[IR-Theories Evidences Inferences] Kuhn, Thomas (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

[연구] Research 2014. 7. 15. 18:38

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Kuhn, Thomas S. 지음
University of Chicago Press | 2012-04-27 출간
A good book may have the power to c...
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 Kuhn, Thomas (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago Press.

Overview (Kuhn)

Paradigm, a concept now so exhaustively used, is a key concept in understanding Kuhn’s illustration of scientific progress. A scientific revolution, extraordinary science occurs when the paradigm becomes fundamentally transformed and/or replaced by another. While the concept is not strict in definition, Kuhn uses the term to refer to a conceptual matrix of facts, theories, methods, and assumptions that provides a shared context and model for practitioners. 

According to Kuhn there are three different phases (although not linear) to scientific progress. First is what he terms “normal science,” a conceptual matrix(paradigm) of facts, theories, methods, and assumptions that have been already established. With the disciplinary framework, a shared foundational apparatus provided, practitioners have a context and model for puzzle-solving. And by using such shared apparatus, this puzzle-solving in normal science remains within the boundaries of existing paradigm, becoming largely about confirmation and/or precision of the existing paradigm.

A crisis occurs, however, when the normal science can no longer solve the puzzles and causes practitioners to question the applicability of the current science. Amongst many alternatives, a paradigm that seems to best solve the puzzle (not that it is a better representation of the reality) triumphs over the others until it replaces the former. Our preceding conceptual matrix is therefore fundamentally transformed and Kuhn calls this the extraordinary science or revolutionary science.


The pages of this book have made a profound change in my understanding and approach to the world… One question that still lingers is then who will be the creators/seers of the paradigm shift? How can one maintain his/her flexibility in thoughts? These are the questions that Kuhn leaves to intuition and somewhat arbitrariness: Kuhn states that scientists are often unaware of the specifics of the research paradigm and instead rely on an intuitive understanding much akin to that proposed by Wittgenstein. Also, Kuhn attempts to fill the question by referring to the role of new talents and youth: What Kuhn calls “the fundamental inventions of a new paradigm,” have been achieved either by “very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.” In the footnote, Kuhn further notes that this generalization about the role of youth in fundamental scientific progress “is so common as to be a cliché” and that “a glance at almost any list of fundamental contributions to scientific theory will provide impressionistic confirmation.” 

So this great task is on us and our intuitions. Fingers crossed, stay free, open, creative, and courageous… 



Introductory Essay by Ian Hacking


I.                   Introduction: A Role for History

II.                The Route to Normal Science

III.             The Nature of Normal Science

IV.             IV. Normal Science as Puzzle-solving

V.                The Priority of Paradigms

VI.             Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discoveries

VII.          Crisis and the Emergence of Scientific Theories

VIII.       The Responses to Crisis

IX.             The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions

X.                Revolutions as Changes of World View

XI.             The Invisibility of Revolutions

XII.          The Resolution of Revolutions

XIII.       Progress through Revolutions






Introductory Essay by Ian Hacking

-          Kuhn’s finding that there are “scientific revolutions but also that they have a structure” (p. x)

-          “The book ends with the disconcerting thought that progress in science is not a simple line leading to the truth. It is more progress away from less adequate conceptions of, and interactions with, the world.” (p. xi)

-          “Normal science and puzzle-solving” (p. xv)

-          “paradigm” (p. xvii)

-          “anomaly” (p. xxvi), “crisis” (p. xxvii)… etc


I.                   Introduction: A Role for History


Distinction between normal science (cumulative) and scientific revolutions (non-cumulative):

Overview of scientific progress in history: Normal science dominated – rare extraordinary sciences:

“Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like.” And the community of such normal science has the tendency to “defend” their assumptions and “suppresses fundamental novelties” that goes against their assumptions. (p. 5)


Yet again, extraordinary science is something inevitable, where normal science is limited in the ability to suppress the fundamental novelties for long… “extraordinary episodes… are the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science” (p. 6).


