, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 445-465
Date: 02 Nov 2011

The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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For historical epistemology to succeed, it must adopt a defensible set of categories to characterise scientific activity over time. In historically orientated philosophy of science during the twentieth century, the original categories of theory and observation were supplemented or replaced by categories like paradigm, research program and research tradition. Underlying all three proposals was talk about conceptual systems and conceptual structures, attributed to individual scientists or to research communities, however there has been little general agreement on the nature of these structures. Recent experimental research in cognitive science has considerably refined the theory of concepts. Drawing upon the results of that research, philosophers can construct more concrete and empirically defensible representations of conceptual systems. I will suggest that this research supports a modest and useful sense of both normal and revolutionary science, not as epistemological continuities or discontinuities, but as particular patterns of conceptual change.