Productive Illusions: Kuhn's Structure as a Recruitment Tool
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 42: 479-484, 2012
6 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2014
Date Written: 2012
I do not know who the many readers of Structure are these days, but it is safe to assume that historians and philosophers of science or science studies practitioners are not many among them. I believe I am expressing an opinion common in our field by saying that Structure was history-making and, half a century later, has itself become history. In the terminology of Ludwik Fleck (an author whose work inspired the young Kuhn) Structure started as an esoteric book studied by few people but quickly became an exoteric one, read, cited, and appropriated by an extraordinarily wider set of audiences, reaching more people and languages than any history and philosophy of science book ever has. Structure no longer frames the research agenda of the field, and yet it is a field it helped create. It is credited for having brought (or having tried to bring) the history and the philosophy of science together, and for creating important openings for the sociology of scientific knowledge to join in the action. It also recruited new students into the field by making it look intellectually exciting — perhaps more so than it actually was. Having been one of those students, and having subsequently talked to incoming students from the other side of the generational fence, I want to look at this less-discussed dimension of Structure: its remarkably effective role as a device for intellectual recruitment.
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