Kuhn's Paradigm Shift - An Term Paper

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  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
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Excerpt from Term Paper :

This means that the older paradigm is replaced by the new and the new concepts and views and the new are not compatible with the old. "...the new paradigm cannot build on the preceding one. Rather, it can only supplant it..." (Thomas Kuhn).

Kuhn's theory was in effect challenging a view of scientific progress that had begun with Comte and the Enlightenment. This refers to the original view and belief that scientific discovery and analysis was part of the process of positive historical human progress. There was an inner logic to scientific advancement that was in line with concept of progress towards the ideal. This view was also related to the ideology of the progress of society towards an ideal state. (the History Guide: Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History).

However this scientific idealism was sharply challenged by Thomas Kuhn's the Structure of a Scientific Revolution in 1962. The view that this theory ultimately suggested was that science was not an ideal march of object scientific discovery into the future - but rather that science was limited and circumscribed by different phases or paradigms which were essentially separate and discrete.

This aspect has created a great amount of controversy. Weinberg for example states that; "What does bother me on rereading Structure and some of Kuhn's later writings is his radically skeptical conclusions about what is accomplished in the work of science" (Weinberg). This writer claims that Kuhn has become a hero to those who would describe scientific theories in terms of social constructions, and that this view is in essence a misrepresentation of the true nature of scientific discovery. (Weinberg). This is a general view among those scientists who criticize Kuhn's theory.

Kuhn's theory has not only impacted on the way that scientists are viewed but also on the very foundations of the discipline - namely the ideology that science is concerned with the search, and discovery, of ultimate truths. In this regard Kuhn argues that in reality the view of science as a steady and progressive uncovering of the truth of reality is a myth and that science is not a progressive evolution of knowledge. "Kuhn argued that this is not a process of evolution toward anything, and he questioned whether it really helps to imagine that there is one, full, objective, true account of nature." (Thomas Kuhn)

In other words, and in conclusion, Kuhn's theory goes against the very assumptions that underlie conventional science; namely that there no unequivocal and distinct truth that can be discovered about nature and reality if we take into account the relativity of scientific paradigms. This is a radical invasion of the foundations of science and is not unexpected that there should be dissent and debate from the traditionalists.

It should however be remembered that Kuhn's theory does not take place in intellectual isolation but should rather be seen in the light of contemporary thought and philosophy. In this regard it should be taken into account that the philosophy of science is linked in terms of the trajectory of its theoretical development with more interrogative and deconstructive approach to all disciplines, that began with modernism in the early Twentieth Century.

The emergence of poststructuralist theory and schools of thought, leading to deconstruction and post-modernism, were all modes of thought that questioned and placed into doubt the accepted views and hegemonies of knowledge of the past in all fields. Science could escape this interrogation and the examinations of its foundational structures.

The relativistic approach to science that Kuhn has suggested in his theory of paradigm shift tends to conform with the change in thought that characterizes these new 'paradigms ' that have in fact occurred in Western thought and consciousness in all fields and disciplines over the past century. Therefore the questioning of the conventional view of science as a monolithic, logical and rational enterprise aimed at the discovery of a definite truth or truths has been challenged on many fronts. Kuhn's theory is only one of the many counter views that have been put forward and which oppose the traditional views about the nature and place of science - although his theory is one of the most important of these modern challenges.

Possibly one of the most radical and postmodern views that Kuhn suggests in his theory is that there is no single and definite truth that can be discovered by science and that all truth is relative and determined by the particular paradigm or the shared views and concepts in science in each particular phase of its development; to which scientists consciously or unconsciously subscribe to.

Reference List

Analysis as Model: Thomas Kuhn's Paradigm Shift in the Structure of Scientific

Revolutions. Shepherds college. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://webpages.shepherd.edu/maustin/kuhn/kuhnpaper.htm

Franklin James. Thomas Kuhn's irrationalism. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://newcriterion.com:81/archive/18/jun00/kuhn.htm

Pajares F. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:Outline and Study Guide.

Emory University. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://ar.geocities.com/fisica_tutoriales/fisica_tutoriales/filosofia/kuhn0.pdf

Paradigm shift. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Paradigm_shift

ROTHSTEIN E. Coming to Blows Over How Valid Science Really Is. 2001.

Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plajb/research/reviews/NYTimes_review.html

Shifts Happen: The Work of Thomas S. Kuhn. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.nchalada.org/archive/NCHALADA_LX_PM.html

The History Guide: Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture25a.html#course

Thomas Kuhn - Discussion. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-Thomas-Kuhn.htm#Intro.Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn. Emory University. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhnsnap.html

THOMAS KUHN (2) Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.ee.scu.edu/eefac/healy/kuhn.html

Thomas S. Kuhn: The Tech. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www-tech.mit.edu/V116/N28/kuhn.28n.html

Weinberg S. The Revolution That Didn't Happen. Retrieved Sept. 22, 2007 at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/735

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