Novelty and Revolution in Art and Science: The Connection between Kuhn and Cavell


In the paper I maintain that there is a connection between Thomas S. Kuhn and Stanley Cavell as regards novelty and revolution in the history of science and in the arts. I argue that the influence is not unidirectional, from Cavell to Kuhn, as it is usually taken to be the case, but, rather, that Kuhn's understanding of revolution contributed to a similar understanding of novelty by Cavell in relation to the arts. Novelty, in this latter conception, is tied to tradition and it is brought about to preserve the integrity of the practice to be changed. In this sense, radical novelty or revolution combines the original meaning of revolution as restoration but also the modern meaning of radical break and new beginning. Kuhn's contribution to the concept of revolution is that he disassociates it from modernity's idea of progress giving it a postmodern twist. I further examine a possible dissimilarity between Cavell and Kuhn, namely that Cavell, but not Kuhn, in invoking tradition, is in pursuit of essence. I show that neither is involved in an essentialist project and that the alleged dissimilarity is only apparent. Finally, I consider several problems that their common view faces and offer a possible way to address them.