Monday, October 9, 2017

Summary: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 1

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions / Thomas Kuhn: Chapter 1: Introduction: A Role for History.

Thomas Kuhn opens "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by setting forth the main ideas and propositions of his theory that will be developed in the course of his book. Kuhn holds that a scientific community always has a set of "received beliefs" that function as the basis for all scientific practice. Having access to these beliefs and being able to function in accordance with them is what, according to Kuhn, makes someone a member of a scientific community. Kuhn also adds that rigorous education is aimed at establishing a "deep hold" of conventions on the student's mind.

Kuhn also argues that what he calls "Normal Science" can only function on a basis of an agreed upon view of the world. Science, therefore, is not only about furthering knowledge but also about maintaining it. This is why "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p.5). Science for Kuhn is not so much about discovering nature as it is trying to impose our perceptions on it.

A very important argument for which "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and Kuhn are famous for is that changes and developments in science can occur only when a crisis arises which undermines the self evident truths which guide the practice of scientists. These anomalies "subvert[s] the existing tradition of scientific practice" (p.6). Such events bring "normal science" to an end and this prompts to rise of a "scientific revolution". A scientific revolutions according to Kuhn is a painful process which is in a way similar to a religious conversion. Long held beliefs need to be broken and reintegrated into a new set of views (Kuhn calls this a paradigm). Traditional forces of an established scientific community strongly oppose any game-changing shifts in theory and the whole process is a dark and arduous one until the scientific revolution is complete and a newly formed normal science can start to work until the next crisis and subsequent revolution.       

see also:
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 9

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions/ Kuhn - chapter 10

Philosophy of Science - Summaries