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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, Issue 2, 2020

Alexander M. Dorozhkin, Anna V. Sakharova
Pages 142-161

Obvious and Improbable in Kuhnian Normal Science

The article is devoted to the analysis of some specific characteristics of the language of normal science described by Thomas Kuhn. We would like to draw attention to two problems associated with some features of the concept of paradigms. The first problem relates to the question, how scientists belonging to one paradigm record the position of a group of scientists adhering to another paradigm. Precisely, the article examines how the problem of “synchronous fragmentation of knowledge” is solved in the language of science. The second issue concerns the age of “normal” knowledge and the question, how the anomalous content of knowledge can appear and accumulate, and what is the status of scientists developing the “anomalous” knowledge. We reveal some possible parameters by which we can determine the early stage of the functioning of normal science, the periods of its heyday and decline. In this article, we try to find an approach to these problems by examining the natural language of scientists, using techniques of content analysis, as well as complex linguistic analysis, including discursive, semantic and pragmatic components. Linguistic analysis can’t finally solve the problems of philosophical analysis of scientific knowledge, in particular, the state of the paradigm concept by Thomas Kuhn. But it helps us to identify the boundaries of paradigms, as well as the state of normal knowledge. The problem of fragmentation of knowledge by paradigms, as well as the problem of “aging” of knowledge inside a “normal science” are not directly expressed by scientists. But they can be recorded by analysis of everyday language, which often becomes entangled with the language of science. The high rate of words that semantically indicate the “obvious” knowledge in scientific texts points to a “good” state of the paradigm. And vice versa, the words denoting “improbable” indirectly indicate its crisis state or express an attitude to the knowledge belonging to a different paradigm. The analysis of the data shows that the alleged complete replacement of Kuhn's concept of a paradigm by the concept of “trading zones” by Peter Galison does not appear to be accomplished. Just as the concept of scientific paradigm did not completely replace the falsificationalism, the Galison’s “trading zones” do not fully reflect the real state of affairs in science. Therefore, the Kuhnian paradigms are recorded at the lexical level in the communication of scientists.

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