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Alasdair Maclntyre

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Alasdair Maclntyre’s essay is included here as an example of the types of responses to Kuhn’s work made by those resistant to an entirely historicist position. Maclntyre, a contemporary philosopher, argues against Kuhn’s notion of paradigms as completely incommensurable. He suggests that epistemological crises (Kuhn’s build-up of anomalies) are resolved when one is able to construct a narrative. A narrative in this sense means a story which goes beyond the period of crisis. Through narrative we are able to explain where we are intellectually by talking about how we got there. Thus an old way of thinking is never entirely foreign to people who have passed beyond it. For Maclntyre the fact that we continually construct and reconstruct scientific narratives does not mean that science is not progressive. Rather, Maclntyre suggests that narratives become more and more adequate representations of the phenomena we hope to explain. In this perspective, historicism, putting truth in context, does not necessarily undermine the modern project but rescues it.