Peter Lipton

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Peter Lipton with a mug

Peter Lipton (October 9, 1954 – November 25, 2007) was an American philosopher, and the Hans Rausing Professor and Head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University, and a fellow of King's College.


  • What truth is not, according to Kuhn, is an accurate representation of the world as it is in itself. Scientific theories represent a world, but one partially constituted by the cognitive activities of the scientists themselves. This is not a commonsensical view, but it has a distinguished philosophical pedigree, associated most strongly with Kant. The Kantian view is that the truths we can know are truths about a ‘phenomenal’ world that is the joint product of the ‘things in themselves’ and the organising, conceptual activity of the human mind.
    Kuhn, however, is Kant on wheels. Where Kant held that the human contribution to the phenomenal world is invariant, Kuhn’s view is that it changes fundamentally across a scientific revolution. This is what he means by his notorious statement that, after a scientific revolution, ‘the world changes’. This is neither the trivial claim that scientists’ beliefs about the world change, nor the crazy claim that scientists can change the things in themselves simply by changing their beliefs. It is the claim that the phenomenal world changes because the human contribution to it changes.
    • Peter Lipton, "Kant on Wheels", London Review of Books (19 July 2001)

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