The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)


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Paradigms are generally a useful thing for the jobbing scientist, since to her they provide a pre-agreed framework - what Dan Dennett would describe as a "crane" - on which additional scientific research can be undertaken without having, literally, to re-invent the wheel. Kuhn characterises this sort of "normal scientist" as being involved in "puzzle solving" in exactly the sense that one solves a crossword puzzle. You have a framework of rules for how to solve the puzzle; you have problems the blank spaces on the puzzle and you empirically obtained evidence clues which you manipulate using the rules to produce predictions or answers , and each newly discovered answer then acts as an additional clue to solve the remaining problems.

Superficially, this all sounds fine, but there are brutal, jagged corals just below the water's surface: Once inside a paradigm it informs your view of the world so thoroughly it is not possible to conduct research outside it. But to solve it one needs to use one or the other. Unlike a crossword, Mother Nature doesn't come with a label saying "cryptic" or "quick". So how do we know which paradigm to use? Can the truth or falsity of the paradigm to be judged, other than in terms of the paradigm itself?

Kuhn says no. This is an immensely powerful idea. Not only does it undermine the certitude many people have about their own ways of life, it seems to opens the door to all the whacky alternatives, with no objective means of choosing between them.


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So can we really not choose between Radiotherapy and Healing Crystals? That this might be the case terrifies a lot of people, especially scientists, and Kuhn gets a lot of the blame for this state of unease. Post-Modernism: It's all Kuhn's fault. But this is surely to shoot the messenger: Kuhn's great contribution is not to say that healing crystals are in he says nothing of the sort but to say that the sacred and immutable link between science and truth is out, and we owe it to ourselves to keep an open mind about whatever we believe.

After all, the history of science which is what Kuhn started out writing about is a long history of frequent revolution. Either all the theories scientists have ever believed up to the current day are baloney, always were, never really counted as science and we're just lucky to be around when the human race has finally got it right - which, to put it mildly, is wishful thinking - or the revolutionary history of science, which no-one disputes, tends to back up what Kuhn is saying.

Science does evolve, through the great algorithm of human discourse, and the dominating theories through time will tend to be the ones which most of us are persuaded work the best for us whether we're right or not is really beside the point. What persuades in Tehran may differ from what persuades in Texas.

All Thomas Kuhn cautions against is either side taking its own position as a given. His enterprise is therefore fundamentally democratic - placing epistemological legitimacy in the hands of the entire community, as contingent and random as it may be from time to time, and not a self-selecting, self perpetuating elite. One thing economic theory tells us is that concentrating economic control in a small part of the population as in a monopoly generally works out worse for everyone except the monopolist.

Paradigms Regained - Los Angeles Review of Books

There's no reason to suppose that concentrating intellectual authority should be any different. In the Western Hemisphere - outside the Grateful Dead tour circuit, at any rate - intellectual authority mostly resides with established science, but it has to work - literally - to earn our respect. The anti-Kuhn brigade like Richard Dawkins may not like that sort of accountability but, not being a scientist, I do. Essential reading in understanding why the Enlightenment ideal of rationality is dead or at least doesn't count in ways that matter.

In particular, Kuhn calls into question the idea of science as a rational enterprise, and since science is epistemologically privileged and thought to be the essence of rationality, to call into question the rationality of science is to call into question rationality itself. This is different, I submit, than the anti-rationality of the deconstructionists e. I find Hegel to be a precursor of Kuhn. Hegel attempted to describe how we come to believe what we believe, and Kuhn attempts to do this in the field of science, and, it should be added, with much more accessibly.

There are some who will find Kuhn lacking all coherence sophisticated BS, as one reviewer put it , and that is another way of saying "irrational". For those who associate irrationality with things like religious fundamentalism, irrationalism is a fearful thing. Yet, it is rationality itself that has been called into question the crisis of modernity by the events of the 20th century, beginning with the carnage of WWI.

The answer is not more rationalism if people would only try to "understand" rationalism, the primacy of reason, is itself a belief. The answer may be, as Rorty has pointed out, what we want to belief. That may be a fearful thing for those who don't find complete correspondence between their beliefs and Rorty's privileged beliefs. What, though, it does show, is that irrationality is not sufficient grounds for being dismissive.

In doing so one may be taking a stance on the wrong side of the arrow of history. The arrow, though, is not that of the Whig theory of history, where things constantly improve driven by reason.


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Historians of this view as well as much of popular culture denigrate older views by degrading them to myth or religious belief status, This gives a privileged position to our own, contemporary beliefs and gives us a sense of comfort. Kuhn disturbs this comfortable view by showing, for example, that Ptolemaic astronomy gave plausible answers to questions of the day.

So too, one could argue that the contemporary dismissive view of Scholastic philosophy is more the result of Enlightenment propaganda than of merit. At the least, Kuhn is a good partial antidote for contemporary smugness a challenge to bourgeois sentiment. Kuhn, though, is much more than a cultural caution; he is an important voice in the contemporary philosophical debate. I started reading this book assuming that I already knew all of the basic ideas behind it. I mostly wanted to say that I had read it; I didn't think that I would learn a great deal. I was way off. As old as it is, this book is full of great concepts; even though most of the basic ideas have been absorbed by our culture, the details are well worth studying.

I highly recommend reading it all the way through! This book analyses how science accomplished a change to its worldviews. As someone with an undergraduate physics degree, Kuhn has a good appreciation of science. Nevertheless some of his views are controversial. Regrettably there are many philosophers who do not understand modern science. Likewise there are many experimental scientists who do not appreciate the role of scientific beliefs. These critics mostly ought to read what Kuhn actually said.

Science advances in two ways. One of these is by adding new layers to a structure of derivative worldview beliefs. This involves a competition between old and new ideas.

ISBN 13: 9780226458113

Kuhn draws a parallel with natural selection. Hence the successful development of scientific worldviews correspond to survival of the most appealing fittest beliefs. Yet natural selection has no plan. Thus we should not rely upon science's 'improving' evolving record to conclude that there is an ultimate truth to which science is advancing.

This is his most unpalatable conclusion. He undermines an argument; he does not rule out the existence of an ultimate truth. Furthermore Kuhn points out that paradigm shifts deal with beliefs. Thus there is no neutral way of assessing proposed changes. A challenging worldview and the existing worldview are incommensurate; they judge things in very different terms.

Thus the adding of a new lower level or even the replacement of the existing lowest level takes time and is mentally taxing for those involved. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to the high volume of feedback, we are unable to respond to individual comments. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments. Recent searches Clear All.

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50th Anniversary Edition

Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. This new edition of Kuhn's essential work includes an insightful introduction by Hacking, which clarifies terms popularized by Kuhn. Newly designed, with an expanded index, this edition will be eagerly welcomed by readers seeking to understand the history of our perspectives on science. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it.

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Average rating: 2 out of 5 stars, based on reviews. A rebellion against science is running rampant in the West, causing such oddities as the cult of Global Warming. Here we can focus on one of the most important fomenters of this rebellion: Thomas Kuhn , author of the enormously influential "Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In the traditional view, scientists build on the corpus that preceded them; through experiment and observation, they add a new fact here and a new discovery there, refining and adjusting the inherited learning.

Slowly but surely, knowledge advances, and we modify the textbooks as we go. Wrong, says Kuhn. New Releases. Description A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were - and still are.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is that kind of book. When it was first published in , it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. Fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach. Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age. Note: This new edition of Kuhn's essential work in the history of science includes an insightful introduction by Ian Hacking, which clarifies terms popularized by Kuhn, including paradigm and incommensurability, and applies Kuhn's ideas to the science of today.

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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniversary Edition)

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