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Objectivity: False Leads from T. S. Kuhn on the Role of the Aesthetic in the Sciences

  • Joseph Margolis
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 182)

Abstract

There is a great muddle quite innocently generated by T. S. Kuhn’s candor in trying to fathom what contributes to what he calls a “paradigm shift” or the incipient stages of supporting a potentially “new paradigm”. Kuhn says straight out, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that: first, the usual arguments in favor of a new paradigm (those he had himself explored up to the point of raising the question) “concern the competitors’ ability [that is, the old and the new paradigms] to solve problems”; second, where new paradigms begin to gain ground, this criterion is often, puzzlingly, “neither individually nor collectively compelling”; hence, third, “other arguments, rarely made entirely explicit . . . appeal to the individual’s sense of the appropriate or the aesthetic — the new theory [being] said to be ‘neater’, ‘more aesthetic’, ‘more suitable’, or ‘simpler’ than the old”. Kuhn speaks of “the importance of these more subjective and aesthetic considerations”, but warns us against the suggestion “that new paradigms triumph ultimately through some mystical aesthetic”.1 Kuhn was able to offer a variety of cases in which the ability of the new paradigm “to solve problems” could not have been decisive: the dispute regarding Copernicus and Ptolemy, for instance, and that regarding Priestley and Lavoisier being the best known. (It was Popper’s charge that Kuhnian “paradigm shifts” almost never occur and that “‘normal’ science is [not] normal”.)2

Keywords

Theory Choice Scientific Revolution Real General Natural Beauty Aesthetic Consideration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Kuhn, T. S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. enlarged (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 155–158.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Popper, K., ‘Normal science and its dangers’, in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 52–54.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kuhn, T. S., The Essential Tension (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), pp. 341–342.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kuhn, The Essential Tension, pp. 321–325.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kuhn, The Essential Tension, p. 332.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Putnam, H., The Many Faces of Realism (La Salle: Open Court, 1987), Lecture II.Google Scholar
  7. 7a.
    For a sense of this, see Dickie, G., Art and the Aesthetic: An Institutional Analysis (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974)Google Scholar
  8. a.
    Dickie, G. The Art Circle (New York: Haven, 1984), Ch. 6. For the last desperate formulation — actually quite elegantly managed but clearly self-destructive — see Sibley, F., ‘Aesthetic concepts’, Philosophical Review LXVIII, 1959.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    See Kant, I., The Critique of Judgment, trans, by J. C. Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon, 1952), pp. 41–89. See also, Urmson, J., ‘What makes a situation aesthetic?’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Suppl.) XXXI, 1957.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    See Sibley, F., ‘Aesthetic concepts’, Philosophical Review LXVII, 1959, with extensive minor revisions, reprinted in J. Margolis (ed.), Philosophy Looks at the Arts, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    See, for instance, Gombrich, E. H., ‘Experiment and experience in the arts’, The Image and the Eye: Further Studies in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (Oxford: Phaedon, 1982), particularly p. 215.Google Scholar
  12. 11a.
    See, for instance Birkhoff, G. D., Aesthetic Measure (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1933)Google Scholar
  13. 11b.
    the general review by D. E. Berlyne of the results of this and similar undertakings, in D. E. Berlyne (ed.), Studies in the New Experimental Aesthetics: Steps Toward an Objective Psychology of Aesthetic Appreciation (Washington, D. C: Hemiphere Publishing Corp., 1974)Google Scholar
  14. 11c.
    Chs. 1,14. For a particularly optimistic, but unconvincing, specimen of the thesis, see Hambidge, J., Dynamic Symmetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920).Google Scholar
  15. 12a.
    For a sense of the earliest empiricist speculations, see Hutcheson, F., Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design, ed. P. Kivy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973).Google Scholar
  16. 12b.
    For a late summary of the role of Gestalt psychology in aesthetics, see Arnheim, R., ‘Art history and psychology’ and ‘Two faces of gestalt theory’, To the Rescue of Art: Twenty-Six Essays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    I am referring here to Aristotle’s thesis that the denial of the invariance of reality (of change’s being subsumed under changeless structures) necessarily leads somewhere to paradox and explicit contradiction. This is the theme of Metaphysics Gamma. The modal version of the unity of science account is standardly found in Hempel, C. G., ‘Studies in the logic of explanation’, Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science (New York: Free Press, 1965).Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    See Hacking, I., Representing and Intervening; Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  19. 15.
    See, for instance, Salmon, W. C, Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    See Gombrich, E. H., ‘The analysis of vision of art’, Art and Illusion, 2nd ed. (New York: Pantheon, 1961).Google Scholar
  21. 17.
    See Wartofsky, M., ‘Picturing and representing’, in C. F. Nodine and D. F. Fisher (eds.), Perception and Pictorial Representation (New York: Praeger, 1979).Google Scholar
  22. 18a.
    See Goodman, N., Languages of Art: An Approach to the Theory of Symbols (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968), Chapter 1, §3Google Scholar
  23. 18b.
    also, Gombrich, E. H., ‘The “what” and the “how”: perspective representations and the phenomenal world’, in R. Rudner and I. Scheffler (eds.), Logic of Art: Essays in Honor of Nelson Goodman (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1972).Google Scholar
  24. 19.
    See Goodman, N., ‘Seven strictures on similarity’, in L. Foster and J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience & Theory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  25. 20.
    Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chapter 10.Google Scholar
  26. 21.
    See Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,‘Postscript — 1969.’Google Scholar
  27. 22a.
    See Margolis, J., ‘Wittgenstein’s “forms of life”: A cultural template for psychology’, in M. Chapman and R. A. Dixon (eds.), Meaning and the Growth of Understanding: Wittgenstein’s Significance for Developmental Psychology (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1987)Google Scholar
  28. 22b.
    Foucault, M., The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, trans. (New York: Vintage, 1973).Google Scholar
  29. 23.
    Kuhn, The Essential Tension, pp. 321–322.Google Scholar
  30. 24.
    For a discussion of the matter, see Margolis, J., The passing or Peirce’s realism’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society XXIX, 1993.Google Scholar
  31. 25.
    See Rubin, W., Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1989).Google Scholar
  32. 26.
    Kuhn, The Essential Tension, p. 322.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Margolis
    • 1
  1. 1.Temple UniversityUSA

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