MadSci Network: Science History

Re: What area of Science was Thomas Coon (Koon?) related, Suggest Links?

Date: Wed Oct 13 10:06:55 1999
Posted By: Dan Berger, MadSci Admin
Area of science: Science History
ID: 939735236.Sh

What area of Science was Thomas Coon (Koon?) related, Suggest Links?

I know he theorised about the notion that the Scientific world was generated though Scientific ideas. He comes under the Social Science heading of a 'Constructionist'. He was/is? a natural Scientist.

The spelling you are looking for is "Thomas Kuhn." He was a physicist before he turned philosopher.

More information can be found through a Netscape search.

Incidentally, I'm not sure Kuhn can be characterized as a constructionist in the modern sense of the term (you might look for a letter I wrote to the Journal of College Science Teaching, which should appear in the next issue or so). Remember the historical context.

At the time Kuhn (and Michael Polanyi, a physical chemist) were writing on the philosophy of science, it was dominated by the logical positivists, who asserted that scientific measurements were absolute data and could be understood and interpreted by anyone, at least in principle. Kuhn and Polanyi, from their own experience as scientists, pointed out that one needs some background in theory to understand most scientific data ("data are theory-laden"), or even to make any sense of them. This was an important and timely corrective; Polanyi's take on the scientific enterprise is addressed (a little) in this MadSci answer.

Both Kuhn and Polanyi emphatically distanced themselves from those who used their work to travel to the opposite extreme from positivism. These "constructivists" claim that scientific knowledge is totally subjective and tells us, not about external reality (which is often claimed to be illusory) but about what is going on in our own minds.

Dan Berger
MadSci Administrator

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