Thomas Kuhn's the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Roberts, Lisa J. | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Thomas Kuhn's the Structure of Scientific Revolutions


Roberts, Lisa J., ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


LISA J. ROBERTS [*]

In the preface to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn cites as unifying many of his studies a problem-structure and orientation including "the way in which the experimental bases of a new theory are accumulated and assimilated by men committed to an incompatible older theory" (SSR p.ix). [1] This phenomenon contributed greatly to the movement in Kuhn's career from physics, to historiography, to more philosophical issues concerning the nature of scientific development itself. As the result of his studies, Kuhn emphasized the role of community in scientific "development." He challenged the brick-to-building metaphor endorsed by normal science textbooks, suggesting instead that scientific progress occurs in the form of revolutions and does not follow an uninterrupted linear path, as traditional schoolbooks would lead us to believe. These scientific revolutions erupt not as the direct result of the emergence of new data, but only after a scientific community embraces a new model in place of an o ld one. Kuhn identified these "universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners," as "paradigms" (SSR p.x).

As the pool of scientific knowledge grows in quality as well as quantity, documenting who did what and when becomes more difficult beyond just recognizing and ordering the "scientific" aspects of what we have long since dismissed as myth or superstition. Historians attempting to refine our knowledge of scientific history encounter many problems as they evaluate past events based on current knowledge. Contemporary methods of historical research have given way to problems in categorizing inventions and discoveries, while they further call into question the concept of development-by-accumulation assigned to scientific process. The simple piling up of facts as a means of documenting scientific chronology ignores a very important factor in scientific progress -- the community of practitioners involved. Thus, Kuhn argued for a new method of historiography which addresses a theory of scientific revolutions.

Kuhn states clearly the fundamental objective of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as that of "urg[ing] a change in the perception and evaluation of familiar data" (pp.x-xi). He exemplifies his scientific paradigms by re-evaluating "normal science" -- particularly that of physics -- which he defines 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 its further practice" (p.10). Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions represents the "tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science" (p.6), namely the orientations which contribute to a community's acceptance or rejection of a new theory. Traditional historiography would have one believe that scientific progress relies on the discovery of facts, or of truth, and that any number of scientists presented with the same problem will obtain the same "factual" solution. Not so, said Kuhn. The proba bility of "accurate" research results may depend on the scientist's proper use of the scientific method, but it also depends on his social-scientific orientation: Does he define a swinging pendulum by the laws of gravity or by those of motion? Today, anyone with a basic knowledge of science would acknowledge both, but years ago one theory clashed incommensurably with the other. Thus, devotion to one paradigm or another involves more than empiricism; it depends on the community to which a practitioner belongs.

In Chapter I of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn overviews his theory of paradigms and offers a rationale for the remaining twelve sections of the book. Chapter II anticipates the inevitable role of incommensurability. In Chapters III, IV, and V, Kuhn expands upon the function of normal science and the "conceptual boxes" that accompany it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Thomas Kuhn's the Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.