Monday, October 9, 2017

Short summary: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions / Thomas Kuhn

In "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" Thomas Kuhn presents a revolutionary approach to how science functions and progresses. Against the normal perception of science as a linear accumulation of knowledge, Kuhn attempts to view science as progressing in leaps from one "paradigm" to the next.

Kuhn is revolutionary in the philosophy of science since he views scientific practice a something conducted by a community rather than a set of individuals. As a community the science world is sociological matter, especially in terms of having norms and common held beliefs which function within it and regulate it. Kuhn argues for example that scientific education is in fact the socialization or indoctrination of the young researcher into the conventional manner in which science is practiced. This is what Kuhn famously calls "paradigm", the unspoken basic assumption which make the world view of a scientific community and allows it to function.

In "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" Kuhn describes the history of science as a progression from one paradigm to the next. When a certain paradigm is enough to account for the world as it is perceived, "normal science" can function, elaborating knowledge within the paradigm. But when a paradigm enters a crisis, like in meeting phenomenon it cannot account for of arriving at internal contradictions, the search for a new paradigm is on.

What happens eventually according to Kuhn is that the paradigmatic crisis leads to a scientific revolutions which marks a shift, even rupture, from the preexisting paradigm. This means that all prior knowledge has to be reintegrated into the concepts and structures of the new paradigm. When this is complete science can once again function as "normal science" until the next paradigm crisis and scientific revolution. Changing paradigms is similar to a religious conversion, which also draws heavy contention from conservative powers.

Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is considered to mark the postmodern turn in the philosophy of science, making human knowledge a relative field of belief as much as it is of objective knowledge.   

See also:
Summary: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 1
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 9
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 10
Philosophy of Science - Summaries