Home > Book Summary > Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Bla Bla bla

(2) “The more carefully they study, say, Aristotelian dynamics, phlogistic chemistry, or caloric thermodynamics, the more certain they feel that those once current views of nature were, as a whole, neither less scientific nor more the product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today. If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge. If, on the other hand, they are to be called science, then science has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today” Science is not a process of accretion which has moved linearly towards truth. There is a move to viewing science through its own lens. So Galileo is not compared to today’s science but to his surroundings and how his theories were received given the theories of his time and model of the world of his time. Kind of like Lakatos of evaluating a body of theories and how they fit in consistently with one another. Cool huh.

(3) Early developmental stage of most sciences consists of a umber of competing theories. All compatible with observation and scientific method. They were all scientific but had incommensurable views of the world.

(4) While observation is common to all, they all see the same event, observation alone doesn’t constitute a theory. “Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief”

(5) in mature science answers about the nature of the world, what elements populate it and how they behave are agreed upon and shared. Only when that is established can research be conducted. These values are transferred by the education of entrants.

Within normal science emerge anomalies, arbitrariness; these are the source of revolutions.

(Writing style of this book is quite curious. Although Kuhn was born and raised in the United States he writes as I would expect a British person to write.)

(6) In periods of revolution a new paradigm is introduced that is incompatible with the prior, it introduces a new set of problems a new criteria of what is admissible and basic, it also makes a claim not only to what exists, but to what doesn’t exist. Revolutions come from the accumulation of anomalies. Science doesn’t move by accretion but by little revolutions in which the very basis of science are reconstituted.

(Question: What happens to observations under different paradigms?)

(8) “Competition between segments of the scientific community is the only historical process that ever actually results in the rejection of one previously accepted theory or in the adoption of another.”

He believes in history as a neutral arbiter and as a witness to the past in a way that is somewhat naïve. History here holds the facts and is itself without any revolutionary shifts.

(9) My own theory applies to this book. It is part of a paradigm itself. “if they are to have more than pure abstraction as their content, then that content must be discovered by observing them in application to the data they are meant to elucidate.” Kuhn here seems to suggest that perhaps theories are measured by comparing them to how well they perform against the data. Pretty interesting, the data must corroborate to the theory, but the data itself is seen through the theory so how? Yes he recognizes it as a problem but it doesn’t paralyze his work.


(10) “’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” (this is true for Neorealism but the data has not corresponded to the theory)

Before textbooks it was the greats that provided the foundation for a paradigm. Newton, Ptolemy, Lavoisier, Aristotle. “their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity. Simultaneously, it was sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve.” Achievements that have these two characteristics are called paradigms. A term closely related to the situation of normal science. Paradigms come first, meaning the achievement comes first and then the practices and theorizing follow (11)

(13) “Those men were scientists. (before Newton unified paradigm) Yet anyone examining a survey of physical optics before Newton may well conclude that, though the field’s practitioners were scientists, the net result of their activity was something less than science.”

This pattern is a description of optical and natural science after Newton. So he is describing what science means today not for all time. But the situation outlined above of the progress of physics is historically typical. Preparadigmatic messy many, and then emergence of one paradigm and start of normal science. (with the exception of Math which is unified from beginning apparently (15))

(15) Fact gathering before paradigms seems random, because it seems like all facts pertain and are important.

(17) Different men describe and interpret the same class of phenomena differently, because they hold implicitly or explicitly different ideas about how the world works, but also different experiences of how they came upon the experience or religious beliefs or etc.. What is remarkable is that these different beliefs in normal science gradually close in on one another.

The fluid theory of electricity argued you could collect it in a jar. And they did and this gave their school an edge. What gives a school an edge over the other is that they focus in on a specific number of events from the broad inchoate mass of data. But the jar itself in this case would not have been created by chance, it needed the theory to be built. So theories create its own problems to explain. Once a paradigm has an instrument they can ignore all other phenomena of electricity  for example, and then test and do more research and produce more detailed facts on their limited instruments, like the jar, and this guves the feeling of control and predictability over the future that is given merit in science.

(19) When a paradigm emerges that captures all the new practitioners, those that cling to the old are “simply read out”. Paradigms save time, you don’t have to go over the basics and start fresh every time you write. Also it has mechanisms for reproduction through journals and teaching positions. These help reinforce the paradigm and normal science. When a paradigm develops researchers move away from laymen and start talking to each other about concrete problems in short articles rather than in tomes. In fact those who write basics are shunned by normal scientists.


(21) Paradigm is not for replication but for elaboration in details. From broad to narrow. “ Paradigms gain theur status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute.” Its about being vague and broad to be elaborated and flexible and solving the acute questions.

(25) Scientists in normal science in a paradigm do not follow new phenomena, indeed they forget old ones. They focus on elaborating on the phenomena laid out within their paradigm.

