The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn in the most basic sense illustrates the the history of science as Kuhn sees it. Kuhn’s history of science relies on paradigms which are merely theories, concepts, and ideas in the scientific realm, all of which occurs in a non linear progression. If there one moral, as one might say, that one can walk away with after reading this book, it would be that the history of science is the history of shifts in the scientific communities way of thinking.
This is referred to as a paradigm shift. The current way of thinking at any given time is known as normal science. Overall Kuhn’s message in The Stutureture of Scientific Revolutions is that revolutions of science occur when there is a paradigm shift due to a consensus of scientists changing their mind. Kuhn’s first chapter enlightens the reader on the rudimentary ideas explored deeper in later chapters of the book.
The First chapter serves almost the purpose of a dictionary that tells the reader the background of the book’s terms. Paradigms are first mentioned here in this chapter and Kuhn discusses their properties as being testable, exploitable, and most importantly unable to explain everything. He also discusses revolutions as they apply to the book as being imperative in order for a scientist to change his or her viewpoint on the world. However since not all revolutions have a paradigm shift result the history of science is not liner but rather the history of science is like a river delta with many diverting paradigms with normally only one at a time being fully embraced by the scientific consensus. Overall chapter one explores revolutions, the non liner, history of science, and paradigms.
The Second chapter Kuhn explores the idea of normal science. Normal science is the knowledge accepted by the science community at a given time. An example of this is the authenticity of eugenics in the early 20th century it was accepted as a legitimate science yet by the end of the century it was considered a fake science. While today we see eugenics as fraudulent back then it was widely accepted as a normal science. The main point of chapter two is to discuss what normal science is and how and why what is and isn’t changes among the scientific community.
Chapter three illuminates upon the idea of paradigm defined in chapter one. Paradigms are accepted by the scientific consensus at a relatively slow pace. Paradigm based research is where the existing paradigms are modified into new paradigms. This means that all paradigms are based off of a previously existing one which is quite a concept. Overall Kuhns third chapter discussed more on Paradigms and normal science by adding on certain conditions he believes are imperative for their own nature.
Kuhn’s fourth chapter titled Normal Science as Problem Solving’ talks about puzzles, not just any puzzles, puzzles in regards to research on paradigms. Kuhn states that research is like a puzzle because research requires the piecing together of information from older paradigms to create a new one. Kuhn states that, Perhaps the most striking feature of the normal research problems we have just encountered is how little they aim to produce major novelties, conceptual or phenomenal (Kuhn 35). This passage in short expresses the almost lackluster effect research can have on the greater community. Kuhn don’t blame the information or research but rather he blames the scientists. Overall Kuhn’s fourth chapter compares research to a puzzle waiting to be solved.
Chapter five called The Priority of Paradigms’ explores the importance of paradigms. Paradigms are different in all different sectors of science. A paradigm in Physics will not be the same as one in environmental science. Scientists in a particular field regardless of what it is all have trouble defining their rules about paradigms. One of the most important reasons Kuhn presents is the overall meaning of a paradigm is all about perspective because no two people will normally share the exact same ideas about a single paradigm. Another critical point is that the characteristics of a paradigm may not necessarily be upfront again causing conflict in the sector. Kuhn’s final point on why scientists can’t agree on rules regarding paradigms is laid out in the following passage, Paradigms may be prior to, more binding, and more complete than any set of rules for research that could be unequivocally abstracted from them (Kuhn 46). This means that paradigms are deemed to complete so any research into them would be useless for the sector. Overall this chapter discussed on how scientists in a sector have a difficulty agreeing upon paradigms.
Kuhn’s sixth chapter compares anomails to paradigms and their role in the rise of scientific discoveries. In the previous chapter Kuhn told us that the scientific community is stubborn. Yet if they are so stubborn then how does paradigm change take place. Paradigm change takes place through discovery and invention. Discovery is where a incident that violates a pre existing paradigm. This incident is also known as an anomaly. Invention is where the incident that occurred was purely theoretical and out in the blue. An invention differs from discovery because in a discover some notation of the anomaly must exist. The main take away from discovery and invention is that they are the ways paradigms occur among the stubborn scientists.
The seventh chapter illuminates more into the idea of invention introduced in chapter six. Kuhn states that inventions happen during paradigm change. When and invention occurs the science sector falls into a crisis. Kuhn states that …the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity (Kuhn 67-68). This is in reference to how crisis occur. Crisis are not that surprising yet still impactful to the community. When a paradigm becomes entrenched it is now the new norm of the community and all competing idea regarding the invention are now considered hogwash. Overall the chapter explores inventions and their effect on the scientific community.
Kuhn’s eighth chapter explores crisis in paradigms and research. Crisis is necessary for any kind of change in a paradigm because it causes the paradigm to awaken. Crisis asks scientist to analyze their research and beliefs and perhaps rethink them all together. When confronted with a crisis science may leave the profession or consider the possibility that the anomaly is just another result and should be treated as such. Crisis will end however if an new paradigm arises causing the community to forget the old crisis and deal with the new one. They will also end if normal science prevails and overcomes the crisis at hand. Overall chapter eight overviewed crisis in more depth by discussing their property on the scientific community.
