The place of human values in the language of science: Kuhn, Saussure, and structuralism

Bruce M. Psaty, Thomas S. Inui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


The current paradigm in medicine generally distinguishes between genetic and environmental causes of disease. Although the word "paradigm" has become a commonplace, the theories of Thomas Kuhn have not received much attention in the journals of medicine. Kuhn's structuralist method differs radically from the daily activities of the scientific method itself. Using linguistic theory, this essay offers a structuralist reading of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Our purpose is to highlight the similarities between these structuralist models of science and language. In part, we focus on the logic that enables Kuhn to assert the priority of perception over interpretation in the history of science. To illustrate some of these issues, we refer to the distinction between environmental and genetic causes of disease. While the activity of scientific research results in the revision of concepts in science, the production of significant differences that shape our knowledge is in part a social and linguistic process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-358
Number of pages14
JournalTheoretical Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • epistemology
  • interpretation
  • linguistics
  • logic
  • methods
  • paradigm
  • perception
  • philosophy of medicine
  • philosophy of science
  • structuralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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