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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. By Thomas S. Kuhn. Introduction: A Role for History. This chapter begins with an introduction to various frameworks including: The foundation of the scientific community The belief development process

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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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The structure of scientific revolutions l.jpg

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By

Thomas S. Kuhn


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Introduction: A Role for History

  • This chapter begins with an introduction to various frameworks including:

  • The foundation of the scientific community

  • The belief development process

  • The element of arbitrariness – this indicates the importance of a “set of perceive beliefs”

  • Scientific Revolutions – this includes “the community’s rejection of one time-honored scientific theory in favor of another”. Theory and paradigm redevelopment is hindered by resistance or adaptation to change.


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The Route to Normal Science

  • Normal science is defined as “research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for further practice”

  • Achievements must be (1) Unprecedented, and (2) Open-Ended

  • These achievements can also be referred to as “paradigms”


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The Route to Normal Science

  • Paradigms have furthered the research process by:

  • Creating an inquisitive process

  • Developing alternative methodologies

  • Determining the relevance of disciplinary functions


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The Route to Normal Science

  • How are paradigms developed?

    - It begins with a “collection of facts”

  • A “school” or a “movement” encourages collection of these facts

  • Continuous development leads to the emergence of one paradigm

  • The new paradigm “implies a new and more rigid definition of the field”. It leads to “the formation of specialized journals, and the foundation of specialists societies”.


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The Nature of Normal Science

  • Upon their initial appearance, paradigms are “very limited in both scope and precision”

  • Paradigms offer “the promise of success”

  • “Normal science consists in the actualization of that promise, an actualization achieved by extending the knowledge of the facts”

  • Non-practitioners don’t understand the “mop-up” work that is required for paradigm redevelopment (although it can “prove to be quite fascinating”).


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The Nature of Normal Science

  • What are the problems with normal science?

  • Fact-gathering and determination

  • Matching paradigm theory with factual determinations

  • “Empirical work undertaken to articulate the paradigm theory”

  • These problems of normal science “exhaust the literature of normal science, both empirical and theoretical”


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Normal Science as Puzzle-Solving

  • How do you differentiate the ‘puzzle’ and the ‘puzzle-solver’?

  • Why are problems undertaken “if failure to come near the anticipated result is usually failure as a scientist”?

  • This is important for paradigm selection, as it is a “criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions”


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Normal Science as Puzzle-Solving

  • What is the purpose of continued research?

  • The “desire to be useful

  • Exploration

  • Finding order

  • “Testing established knowledge”


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Normal Science as Puzzle-Solving

  • How do you relate puzzle classification to a research question?

  • It must be characterized “by more than an acceptable solution”

  • There must be predefined rules that “limit both the nature of acceptable solutions and the steps by which they are to be obtained”

  • There must be a “strong network of commitments – conceptual, theoretical, instrumental, and methodological”.


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The Priority of Paradigms

  • Although paradigms share some consensus the reasons can be indeterminate – reasons for this include:

  • Interpretation disagreement

  • Lack of rules

  • Attributable characteristics may be different


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The Priority of Paradigms

  • “Paradigms could determine normal science without the intervention of discoverable rules”. This is almost conclusive due to:

  • Difficulties discovering “rules that have guided normal-scientific traditions”

  • The ineptitude of scientific education

  • The inability to overcome change – i.e. process acceptance

  • Paradigm convergence and divergence


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Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discoveries

  • What is the process of paradigm change?

  • It begins with the process of discovery – discovery is a process that includes the recognition and exploration of an anomaly.

  • It continues with the invention process or “the novelty of theory”


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Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discoveries

  • Consequently, “the more precise and far-reaching the paradigm is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly and hence of occasion for paradigm change.


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Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discoveries

  • For scientific discoveries to emerge, the development of the first paradigm leads to:

  • “The construction of elaborate equipment”

  • “The development of an esoteric vocabulary and skills”

  • The reformation of conceptual frameworks that are less likely to be related to their “common-sense prototypes”


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Crisis and Emergence of Scientific Theories

  • What happens with large shifts that develop due to theoretical creation and redesign?

  • It is possible that this leads to insecurity due to “large-scale paradigm destruction” and “failure to abide by existing rules”

  • This failure is thought to arise due to:

  • “Discrepancies between theory and fact”

  • “Changes in social/cultural climate

  • “Criticism of preexisting theory”


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Crisis and Emergence of Scientific Theories

  • Data can be used to create multiple theory sets

  • It can be difficult to differentiate the theories that relate to a new paradigm


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The Response to Crisis

  • How do scientists respond to crises to reformulate the process of paradigm change?

  • To initiate this process, “anomalies must result in crises, that are the essential precondition for paradigm change.

  • Crisis are not possible without tension and “counterinstances”


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The Response to Crisis

  • How do scientists respond to crises?

  • They may consider alternatives

  • They may create derivations that reduce or eliminate conflict

  • They may consider a new profession (due to their inability to handle ambiguities)

  • Their inability to formulate a solution could lead to skepticism and/or increased scrutiny


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The Response to Crisis

  • Attributes of an anomaly

  • An anomaly must come to fruition

  • All anomalous problems cannot by scrutinized due lack of resources

  • An anomaly can “question the fundamental generalizations of a paradigm”

  • An anomaly must exceed scientific expectations (i.e. it must be viewed as more than a puzzle)

  • It is essential for anomalies to resisted preordained expectations


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The Response to a Crisis

  • The Evolution of a Crisis– as a crisis becomes “blurred” anomalies develop a unique pattern. During this process:

  • The paradigm diverges into different “articulations”

  • The anomaly develops more structure

  • “Scientists express their discontent” – this is furthered with greater interest in the anomaly.

