On Thomas Kuhn

Reads: 114  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Reactions to Kuhn's outlook on the development of science.

Submitted: January 13, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 13, 2013




Central to Kuhn’s outlook on the history of science is the interplay between normal science and anomaly. Anomalies arise when someone works outside of the normal paradigm. One particular example was Lavoisier’s experiments and the discovery of oxygen. During his time, the dominant paradigm in chemistry concerning air was the phlogiston theory, expanded by Priestley’s experiments. An important theme in this philosophical outlook is Kuhn’s explicit use of the word “community.” When scientists gather together according to their own specialization and have the same educational background; their scientific paradigm becomes the product of the normalization of their scientific outlooks. Thus, a paradigm rests inside a community, circling around them, developed among themselves. Anomalies arise as a challenge to this present paradigm of a community made by an individual, working outside a community of scientists. Nicola Tesla is a perfect example of a maverick scientist, working outside a community of scientists. His experiments on wireless electricity spark fears and black propaganda from Edison’s community. The so-called “Tesla Tower,” although a potential provider of wireless electricity, has sparked controversy and fear over its image of its daunting thunderstorm. Anomalies, like this, will trigger debates between two camps between the community of scientists and the maverick researcher.

Kuhn writes: “though they may begin to lose faith in the present paradigm and then to consider alternatives they do not renounce the paradigm that has lead them to crisis.” The issue become a call for reform of the present paradigm, but it is not a reason to abandon the present paradigm. Challenged by the principle of a pessimist meta-induction from falsity, the new theory cannot be verified by falsifying the older theory. From this point of view, we see a seeming contrast between Kuhn and Popper. While Popper provides a logical framework, Kuhn gives us a historical justification. At this area, there seems to be an inconsistency in Kuhn’s work. Kuhn writes, in the “Postscript” of his book, a response against his critics, claiming that he was a relativist. Clarifying himself, he writes: “individual sociability in the application of shared values may serve functions essential to science. The points which values must be applied invariably also those at which risks must be taken. Most anomalies are resolved by normal means; most proposals for new theories do prove to be wrong.”We can conclude that in his book, Kuhn demonstrated that all normative science when faced with an anomaly would shake and be stretched to its limit until a new paradigm could be normalized. We see this in his contrast with Priestley and Lavoisier’s experiments on gasses. The two scientists work with in a same paradigm, while Priestley remained in the phlogiston theory, Lavoisier was determined otherwise; he was aware though of the phlogiston theory.

We can observe that Kuhn’s view of the history and the development of scientific revolutions are dialectical in nature; dialectical, because it exhibits a pattern between a paradigm (thesis) and an anomaly (antithesis). By way of assimilation, the bits of truth remaining in the old paradigm were not abandoned but included in the new paradigm. All of these occur like a wheel. While now, we are in the paradigm of quantum physics, in the future, a new paradigm might emerge out of the scientific community. Kuhn’s view of the relation between normative science and an emerging paradigm can be seen as a tale of two cities battling each other. While the normative science seeks to remain in its hegemony of explanation, scientists would always come with new paradigms to challenge the present order of things. Although it suffices as an explanation, his admission in the postscript declares that not all anomalies end up as the genesis of new paradigms; rather the normal science is bolstered as it emerges (sometimes) victorious in the struggle with an anomaly. It simply means that not all claims of scientists are anomalies or discoveries made out of anomalies. The Higgs-Boson particle was not an anomalous discovery rather it bolstered the claims of quantum physics and opens up a new horizon in the study in explaining the stability of sub-atomic particles albeit their dynamic nature as quantum physics hold. From that example, we can see that Kuhn’s admission in the postscript of his book illustrates the dynamic character of normal science which is not about maintaining hegemony; rather a normative science seeks to explore the very boundaries of its thought.

© Copyright 2017 Pater Profundus. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Editorial and Opinion Essays

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Pater Profundus

The Dialogue of Two Friars

Short Story / Religion and Spirituality

The Lynching of Vicente

Short Story / Historical Fiction


Short Story / Literary Fiction

Popular Tags