The structure of scientific controversies: Thomas Kuhn’s social epistemology




Changes of theories are major events in science. Two main types of questions may be asked about them: i) how do scientists choose new theories?, and ii) how is consensus formed? Generally, philosophers do not distinguish these two questions. Kuhn, on the contrary, offers very different answers to each of these questions. Theory-choice, on the one hand, is explained through the application of epistemic criteria, such as accuracy and consistency; nonetheless, because these values do not prescribe a single choice, consensus formation, on the other hand, is explained through a series of socio-epistemic mechanisms, namely: scientific pedagogy, diffusion and production of knowledge within the community (the “wave motion”), and restructuring of the scientific field. These mechanisms are the basis of Kuhn’s social epistemology, in that they are not restricted to sociology nor epistemology, encompassing both social interactions and epistemic evaluations of theories.

Keywords: Thomas Kuhn, consensus formation, social epistemology.

Author Biography

Paulo Pirozelli, Universidade de São Paulo

Posdoctoral Research at Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto de Estudos Avançados