*Kuhn’s examples: Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier, and Einstein (the big discoveries…)

*Characteristics of these extraordinary sciences – “the defining characteristics of scientific revolutions” (p. 6):

-          “Each of them necessitated the community’s rejection of one time-honored theory in favor of another incompatible with it”

-          “Each produced a consequent shift in the problems available for scientific scrutiny and in the standards by which the profession determined …as legitimate.”

-          “And each transformed the scientific imagination in ways that we shall ultimately need to describe as a transformation of the world within which scientific work was done.”

-          Additionally: the new revolution “requires the reconstruction of prior theory and the re-evaluation of prior fact, an intrinsically revolutionary process that is seldom completed by a single man and never overnight”



II.                The Route to Normal Science

Further note on normal science and scientific revolutions

Kuhn’s definition of normal science: “In this essay, ‘normal science’ means 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)

And the “past scientific achievements” are equivalent to Kuhn’s “extraordinary science” or scientific revolutions: e.g. “Aristotle’s Physica, Ptolemy’s Almagest, Newton’s Principia and Opticks, Franklin’s Electricity, Lavoisier’s Chemistry, and Lyell’s Geology” (p. 10)

-          Kuhn further points out here the “two essential characteristics”:

1)      “Their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity.” (p. 10)

2)      “Simultaneously, it was sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve.” (p. 10-11)


Normal Science and Paradigms

As Kuhn himself clarifies, these past achievements are referred to as “paradigms” (“a term that relates closely to ‘normal science’) which he means to “suggest that some accepted examples of actual scientific practice… provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research…” Paradigms are extensive conceptual mix that once one becomes a member of “the particular scientific community … he there joins men who learned the bases of their field from the same concrete models,” making “his subsequent practice… seldom evoke overt disagreement over the fundamentals. Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science… for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition.” (p.11)


Scientific Revolutions and Paradigms

“…transformations of the paradigms… are scientific revolutions, and the successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution” (p. 12)


The route to normal science is therefore the replacement of normal science with another: shift in paradigms… And this appears in the following pattern from disseminated facts to conformity…:

“…During that period there were almost as many views about the nature of [X] as there were important [experimenters/thinkers], men like [A, B, C, D, E, F] and others. All their numerous concepts of [X] had something in common – they were partially derived from one or another version of the [x] that guided all scientific research of the day. In addition, all were components of real scientific theories, of theories that had been drawn in part from experiment and observation and that partially determined the choice and interpretation of additional problems undertaken in research. Yet though all the experiments were [in relation to x] and though most of the experimenters read each other’s works, their theories had no more than a family resemblance…

In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for paradigm, all of the facts that could possibly pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant. As a result, early fact-gathering is a far more nearly random activity than the one that subsequent scientific development makes familiar. Furthermore, in the absence of a reason for seeking some particular form of more recondite information, early fact-gathering is usually restricted to the wealth of data that lie ready to hand. The resulting pool of facts contains those accessible to casual observation and experiment… [although] this sort of fact-collecting has been essential […] the casual fact-gatherer seldom possesses the time or the tools to be critical… Only very occasionally… do facts collected with so little guidance from pre-established theory speak with sufficient clarity to permit the emergence of a first paradigm.

No wonder, then, that in the early stages of the development of any science different men confronting the same range of phenomena, but not usually all the same particular phenomena, describe and interpret them in different ways. What is surprising, and perhaps also unique in its degree to the fields we call science, is that such initial divergences should ever largely disappear.” (pp. 14-17)


Overall, interesting logical outline of how we come to experience scientific revolutions on the basis of normal science (~ accepted and shared practices..)


Scientific revolution, extraordinary science as a strong “guide” to the whole community’s research.


III.             The Nature of Normal Science


More expansion on the nature of normal science...

Most importantly, I think, Kuhn makes here the distinction between the normal usage of the word ‘paradigm’ (normally used as “an accepted model or pattern” that permits “replication of examples”) and Kuhn’s use of the word paradigm in science: the distinction is that the paradigm in science is “rarely an object for replication” but more of a shared/accepted context that requires “further articulation and specification under new or more stringent conditions,” and this is what normal science is about – confirmation and precision of the given paradigm. (p. 23)


Normal science focuses on “three classes of problems” (p. 34):

1)      “determination of significant fact”

2)      “matching of facts with theory”

3)      And “articulation of theory”


Nevertheless Kuhn makes it clear here that normal science is of trivial value: Kuhn states that they “are also extraordinary problems” that are in many times required for extraordinary science – appearing after the “advance of normal research” (p. 34).