  • The crisis leads to the eventuality of “new discoveries”


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The Response to a Crisis

  • The End of a Crisis – crises can end with different possibilities:

  • Scientific thought and strategy leads to successful crisis response

  • The crises is reformulated, and left for “more developed tools”

  • Paradigm candidacy – a variety of candidates is reviewed to determine if there are alternatives – if there is an alternative available then a paradigm will be considered invalid.

  • Paradigm Emergence – paradigms can emerge at any time, and may carry come permeance.

  • The eventual transition from a primary to an alternative paradigm leads to a Scientific Revolution – “and this is the transition from normal to extraordinary research”.


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The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

  • How does a paradigm lead to a scientific revolution?

  • What is a scientific revolution?

  • Both of these concepts are related – paradigm replacement leads to an eventual scientific revolution


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The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

  • There are striking similarities between political and scientific revolutions – particularly:

  • Inception due to “an anomaly and a crisis”

  • Constituent or member dissatisfaction

  • New institutional frameworks are developed

  • Party formation – parties align themselves based upon ideologies

  • “Parties to a revolutionary conflict resort to techniques of mass persuasion”


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The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

  • Paradigmatic Differences – “these are impossible to reconcile”, however, eventual adoption of alternative paradigm acceptance may be affected by “the impact of nature and logic”, and by using “the techniques of persuasive argumentation”.


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The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

  • Assimilation of New Theory – “new theory must demand rejection of an older paradigm”. Furthermore, “new paradigms arise with destructive changes in beliefs about nature”. Based upon this analysis, the author believes in the antecedent of the logical positivist view. He believes that:

  • Use of theories by competent scientists “are immune from criticism”

  • Science cannot make progress without errors

  • Paradigm acceptance can recreate or “redefine the corresponding science”

  • Based upon the author’s views, “the normal-scientific tradition that emerges from a scientific revolution is not only incompatible but often actually incommensurable with that which has gone before”.


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The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

  • Paradigm Development – As new paradigms are adopted, standards adapt themselves to the new thought or idea that becomes commonplace. Furthermore, “when paradigms change, there are usually significant shifts in the criteria determining the legitimacy both of problems and of proposed solutions”


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Revolutions as Changes of World View

  • How do paradigms change the world? Do scientific revolutions assist in the evolution of human thought?

  • These are questions that are thought to have possible answers, including:

  • The view of scientists does change during periods of scientary revolution.

  • This change in perception is known as a “gestalt shift”, or a “perceptual transformation”


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Revolutions as Changes of World View

  • There are differences between a gestalt and a paradigm shift:

  • “A paradigm is a prerequisite to perception itself”

  • A gestalt shift requires personal recognizance, and may require acceptance of an earlier perception

  • A paradigm shift requires acceptance of new ideas or beliefs


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Revolutions as Changes of World View

  • What causes these shifts?

  • “Genius”? “Intuition”?

  • Subjectivity in observations?

  • Initial paradigm failure?

  • The relationship between the scientist and the paradigm?


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The Invisibility of Revolutions

  • What assists scientific revolutions?

  • It is apparent that textbooks support the “emergence of a first paradigm in any field of science”

  • Textbooks assist in this process by:

  • “Being pedagogic vehicles for the perpetuation of normal science”

  • Solidifying the relationship between the academician and the practitioner


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The Invisibility of Revolutions

  • Textbook Revisions – they must include “the significance of the revolutions that produced them”. They must supplement lost material – and they need to determine “what science's best and most persistent efforts have made it possible to discard”


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The Invisibility of Revolutions

  • The Role of Current Textbooks – scientific textbooks have misled students to believe “that science has reached its present state by a series of individual discoveries and inventions that, when gathered together, constitute the modern body of technical knowledge—the addition of bricks to a building”.


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The Resolution of Revolutions

  • How are scientific revolutions defined? What factors make paradigms replaceable?

  • How do scientific theories become verifiable?

  • They must have inherent characteristics that are probabilistic

  • The testing of theories must be developed through falsification

  • Does verification include a relationship between “fact and theory”?


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The Resolution of Revolutions

  • What is the cause of paradigm conversion?

  • The evolutionary cycle of competing elements (according to Max Plank)

  • According to Kuhn “conversion cannot be forced”

  • Conversions occur because of “humanistic nature”

  • There is “quantitative precision strikingly better than its older competitor.”

  • There must be “faith” in the newly accepted paradigm.


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The Resolution of Revolutions

  • How does a paradigm attain candidacy?

  • It must gain support from the scientific community

  • It will develop a “persuasive argument”

  • It’s exploratory nature will continue to increase

  • “The number of experiments, instruments, articles, and books based on the paradigm will multiply”


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Progress Through Revolutions

  • What is progress and how is it defined?

  • Progress is an inherent function within the field of science

  • “Normal science progresses because the enterprise shares certain salient characteristics”

  • In other words progress can be seen from a multitude of perspectives:

  • Progress is subjective

  • This can be viewed from a social and a natural perspective. Which method is more conducive for effective problem solving? What are the differences in these fields?

    - Social scientists believe in the use of “original sources”, the proper evaluation of alternative solutions, and the “selection of competing paradigms”

    - Natural scientists believe in the effectiveness of textbooks, and they “are systematically substituted for the creative scientific literature that made them possible”


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Progress Through Revolutions

  • Progress also exists due “to the power to select between paradigms that reside in the members of the community”

  • “What are the characteristics of a scientific community”?

  • Individual solutions must satisfy the needs of the community

  • “The community must see paradigm change as progress”

  • The paradigm is “embraced” when the scientific community sees the need for a problem to be solved

    “We may have to relinquish the notion, explicit or implicit, that changes of paradigm carry scientists and those who learn from them closer and closer to the truth “


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References

  • Kuhn, T. (1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL.

  • Pajares, F. (n.d.). Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html


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