Before Kuhn described the development of science, the views of science were predominantly philosophical ideas about science evolution. Philosophers' view of scientific evolution was that it is progressive, linear, objective, and accumulative (Kuhn & Hacking 89). The development of theories was simply towards reality through the correction of past errors. However, Kuhn's view on scientific history is different. He interprets scientific history as a set of revolutionary phases of transition from one paradigm to another (Gutting 54). His model of paradigm shift asserts that there is no gradual evolution of science toward the truth (Orman 49). This paper will explain Thomas Kuhn's view that paradigm will remain constant before going through a revolutionary or paradigm shift when the current models or theories fail to explain certain phenomena leading to the development of a new approach.
Different from other philosophical outlooks on the evolution of science, Kuhn observed history and asserted that science does not progress stage by stage, guided by neutral observations such as positivism (Mcleod). He claims that the development of science is merely revolutions and not evolutions of paradigms. Scientists have a way of looking at the world's realities, known as the paradigm or worldview. The paradigm refers to a universally cognizable and acceptable scientific method that provides solutions to scientists in a particular field of practice. Normally, scientist accepts this way of thinking or paradigm until anomalies arise after which they start questioning and criticizing the theory. Thus, when the ideas and the models of that particular paradigm fail to provide solutions to reoccurring problems or anomalies, revolutionary ideas and concepts occur, leading to new theories and models a process, which Kuhn calls paradigm shift (Orman 51).
For Kuhn, science does not evolve but revolves around four main phases’ of science: pre-science, normal science, crisis, and revolution. The first phase of science is the pre-science phase, whereby there are a lot of ideas and theories regarding an inevitable reality or problem. However, scientists have no consensus on what method to adapt and accept, but they are doing their own thing from scratch. The period is also characterized by many debates regarding different fundamentals and concepts of every theorist's observations (Estrada 112).
The second phase of science is normal science, which usually has a stable paradigm that forms legitimate work in a particular field. Normal science assumes that the scientific community understands the truths of a specific discipline. During this phase, there exist anomalies but are not cause of concern since theorist accepts them in the hope that they can solve them over time. Scientist spends a considerable portion of their time trying to explain and find solutions for the anomalies regardless of whether they are aware of the battle against irregularities or not (Gutting 58). However, normal science usually suppresses the important novelties since the theorist are subversive of the paradigm through either politics or great results of the model (Estrada 115).
The third phase of science is a crisis where scientists begin to view the anomalies as difficult and impossible to address or explain. The stage is known as a paradigm shift characterizing the full-blown abnormalities and a high level of criticism of the existing paradigm. The scientists undermine the fundamental paradigm assumptions and attempts to change them after they fail to remove the anomalies. During this phase, the paradigm's underlying principles are relaxed and new ideas challenging the current model to arise. Also, the stage features various competing theories, which may result in anomalies solution or complete paradigm change (Estrada 110).
The fourth phase is the paradigm shift, also known as revolution. During the crisis stage, the scientist may fail to address the anomalies and thus encourage new ideas and concepts, creating a compelling logical justification for adopting a new paradigm. The choice and reason for the new paradigm largely depend on the psychological and sociological factors (Marx & Bornmann 457). Kuhn asserts that specific elements of the community of scientists, such as their personalities and biographies and shared criteria of assessing world truth, play a crucial role in their decision to adopt a particular paradigm. The analogy of paradigm shift is much like religion or political revolution, whereby scientists give excellent and logical reasons for favouring certain paradigms. However, those reasons are difficult to code to an algorithm that can conclusively and objectively choose a particular paradigm (Mcleod).
Therefore, based on their logical reasoning, scientists adopt a paradigm that better explains world realities and observations and employ a model closer to reality (May 82-107). In that regard, the new model and paradigm cannot be disproven or proven by the rules of the previous model and vice versa. Also, there is no existing scale or measure for ranking the performance of paradigms (Mcleod).
