Piaget & Kuhn

Jean PiagetThomas KuhnIn a 2006 article in the journal Theory & Psychology, Jonathan Y. Tsou of U. Chicago argued that Jean Piaget’s genetic epistemology could be used to rectify various aspects of Thomas Kuhn’s influential philosophy of science that Tsou regarded as being problematic.

In the latest issue of Theory & Psychology, Jeremy Burman of York University has published a reply in which he argues that Tsou’s effort did not come to terms with a number of complications in the relationship between Piaget and Kuhn. As Burman puts matters in his abstract:

In arguing that the philosophical works of Jean Piaget could be used as a `remedy’ for the flaws in those of Thomas Kuhn, Tsou overlooked some crucial aspects of the problem: the early history between them, the biological foundation supporting Piaget’s method, and a preexisting suggestion regarding the intended future extension of his work. There was also no mention of the existence of a `lost’ manuscript by Kuhn, which supposedly presents the mature articulation of his theory. This comment therefore proposes some `friendly amendments’ to Tsou’s exposition, with a view to helping achieve his synthetic vision once the `lost’ work has finally been published. Yet the basic message, in anticipation of this future endeavor, is also exceedingly simple: the implicit direction of Piaget’s (and Kuhn’s) epistemological constructivism can be characterized as evolutionary-developmental `progress from,’ rather than vitalist-teleological `progress toward.’

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research
Burman, J.T. (2007). Piaget No `Remedy’ for Kuhn, But the Two Should be Read Together: Comment on Tsou’s `Piaget vs. Kuhn on Scientific Progress’. Theory & Psychology, 17(5), 721-732. DOI: 10.1177/0959354307079306

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.