In this introduction to Part 1 of “Contextualism—the Next Generation: Symposium on the Future of a Methodology,” the editor of Common Knowledge, a “journal of left-wing Kuhnian opinion,” reports that the new symposium responds to contextualist criticism of the previous CK symposium, which was on xenophilia. The content of the earlier symposium met with objections, from contextualists, on the grounds of methodology, and the new symposium questions the methodology of contextualism for the limits that it places on content as well as on normative aims and degree of focus. Tracing the origins of contextualism to Kuhn and his theory that paradigms of scientific knowledge are incommensurable, this essay then argues that Kuhnian method is formal, with scant concern for content, and that Kuhn’s work was vatic, more than philosophical or historical. Kuhn’s depiction of his sudden, blinding realization that Aristotelian physics is correct in its own context is assessed as an ironic application of biblical scenes of revelation to what is, essentially, a process of scrupulous, piecemeal scholarship. What Kuhn unknowingly wanted, the essay concludes, was a combination of contextualism and phenomenology, as a means of knowing what it was like to believe in Aristotelian, as opposed to modern, concepts of matter, quality, space, void, position, change, and motion. The essay then introduces the first contribution to the new symposium: a monograph retrieving geometrical and taxonomic—Euclidean and Theophrastan—idioms of discourse about fictional characters and inquiring into their changing affective content.
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Jeffrey M. Perl; Introduction: Kuhn’s Epiphany. Common Knowledge 1 August 2020; 26 (3): 441–452. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-8521633
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