Kuhn introduces the idea that science is a progression based on accumulated innovations, discoveries, and inventions all contributing to its body of knowledge. Science students are therefore introduced to these things through study and the mature ones get a chance to establish paradigms and make scientific discoveries that are later used in the field. Scientists are built in a way that they wouldn’t tolerate anomalies and when the anomalies accumulate, through suppression they start an extensive study called a scientific revolution.
Kuhn states that normal science is based on prior scientific knowledge (called Paradigms) giving an example of how Aristotle physics and Ptolemy Almagest served as paradigms for physics and astronomy respectively. Paradigms unify works in a specific field and make it coherent and progressive. The groundwork for a particular study defines problems and makes unprecedented achievements that are inherited by students of the field creating a community. Adherents of the field develop it and remove the rival theories and eventually create a discipline or a profession that researches and develops the field further.
Paradigms create normal science because they initially are limited in information and they need much clarifications and works and a mop-up through an attempt to force nature to fit within the inflexible box supplied by the paradigm. Normal science doesn’t uncover new anomalies, and when they occur they are either ignored or discarded and even when they are explained, adherents reject it. Normal science is therefore committed to “mopping up” through focusing on only the class of facts revealed by the paradigm, the class of facts that compare directly with the paradigm, and any empirical work that would develop the paradigm.
Normal science solves puzzles meaning that the research of scientific research is known before the solution. The path towards solving the puzzle is not usually apparent but is worth it because they bring the paradigm clarification. Scientists believe that nature is orderly and so there are no discoveries within normal science; discovery is, therefore, part of a paradigm shift.
A scientific theory has conceptual, observations, and instrumental applications which are the paradigms revealed in textbooks, lab exercises, and lectures. Paradigms in mature science are concrete achievements but do not have a specific set of rules towards achieving the solution it is therefore not reducible to a set of rules. The rules are learned through application and mostly hard to articulate them abstractly. When disagreements occur, the need or rules gets pressing, but Kuhn asserts that we should not prioritize rules over paradigms.
Paradigms can change through the discovery of by introduction of new facts or theories. An anomaly begins when nature violates the expectations of a paradigm and a puzzle that resists a solution. A novel discovery example is that of oxygen; initially, people thought that burning released phlogiston but the discovery was that carbon and oxygen combine to produce energy for combustion. Such novel discoveries caused the paradigms to change and this shift calls for an adjustment in the scientist’s perspective.
With new facts and theories coming into play, the paradigms can absorb them in different ways through modifications of the original one. The modification can however fail in the case the paradigms experience several new anomalies. When accepting modifications, also, there is a problem when the theories do not go according to the facts or the cultural changes. The anomaly needs to be significant enough to be worth the huge investment in resources in further research and support. A period of pronounced insecurity over a paradigm is a crisis. Examples of crises include the phlogiston theory being replaced by the oxygen theory, the geocentric world view being replaced by the heliocentric view, and the luminous ether theory being replaced by the Einsteinian theory. Once a theory is not able to solve its problems, a new paradigm is brought forth.
Crises occur when a theory has many anomalies and becomes complex thus creating a chance for competing theories to resolve the complexity. The original rules do not apply anymore and scientists need new creativity to resolve the problem and provide a new proposal until they come to a valid proposal. Anomalies become the center of attention when they question fundamental generalizations of the theory, when the science transforms the anomaly into a crisis, or when the paradigm is unsolvable in the face of the anomaly. Several solutions are brought forth to resolve an anomaly and when there is disagreement and confusion, a crisis starts. Crises are managed by addressing them, differing them or a new candidate emerges to compete.
The chapter looks into scientific revolutions and their function in scientific development. A scientific revolution is a noncumulative development involving replacing a paradigm with one that is incompatible with the old one. A scientific revolution is analogous to a political one where people feel that the current leadership is unable to solve their problems or have created the problems and therefore want them out. In a scientific revolution, an old paradigm has no longer a shared discourse and is replaced with a new one that has successful predictions but cannot be assimilated into the old one.
After a revolution, scientist’s perspectives change, things become unfamiliar once again. The word remains the same but the perspectives have changed with the new paradigm and they have to interpret things differently from previously. The new perspectives are used to reinforce the new paradigm. Kuhn uses the duck-rabbit analogy to explain the changes that happen depending on how someone sees somethings; it works this way, before the revolution they couldn’t see either but after the revolution, they see both the rabbit or duck representing the old and new paradigm.
A shift in the paradigm is not a revolution but just an addition to the body of science. Textbooks gather all information within a science showing the accomplishments but do not indicate the scientific revolutions behind them. Textbooks are very significant to the student or layman because they explain in detail the activities of science or scientists and thus are the pedagogical vehicle to advance normal science. Changes in paradigms initiate the rewriting of textbooks to accommodate the developments. They however do not record the nature of revolution and the roles of the scientists
In this chapter Kuhn focuses on the steps in between a proposal and a new paradigm. The process involves getting people to shift to the paradigm. The process involves the development of anomalies, which develop into crises, research is then conducted and new theories are developed to explain it. During the process, normal science is not continuing and people work outside its scope. There is also resistance to change from the adherents of the old paradigm. Supporters of the paradigm have to make it more viable by improving on it through more research, experiments, and production of books and articles.
Kuhn suggests that science doesn’t progress but only changes occur in paradigms. Working in any science field involves having a unified set of values, culture and insular, Research is based upon areas of interest rather than pressing matters in the society. Mature sciences experience more changes in their paradigms unlike the ones of art which no paradigm suffices.
Kuhn, Thomas S. “The structure of scientific Revolutions. 50th anniversary.” Argument: Biannual Philosophical Journal 3.2 (2013): 539-543.