Chapter nine illustrates the idea, meaning and importance of the scientific revolution. A scientific revolution is a transition from a old paradigm to a new one. A scientific revolution is similar to a political one by they both begin with a group believing that the current institution isn’t working to its maximum potential or just plain inadequate. Scientific revolutions must reject a paradigm from the past in order to be one (Kuhn 95). Normal science is a combination of all information accepted by the community while scientific revolutions focus down on to a smaller section. Scientific revolutions are backed with paradigms and this chapter states that all paradigms challenge nature in one way or another. Overall this chapter looked at scientific revolutions and their relation to paradigms and in turn their relation to the things the paradigm is related to.
Kuhn’s tenth chapter called Revolutions as Changes of Worldviewdepicts the revolutions mentioned in the previous chapter. They are described in an extended take with their effect upon the science world the primary focus. When scientists, amidst a scientific revolution, examine well known tools in places that they have observed previously they will notice that the once familiar playing field has shifted into a new world. An important thing to note is that a paradigm shift is a straight shot opinion, meaning there is no double meaning it either is or isn’t. For example Kuhn uses the example of a sattale and a planet. At first you saw a planet but you were wrong and you saw a satellite that would be a paradigm shift. If you saw the planet and said it could be a planet or a satellite then that is not a paradigm shift but rather a gestalt shift (Kuhn 115), an interesting concept but unnecessary in the comprehension of the book. Shifts occur for a multitude of reasons. It is surprisingly not a scientist realizing his or her data differently. In fact it primarily is because the existing paradigm doesn’t fit. Chapter ten illuminates upon the effect revolutions have on a scientist’s mind, along with a further step into the idea of a paradigm.
Chapter eleven called The invisibility of Revolutions’ focuses upon the historical progression of science. History has alway been written by the victors. Science textbooks are no different. Kuhn’s opinion on textbook is as follows They address themselves to an already articulated body of problems, data, and theory, most often to the particular set of paradigms to which the scientific community is committed at the time they are written (Kuhn 136). This means that they only include the accepted paradigms from the science community, in the textbooks. This gives off a vibe that the history of science is liner which it is not because not all revolutions are successful and not all paradigms are still around today. Overall Kuhn is displeased by the over reliance on textbooks due to their portrayal of science as liner and only relevant to the period it was written in.
Chapter Twelve called The Resolution of Revolutions’ is supposed to focus on the aftermath of a scientific revolution but instead Kuhn criticizes other theorists for a decent portion of the chapter. Scientific revolutions come about when one paradigm replaces another. The theories behind this pyramid are the theories of probabilistic verification by Kuhn and the theory of falsification by Popper. Falsification believes that their cannot be a shred of evidence that can disprove a paradigm in order for it to be true, while probabilistic verification compares different theories to the one being examined. Kuhn disagrees with Popper stating On the contrary, it is just the incompleteness and imperfection of the existing data-theory fit that, at any time, define many of the puzzles that characterize normal science (Kuhn 146). This in brief means that paradigms are imperfect which describes normal science. Scientists who refuse to see the new norm after the whole community has been converted is no longer a scientist.
Overall Kuhn’s twelfth chapter depicts Kuhns dislike for Popper’s theory and as a continuation of what happens after a revolution.Kuhn’s finale called Progress through Revolutions’ serves as a look in to the future which is simply more paradigms, crisis, and revolutions. Kuhn claims that progress is and integral part of science because he defines science as any improvement in any field. Normal science progresses with a group in one dedicated field all working on a single paradigm. Extraordinary science is science that causes a revolution. Progress is important in Extraordinary science because it creates a revolution which in turn creates a paradigm. An important point that Kuhn makes is To doubt that they shared some such basis for evaluations would be to admit the existence of incompatible standards of scientific achievement (Kuhn 168). In a nutshell Kuhn is saying that science and absolute truth cannot exist. If this is true and science is created by revolutions then this means that revolutions can never hold the absolute truth. Overall Kuhn leaves the reader with the idea that perfection and absolute truth are impossible yet we still try to achieve them even though we are unable to by definition. Kuhn finishes with many rhetorical questions, yet the most significant in my opinion is What must nature, including man, be like in order that science be possible at all?( Kuhn 173)
This statement has multiple interpretations all dependent on whether or not you believe science is a sentient being construct or not. This would then open the discussion of what is sentient. Is a Raven sentiat. A chimp. Because both of those creature use science in Kuhn’s definition of science is the improvement in any field. Chimps and Ravens have both learned how to use different items as tools, tools being the improvement in their respective fields. There are arguments that chimps may be sentient but the idea that a raven is sentiant is never tossed around. However both chimps and ravens are part of nature so then this rabbit hole is irrelent and would inevitably trickle in to the idea that science is a sentient being construct. In the argument that science is a sentient being construct then Kuhn’s final statement means that if science is imperfect then so are it’s creators. Sentient beings are imperfect because in Kuhn’s mind science is an imperfect institution.Since sentient beings created the institution of science which is imperfect by definition, science which explores themselves and the world around them can not describe it to be perfect. Kuhn is illuminating in his final line about the imperfect nature of science and it’s creators.
- Kuhn, Thomas S., and Ian Hacking. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 4th ed. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 2012
- .Pajares, Frank. “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Albert Bandura Autobiography. Accessed February 01, 2019.
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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Book Review. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-structure-of-scientific-revolutions-book-review-essay