Thomas S. Kuhn – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

This book is a proof how important interdisciplinary researches are, as it took a historian to bring a whole new aspect to science and scientific works.  Until Kuhn, and even after him, people usually thinks of scientific works as a cumulative field of research. I made this mistake as well, and without reading this book, the concept of paradigms made me surprised and even deeply disappointed in physics and mathematics as well. Though it’s something people can expect in several cases like from the different kinds of geometries, realizing that science is not advancing in a cumulative way can be a shocking experience.

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What most people mean in a cumulative way is that science advance with knowing more and more about the world. What basically Kuhn writes in this book, is that the different eras of science have different worlds – as in different contexts, different rulesets, and they can be quite discrete to each other.

There are periods of ‘normal science’ that are sometimes interrupted by problems they can not explain and produce a crisis situation that changes the framework of the next era. These frameworks and theories limit the problems scientists work with, they do not need to explain everything or cover every possible fields. In very basic terms science advances by avoiding these crisis situations, we could say it tries to have the least possible amount of mistakes instead of having the most possible amount of knowledge.

This is kind of the essence of the book, but it has more interesting details of course. As a historian, Kuhn has countless examples of how different science periods work, how normal science limits the fields of problems to avoid crisises as long as it can, how some revolutions happen in a specific field without altering anything in others, or how the science from thousands of years earlier was fully scientific in it’s given context.

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Thomas S. Kuhn – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” bejegyzéshez ozzászólás

  1. cooper szerint:

    I think it might be more accurate to say science “advances” by entering into and resolving crisis situations rather than avoiding them. According to Kuhn this is a necessary condition for a paradigm shift. If crisis never happens, scientists will just dismiss unresolvable problems with their theories as anomalies and continue with boring puzzle solving under the framework of their current system.

    • You are absolutely right, I kind of typed this article in a haste at my workplace, didn’t really give it much thought (most importantly because I thought nobody would even read it anyway). I’m just finishing the last chapters nowadays though and I think I rather meant avoiding them as a side-effect of normal science being cumulative in contrary to the whole history of science in Kuhn’s system. It will probably need some editing or I should just delete this blog or something.

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