Phil 264 - Kuhn-1 - Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) The Significance of Kuhn's Work Kuhn's work is significant largely because it presents a compelling challenge to the intuitive (and once dominant) conception of scientific progress. According to this conception (advocated by the logical positivists), scientific progress is a cumulative process. As scientists learn more and more about the world, as they acquire knowledge of more and more facts, they make relevant adjustments in their theories. As a result, their theories get better and better, closer and closer to a completely accurate characterization of physical reality. Kuhn claimed that this interpretation of the history of science is wrong-headed. The history of science is a history of shifting "paradigms," where such paradigms represent radically different conceptions of reality. Thus, scientific "progress" is not a matter of adjusting one's current theories to accommodate new knowledge. It is rather a matter of altering one's basic conception of reality, and re-interpreting the empirical data (observations) accordingly. As Kuhn suggests (p. 160), scientific progress is not a matter of new knowledge replacing ignorance; it is a matter of new knowledge replacing "knowledge of another incompatible sort." Study Questions 1-7 (from chapter IX) (n.b. Many of the study questions cannot be answered on the basis of the excerpted reading alone. However, they can be answered on the basis of the reading in conjunction with the editors' commentary. So please read what the editors say about Kuhn's work.) 1. What is a scientific revolution? In order to understand Kuhn's conception of a scientific revolution, you must first understand his notion of a "paradigm," so let's start with that. As the editor's of the text put it (p. 157), a paradigm is, a set of theoretical assumptions, concepts, and commitments that define the problems, methods, and solutions of scientific investigation. Some examples of competing paradigms: Newtonian vs. Einsteinian conceptions of space/time/mass; Geocentric (Ptolemaic) vs. Heliocentric (Copernican) models of the universe; demonic possession vs. suppressed childhood experiences vs. chemical imbalance models of mental illness. Now let's turn to Kuhn's conception of a scientific revolution. As he puts it, a scientific revolution is, a noncumulative developmental episode in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one. The key concepts here, aside from that of "paradigm," are those of "noncumulative" and "incompatible," so let's look at these, beginning with the latter. Successive paradigms are radically different from one another. Because different paradigms differ with respect to their "assumptions, concepts, and commitments," they also differ with respect to their understanding of "the problems, methods, and solutions" of scientific investigation. Thus, one cannot operate
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
simultaneously within both an old and a new paradigm. For instance, an astronomer
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 11/15/2009 for the course PHIL 264 taught by Professor Reimer during the Spring '07 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.

Page1 / 5

Phil 264 - Kuhn-1 - Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online