Point here is the almost inevitableness to depart from existing paradigms: “Inevitably… the overwhelming majority of the problems undertaken by even the very best scientists usually fall into one of the three categories outlined above. Work under the paradigm can be conducted in no other way, and to desert the paradigm is to cease practicing the science it defines…” (p. 34).


IV.             Normal Science as Puzzle-solving


Kuhn clearly concludes here that normal science can be characterized as “puzzle-solving: with the presence of strong commitment in shared context, the research becomes more or less puzzle-solving that are largely identifiable and solvable within the boundaries of the same paradigm:

“The existence of this strong network of commitments – conceptual, theoretical, instrumental and methodological – is a principal source of the metaphor that relates normal science to puzzle-solving. Because it provides rules that tell the practitioner of a mature specialty what both the world and his science are like, he can concentrate with assurance upon the esoteric problems that these rules and existing knowledge define for him. What then personally challenges him is how to bring the residual puzzle to solution.”  (p. 42)


V.                The Priority of Paradigms


Kuhn suggests here that there is a common understanding within the research community that forms the research paradigm. However he thinks that scientists are often unaware of the specifics of the research paradigm and instead rely on an intuitive understanding much akin to that proposed by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein proposed that we know a game by its family of properties. Even if a game doesn’t have all of the properties we identify with a game, we will still be able to recognize it as such through these flexible recognition mechanisms.


Paradigms can be found as recurrent patterns (p. 43):

“Close historical investigation of a given specialty at a given time discloses a set of recurrent and quasi-standard illustrations of various theories in their conceptual, observational, and instrumental applications. These are the community’s paradigms, revealed in its textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises.”


Important distinction Kuhn points out here is that “shared paradigms” are not “shared rules.” (p. 43):

-          In absence of rules, paradigms can still guide research by becoming the shared context (p. 42)  – paradigm is a better and loose term, above rules, for such characteristic…

-          “paradigms could determine normal science without the intervention of discoverable rules” (p. 46).

-          “paradigms guide research by direct modelling as well as through abstracted rules. Normal science can proceed without rules only so long as the relevant scientific community accepts without question the particular problem-solutions already achieved.” (p. 48)


VI.             Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discoveries


Important note: “Normal science, the puzzle-solving activity we have just examined, is a highly cumulative enterprise, eminently successful in its aim, the steady extension of the scope and precision of scientific knowledge… Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none…


Anomaly within normal science: “New and unsuspected phenomena are, however, repeatedly uncovered by scientific research, and radical new theories have again and again been invented by scientists… research under a paradigm must be a particularly effective way of inducing paradigm change. (p. 52)”


Emergence of anomaly and discoveries (process of “first paradigm” (p. 64) -> “precision-of-match”(p. 65) -> rigidity -> anomaly (against the background provided by the paradigm):

“In the development of any science, the first received paradigm is usually felt to account quite successfully for most of the observations and experiments easily accessible to that sciences’ practitioners. Further development, therefore, ordinarily calls for the construction of elaborate equipment, the development of an esoteric vocabulary and skills, and a refinement of concepts that increasingly lessens their resemblance to their usual common-sense prototypes… The science has become increasingly rigid…(p. 64) … Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm. The more precise and far-reaching that paradigm is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly and hence of an occasion for paradigm change (p. 65)”


VII.          Crisis and the Emergence of Scientific Theories

Crisis as the “retooling”(p. 76) sign for normal science:

“Philosophers of science have repeatedly demonstrated that more than one theoretical construction can always be placed upon a given collection of data. History of science indicates that, particularly in the early developmental stages of a new paradigm, it is not even very difficult to invent such alternates. But that invention of alternates is just what scientists seldom undertake except during the pre-paradigm stage of their science’s development and at very special occasion during its subsequent evolution. So long as the tools a paradigm supplies continue to prove capable of solving the problems it defines, science moves fastest and penetrates most deeply through confident employment of those tools. The reason is clear. As in manufacture so in science – retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it. The significance of crises is the indication that they provide that an occasion for retooling has arrived (p. 76)”


