chapter  6
20 Pages

The Exoteric Paradox: A Contribution to Ludwik Fleck’s Theory of Science

The resemblance between Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and Ludwik Fleck’s Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (1935) is notorious, notwithstanding Kuhn’s acknowledgement of the provenance of his ideas. In this chapter Baldamus, who was one of the first to notice the similarities, alludes initially to the possibility of plagiarism but then notes that the real issue that requires explanation is why it was that Fleck’s work remained neglected until the 1970s while Kuhn’s received widespread fame. He interprets the different reception that these two books received through the distinction made by Fleck himself between esoteric and exoteric knowledge. While esoteric knowledge is comprehensible only to specialists, exoteric knowledge is characterised by persistent attempts to define scientific or technical terminology in a way comprehensible to a broad public. The paradoxical result is frequently an increase rather than a decrease in ambiguity of meaning attached to key terms and expressions. Baldamus traces the development of Kuhn’s work from the 1950s to the late 1960s and reveals an increasing use of exoteric, popular terminology. The most well known example of an exoteric, widely discussed and thoroughly ambiguous expression is Kuhn’s ‘paradigm’. In contrast, Fleck’s work retained its esoteric form, largely due to the lack of an appropriate audience in the 1930s and Fleck’s status as an outsider to the philosophy and sociology of science communities.