Kuhn on Reference and Essence Philosophia Scientiae 8 (2004) 39-71

Abstract

Kuhn's incommensurability thesis seems to challenge scientific realism. One response to that challenge is to focus on the continuity of reference. The causal theory of reference in particular seems to offer the possibility of continuity of reference that would provide a basis for the sort of comparability between theories that the realist requires. In “Dubbing and Redubbing: The Vulnerability of Rigid Designation” Kuhn attacks the causal theory and the essentialism to which it is related. Kuhn's view is defended by Rupert Read and Wes Sharrock. In this paper I examine the arguments presented by Kuhn, Read, and Sharrock and show that they provide no reason to doubt either the causal theory or essentialism.