According to Kuhn's view, paradigm choice is not determined, but a logical process sustains it. He believed that paradigm is an agreement presentation of the group of scientists in a particular discipline. Therefore, rejection or acceptance of a specific standard is a social process and not necessarily a logical process. This outlook has led to various accusations, critics, and questions regarding the accuracy of theories and the actual progression of science (Orman 51).
One of the constant questions is, why should people trust science when there is a chance of rejection? However, according to Kuhn, scientific revolutions always lead to new, accurate, and practical models that reflect the actual progress of science. Kuhn also argues that the previous paradigms are not better than the current or existing paradigms but are just different (Estrada 114). The difference reveals itself when the current standard takes the models closer to the world's reality than the previous paradigm. The new paradigm, which does not deviate from the existing paradigm, does not lead to a better understanding of the world. Hence, Kuhn argues that for the paradigm shift to occur, the new standard must get closer to the truth, and better than the old paradigm (Orman 54).
Kuhn suggests that although one paradigm might be better in explaining some of the world truths, it might not be better at solving particular puzzles addressed by the previous paradigm. He further argues that paradigms might be different owing to the kind of problems they explain. Since paradigms differ in scientific language, they do not perceive, address, or acknowledge the same questions or anomalies. Also, they do not attempt to give the same legitimate explanation regarding a particular problem (Mcleod).
However, his argument raises the question, "Why is a paradigm shift scientific progress when new paradigms cannot solve the old paradigm puzzles?” Kuhn employed the concept of incommensurability to disprove the perspective that the new paradigm shift should evolve from the previous paradigm to solve the previous puzzles better. He explains that there is no real improvement in the existing theory, and there is no proven way of ranking paradigms (Mey 92). For instance, he claims that Einstein's approach is not an improvement of Newton's method since the two paradigms differ in language and meaning (Gutting 57).
In conclusion, the prominent concept of Kuhn is that paradigms are relative to the truth, and scientific revolution is objective. Paradigm directs and frames the type and nature of research inquiries based on theoretical orientation. Additionally, it provides the necessary foundation for assessing the results of research conducted in a particular discipline. , Kuhn's view of the paradigm is a reflection of specific scientific community ideas and concepts at a certain time in history. It is based on particular research methods and epistemological stance, which leads to collective acceptance of specific theoretical orientation. In that regard, the general view of Kuhn is that science does not evolve towards the truth, but rather it changes paradigms to explain a particular reality better.
Estrada, Fernando. “Reconstruction of Concept of Paradigm in Thomas S. Kuhn.” SSRN Electronic Journal, vol. 43, no. 16, 2010, pp. 102–156., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1572646.
Gutting, Gary. “Thomas Kuhn and French Philosophy of Science.” Journal of Philosophy, vol. 12, no. 8, 2002, pp. 45–64., doi:10.1017/cbo9780511613975.004.
Kuhn, Thomas S., and Ian Hacking. “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” International Journal of Science and Research, vol. 32, no. 34, 2012, pp. 89–109., doi:10.7208/Chicago/9780226458144.001.0001.
Marx, Werner, and Lutz Bornmann. “How Accurately Does Thomas Kuhn’s Model of Paradigm Change Describe the Transition from the Static View of the Universe to the Big Bang Theory in Cosmology?” Scientometrics, vol. 84, no. 2, 2009, pp. 441–464., doi:10.1007/s11192-009-0107-x.
Mcleod, Saul. “Thomas Kuhn - Science as a Paradigm.” Thomas Kuhn Paradigm Shift | Simply Psychology, 6 Feb. 2020, www.simplypsychology.org/Kuhn-Paradigm.html.
Mey, Marc De. “The Cognitive View on Science: Paradigms.” The Cognitive Paradigm, 1982, pp. 82–107., doi:10.1007/978-94-009-7956-7_6.
Orman, Turkan Firinci. “‘Paradigm’ as a Central Concept in Thomas Kuhn’s Thought.” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 6, no. 10, 2016, pp. 47–52.
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