Kuhn, Nominalism, and Empiricism

ALEXANDER BIRD

Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)

Abstract

In this paper I draw a connection between Kuhn and the empiricist legacy, specifically between his thesis of incommensurability, in particular in its later taxonomic form, and van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism. I show that if it is the case the empirically equivalent but genuinely distinct theories do exist, then we can expect such theories to be taxonomically incommensurable. I link this to Hacking’s claim that Kuhn was a nominalist. I also argue that Kuhn and van Fraassen do not differ as much as might be thought as regards the claim that observation is theory laden.