A New Mode of Conceptual Continuity

Yafeng Shan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


When we say that a scientific concept C changes, we mean that (1) at least some aspect or component of C varies, and (2) there is still something continuous in the historical development of C. However, how to account for the continuity in a radical conceptual change has been a difficulty. This chapter overcomes this difficulty by providing a new account of conceptual continuity in science. I begin with an examination of the historical development of the concept of dominance and highlight the inadequacies of the analytic, the cognitive, and the practice-based approaches. Then I introduce a holistic approach to conceptual change. By distinguishing two modes of continuity, I also propose a new mode of conceptual continuity. Finally, I illustrate and defend my approach by revisiting my historical case study.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBoston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameBoston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science
ISSN (Print)0068-0346
ISSN (Electronic)2214-7942


  • Conceptual change
  • Conceptual continuity
  • Conceptual practice
  • Dominance
  • Holistic continuity
  • Scientific practice


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