which I will call the problem of inconsistency—and ultimately provide a defense on behalf of Kuhn. I argue that Kuhn can achieve both of his goals, and so remain consistent, by reevaluating the notion of truth in his philosophy of science. Here, I introduce an alternative correspondence theory of truth, which I call the phenomenal-world correspondence theory of truth. I will argue that Kuhn’s philosophy of science will remain consistent with this alternative view of correspondence. I believe that this notion of truth not only succeeds in defending Kuhn’s enterprise from the problem of inconsistency, but is also a kind of truth that Kuhn can accept into his philosophical enterprise despite his rejection of the traditional correspondence theory.

Original Citation

Devlin, W.J. (2015). An Analysis of Truth in Kuhn’s Philosophical Enterprise. In W. J. Devlin & A. Bokulich (Eds.), Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions – 50 Years On (pp. 153-166). (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, Vol. 311), Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

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