VIII.       The Responses to Crisis

In face of crises, diverse responses, ultimately current paradigm called into question:

“…its different appearance results simply from the new fixation point of scientific scrutiny. An even more important source of change is the divergent nature of the numerous partial solutions that concerted attention to the problem has made available… [and in the end though] there still is a paradigm, few practitioners prove to be entirely agreed about what it is. Even formerly standard solutions of solved problems are called in question. (p. 83)”


But overall, crises are dealt mostly in one of three ways/responses:

1)      Crisis is handled

2)      Resistance to radical approaches

3)      Emergence of new candidate for paradigm


Crisis loosens the paradigm (note the use of the word “paradigm shift”): that all crises involve the blurring of paradigms:

“…crisis simultaneously loosens the stereotypes and provides the incremental data necessary for a fundamental paradigm shift. Sometimes the shape of the new paradigm is foreshadowed in the structure that extraordinary research has given to the anomaly (p. 89)”


Paradigm shift: “What the nature of that final stage is – how an individual invents (or finds he has invented) a new way of giving order to data now all assembled” (p. 90)


Important Note: He makes an interesting point here that in criticizing one theory the scientist must propose an alternative otherwise this is not the pursuit of science


IX.             The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions


Scientific revolutions: “non-cumulative developmental episodes in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one.” (p. 92)


*Parallelism to political development/revolution justified as (but with caution):

- political organizations and scientific communities groups arise with significantly different values from the mainstream:

“In much the same way, scientific revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, again often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way. In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution.” (pp.92-93)


X.                Revolutions as Changes of World View


“What were ducks in the scientist’s world before the revolution are rabbits afterwards” (pp. 111-112) although with some limits (p. 129):

-          “After a scientific revolution many old measurements and manipulations become irrelevant and are replaced by other instead. One does not apply all the same tests to oxygen as to dephlogisticated air. But changes of this sort are never total. Whatever he may then see, the scientist after a revolution is still looking at the same world. Furthermore, though he may previously have employed them differently, much of his language and most of his laboratory instruments are still the same as they were before. As a result, postrevolutionary science invariably includes many of the same manipulations, performed with the same instruments and described in the same terms, as its prerevolutionary predecessor… (p. 129)”

 Scientist must learn to see a new Gestalt.


XI.             The Invisibility of Revolutions

“Both scientists and laymen take much of their image of creative scientific activity from an authoritative source that systematically disguises – partly for important functional reasons – the existence and significance of scientific revolutions (p. 135)”

Revolutions are invisible because of “historical revisionism in science textbooks” – that the textbooks are written after the revolutions…


XII.          The Resolution of Revolutions

Those involved in scientific revolutions have characteristics which are different from those of scientists involved in ‘normal science’ Thus he suggests that such scientists are usually new to the field and for various reasons are not under an obligation to operate within the boundaries of the paradigm but instead are able to challenge the paradigm shift.


Models of theory validation:

-          Categorical model of theories: theory expected to account for all of the data (but unrealistic)

-          Probabilistic model (more likely): theory accounts for most of the findings

-          Contrasting: identification of evidence for the theory and falsification (Karl Popper)


XIII.       Progress through Revolutions

Here Kuhn questions what it is that makes a science.

He suggests that a strong sense of identity within a scientific discipline occurs when there is agreement within the community on past and present accomplishments.

Kuhn also suggests that although science progresses it does not necessarily progress towards any specific goal. He also reiterates the effectiveness of scientific revolutions followed by periods of normal science in developing a body of scientific knowledge. However he leaves the reader to answer the question ‘what must the world be like for us to know it?’



Written 7 years after the publication

Addresses many of the criticisms

Clarification on his definition of paradigms

*Revolution as a special renegotiation of relationships within a community

*Crises can be generated by groups other than those that experience them ~ i.e. disciplinary matrix where there is symbolic representation, shared belief and values of the scientific community.

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