Thomas Kuhn's Book - The Term Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Subject: Evolution
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #97415676

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Research can be added to the paradigms through discovery, without an actual paradigm shift, or the paradigm can be completely replaced through crisis.

Scientific revolutions are sometimes so great that it can be said that with the advent of a paradigm shift, the world itself changes. However, as Kuhn (1996) sustains, the world does not actually change every time a paradigm shift occurs, although it can be said that the world does become a different place for the ones who perceive it from the point-of-view of a different paradigm. (p. 111)

In the light of Kuhn's theory, the history of past science as well of the structure of the present science and the forecast of the future developments can be defined or predicted.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a great step towards an understanding of the past of science as well as of the manner in which it evolves.

Evolution of science or progress is realized through the paradigm shifts, or after the moment of crisis of a certain science. Crisis appears essentially when a world-view can no loner be accepted as valid, and is a fundamental moment in evolution. Also, Kuhn (1996) argues that scientific evolution shares a common ground with natural selection as theorized by Darwin. Moreover, Kuhn tries to account for the fact that the science does evince an evolution, although this evolution is characterized by the absence of a goal.

Science evolves without having a definite target, and this once more underlines the importance of paradigms as the means through which evolution becomes explainable. The world-views are replaced because of the very structure that is proper of scientific revolutions in general. (p. 171)

The past of science can be interpreted according to the view that Kuhn offers as a series of these scientific revolutions. However, it must be noted that there was a time in every science when there were no paradigms constructed yet.

Thus, Kuhn (1996) maintains that the degree of specialization achieved by a certain science is obvious in its means of investigation and transmission of the information- in the earlier stages of science the book was the most common way of making reports in science, and most of these reports were intelligible to everyone. However, in time, as the research in a certain scientific field developed and extended, the corpus of data became gradually unintelligible for the common person who was not a scientist. (p. 20)

The period before the emergence if any coherent paradigm, is what Kuhn describes as a confused state for a science, which is unlikely to lead to any progress at all. On the contrary, error or anomaly, as it has been seen are much more likely to be turned into coherent patterns.

The structure of scientific revolutions as proposed by Kuhn is easily noticeable in the past of science. The same case applies to the existence of paradigms or world-views that appear and then disappear because of new ones.

Many of such paradigms can be identified throughout the history of physics, for example: from Aristotle's paradigm of the world as made of matter, which was further made of atoms characterized by specific movements, shapes and sizes, then to Newton's view of the world made up of forces which were intimately related to mass, to Einstein's theory of relativity which proposed that the world is a space-time continuum, and which abolished the idea of absolute objectivity in science.

All these developments and radical changes show the way in which revolutions take place, and how the surprising and radical changes in world-views take place.

The current developments in science derivate also from the precedent revolutions, and are the results of the entire succession of paradigm shifts that occurred throughout history.

The new theories, such as quantum physics or the theories related to the evolution and the beginnings of the universe, when analyzed with the past theories in mind, are obviously derived from the past assumptions made in the same fields, and through a gradual combination of discoveries and of new paradigms.

It becomes thus obvious that the present science can only be interpreted accurately with the aid of the past paradigms and it can be said that it could have hardly existed without the theories that preceded it.

For example, the theory that states that light is made up of photons that can have either particle or wave-like behavior is the result of the two paradigms that preceded it: one of which maintained that light must be made of particles and the other which saw that it behaves like a wave sometimes.

The experimental data could not at first be translated into an accurate paradigm of light, since there appeared to be an essential contradiction as to this double particle and wave character, since it had been demonstrated that the world is made up of two types of phenomena that are mutually exclusive: particles and waves. These two paradigms merged into a new one, after the anomaly that the behavior of light presented was observed experimentally.

Thus, it can be argued that Kuhn offers a proper account of the events characteristic of all scientific revolutions, for the past and present science.

Moreover, the future science is essentially determined by the past and present developments in science, and predictably, the new paradigms will emerge as a result of new discoveries and crisis in the present accepted world-views.

The future of science can not be predicted as such, but the structure of scientific revolutions will most probably be preserved.

Therefore, Kuhn's theory of the structure of scientific revolutions is very pertinent for an accurate description of the past, present and future of science and for the way in which it generally evolves also.

Science is essentially characterized by progress, and its progress is explained through paradigm change as well.

Kuhn (1996) thus gives a proper account of the way in which science has evolved so far and the way presumably predicts the way in which it will evolve hereafter.

Scientific progress is essentially different from that of other domains of human thought such as the art or the social sciences. The last two do not progress as such, as science does, although they to employ the term paradigm to separate the specific currents and trends of thought. Literature, for example, can speak of a Romantic paradigm that has certain common features, and of a similar way in which this can be replaced by a new one, that represents the world differently.

In science however, the succession of paradigms is bound to lead to progress as one discovery leads to another, and moreover, sometimes the paradigms are completely replaced by new ones, which does not occur in art, where the old works still contain many valuable ideas.

The scientific road is thus one of that is characterized by more than mere perception, or of changes that occur in the way man perceives the world.

Although perception, according to Kuhn (1996) is very important in science as well, up to the point that it can be said that the world itself changes with a paradigm shift, it is, nevertheless, not perception by itself that transforms. The scientist has to form the paradigm from what he sees, although, many times, what he actually sees stays the same. (p. 112)

Kuhn gives a revolutionary description of science and its progress, and his concept of paradigm and paradigm shift has been used extensively in all fields of research, being still the most common…

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