Knowing Nature Without Mirrors: Thomas Kuhn's Antirepresentationalist Objectivity
Haverford College. Department of Philosophy
Place of Publication
The Charles Schwartz Memorial Prize in Philosophy
Table of Contents
Objective truth has traditionally been conceived of in terms of a thought’s representation of or correspondence with an immutable reality. Thomas Kuhn’s evolutionary picture of science based on notions of incommensurable paradigms, different worlds and revolutionary ruptures shatters the traditional, representationalist view of scientific development and is often seen as impugning the very notion of objectivity along with this positivistic view of science. In this essay I argue that embracing Kuhn’s picture of science need not entail disclaiming objectivity if we move beyond the idea that objectivity must be thought of in terms of representations and fact-value dualisms. If we think of objectivity as the idea that everyone could be wrong about something and, thus, that objects can bring down theoretical systems, we find, with the help of John Haugeland, that there is a tenable and textured notion of antirepresentationalist objectivity implicit in Kuhn’s work. This Kuhnian notion of objectivity allows us to go beyond the disposal of objectivity that Richard Rorty finds necessary in jettisoning the broken Cartesian representationalist and dualistic epistemological tradition Rorty rightly criticizes.