Fried, M. (2020). Kuhn's challenge: conceptual continuity and natural kinds [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Birkbeck, University of London.
Thomas Kuhn poses a fundamental worry about explaining scientific progress, which I call Kuhn's Challenge. The Challenge consists of two related questions: (A) If the meanings of key terms change between theories on either side of a paradigm shift, how can we still say that these theories are about the same thing? (B) Even if we assume that two theories address the same subject matter, how can we determine which one is better? A popular reply to Kuhn is to adopt a semantics for natural kind terms influenced by Kripke in Naming and Necessity and Putnam in "The Meaning of 'Meaning'", according to which such terms rigidly refer - independently of theory changes - to the same kinds across possible worlds and through time. I argue that this approach can explain extra-theoretical conceptual continuity only if we assume that all natural kinds have the same essence type. Though Kripke and Putnam take for granted that this essence type is microstructural, I argue that in practice, many sciences postulate natural kinds with other essence types, such as historical or functional essences; and that when new discoveries are made, prompting paradigm shifts, the relevant essence type may change. Moreover, which type is relevant to which science is as much a matter of decision as of discovery. Such a claim may seem to threaten realism about natural kinds. I argue, however, that we can be both pluralists and realists, if we recognise that conceptual continuity is secured ex post. Contrary to those who have argued for similar positions, I claim that we need not give up the rigidity of natural kind terms or the global ambitions of realism. In the end I show how the framework I have developed illuminates the debate over Kripke's argument against Physicalism in the philosophy of mind.
Citing Place (1956) in context (citations start with an asterisk *):
Chapter 4 Natural Kinds and their Essences
Section 4.5 Alternative Essence Types
According to Putnam natural kinds have a microstructural essence. However, there are rival essence types, e.g. the functional essence as discussed in the philosophy of mind/cognitive science. Functionalism as an alternative to the Identity Theory.
* p. 98: The Mind-Body Type-Type Identity theory (“the Identity Theory”), launched in the 1950s, looks for necessary and sufficient conditions for mental state types at a microstructural level, in the workings of the human brain. Fn 266: See U.T. Place [1956] and J.J.C. Smart [1959].
Chapter 8 Coda: Kripke's Critique of Physicalism
Section 8.2 Kripke and the (Psycho-Physical Type-Type) Identity Theory
* p. 196: Kripke's criticism of Physicalism comes at the end of the third lecture of N&N and is stated with the machinery he puts forward earlier in the book. It is formulated as a criticism against the Identity Theory, which was introduced at the end of the 1950s with pioneering articles by U T Place, Herbert Feigl and J J C Smart. Fn 520: Place [1956], Feigl [1958] and Smart [1959].