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Thought styles and paradigms—a comparative study of Ludwik Fleck and Thomas S. Kuhn

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2010.12.002
  • Paradigm
  • Thought Style
  • Ludwik Fleck
  • Thomas S. Kuhn
  • Incommensurability
  • Scientific Community
  • Philosophy


Abstract At first glance there seem to be many similarities between Thomas S. Kuhn’s and Ludwik Fleck’s accounts of the development of scientific knowledge. Notably, both pay attention to the role played by the scientific community in the development of scientific knowledge. But putting first impressions aside, one can criticise some philosophers for being too hasty in their attempt to find supposed similarities in the works of the two men. Having acknowledged that Fleck anticipated some of Kuhn’s later theses, there seems to be a temptation in more recent research to equate both theories in important respects. Because of this approach, one has to deal with the problem of comparing the most notable technical terms of both philosophers, namely “thought style” and “paradigm”. This paper aims at a more thorough comparison between Ludwik Fleck’s concept of thought style and Thomas Kuhn’s concept of paradigm. Although some philosophers suggest that these two concepts are essentially equal in content, a closer examination reveals that this is not the case. This thesis of inequality will be defended in detail, also taking into account some of the alleged similarities which may be responsible for losing sight of the differences between these theories.

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