Indeed there are only 3 types of phenomena that paradigmatic scientists pursue. “The determination of significant fact, matching of facts with theory, and articulation of theory.” (34) The basic assumptions necessary to elaborate the theory and facts which are explained by the paradigm theory directly (speed of light). Those areas which pose problems for it from which come laws and universal constants. The second category never arises from random measurement as is taught but is directed by a theory (avogadros number, coulumbs law, right hand rule). And third applying the paradigm to new areas. The application of the paradigm to practical work rarely enters a journal, it is left to engineers and technicians. The work of elaborating the paradigm also makes it more accurate. So to test the electrical theory Columb had to use the theory to construct the instrument with which he makes his measurements.


(36) The reason why scientists want to do elaboration and not discovery of novel facts (aberrant facts are ignored and a sign of failed scientist) or do grueling formula application work, is because they are puzzle solvers, they want to figure out how to show what they already know and that is a puzzle. You know the final picture but how do you get there? (yeah not entirely sure he was right on this one, probably just valid for physics)

(38) “Once engaged his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilful enough, he will succeed in solving a puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well.” (again describing science as it became to be in natural sciences. Doctors aren’t scientists) You know the rules of a puzzle, like a chess ghame or cross word, and the trick is to solve it as it should be in the end fastest.

(41) paradigm as both metaphysical and methodological. Epistemology and method.

(42) The highest metaphysical commitment of a scientist, that which binds all scientists is a commitment to seek “to understand the world and to extend the precision and scope with which it has been ordered.” And to do so in empirical detail individually or as a group.

Note: it is clear at this point that paradigm refers to metaphysics and methodology, to rules and to problems. But he also says paradigms can guide research without setting rules, they can be binding and strict, but also loose. So a paradigm is all these things, I understand it but still he describes it as many things either together or just one thing. So you can solve a soduko puzzle in different rules but the paradigm still gives you the answer.

Ch5: Why paradigms are prior to laws:

(43) Paradigms are illustrative principals, they are not shared rules. Paradigm is globalized, rules are isolated and can be found in research reports of different sub-problems. Everyone in a paradigm may not understand the paradigm in the same way, but they do understand the paradigm in general.

(45) paradigms are like Wittgensteins family resemblances. Not everyone has the same idea of what it is but they are similar enough. A paradigm appears coherent but looking deeper it is hard if not impossible to isolate s et of rule, instead since no one really takes the trouble to define the rules things work out by familiarity. Once inside normal science there is no need to debate the puzzles’ legitimacy it is intuitive as to what is a problem and what is not.

(46) “Scientists it should already be clear never learn concepts, laws, and theories in the abstract and by themselves. Instead, these intellectual tools are from the start encountered in a historically and pedagogically prior unit that displays them with and through their applications. A new theory is always announced together with applications to some concrete range of natural phenomena; without them it would not be even a candidate for acceptance” In other words paradigms are not logical things, they are products of historical events which may not hold up to any logical rule, yet they hold to each other because of a mix of tradition and history and authority and attention. The meaning of force and space and time for Newtonian students are related to the problems they solve with those concepts. Whenever paradigms become felt as insecure or unreliable, it is then when rules come to the fore and attention is paid to them. When arguments over rules arise we are nearing a revolutionary period. (reminder in thesis of incommensurability as when another scientist does problems of the first in his words he has already made the jump to another paradigm) Paradigms are prior to rules also because revolutions can occur in subdisciplines without affecting the larger paradigm.

(50) “In short though quantum mechanics (or Newtonian dynamics, or electromagnetic theory) is a paradigm for many scientific groups, it is not the same paradigm for them all. Therefore, it can simultaneously determine several tradition of normal science that overlap without being coextensive. A revolution produced within one of these traditions will not necessarily extend to others as well.” So there can be a partial revolution of part of a paradigm that only affects one subsidiary of it. So chemists and physicists take quantum mechanics, but it could be that only chemists have a revolution. This is because their traditions and textbook differ and they understand the paradigm differently. There are in this case maybe paradigms within paradigms.


(55) discovery doesn’t happen in a single instance by one person. For example oxygen was discovered between 1774 and 1777 but not at any one moment. For if we still thought of oxygen as dephlogistonated air then we would think of it differently. You must discover that it is but also describe what it is, and for that it takes time. “if both observation and conceptualization, fact and assimilation to theory, are inseparably linked in discovery, then discovery is a process and must take time.” Discovery is not in an instant. Sometimes it requires a change of paradigm, at others it may fit in with the existing paradigm after some work.

(57) Anomalies only become science once they are incorporated into a paradigm and are consistently expected, otherwise they are just ignorable data. “the perception of anomaly – of a phenomenon, that is, for which his paradigm had not readied the investigator – played an essential role in preparing the way for perception of novelty.” In reference to X-rays causing a screen to glow and it being unexpected taking some 4 weeks to discover why it glowed. It was in that period that xrays were discovered not at any moment. For in that process Roentgen formulated a new conceptual tool to think of what he was seeing. (though note that the pure observation that he was seeing (the glow) existed (although only because it was surprising and unexpected in the paradigm) as an observable fact, though its importance would only come to be developed in the right paradigm.

When X-rays were discovered all previous experiments with similar apparatus had to be repeated and X-rays had to be accounted for. So this discovery shifted the paradigm in terms of laboratory practices. Commitment to methods and procedures is a commitment to what exists and what doesn’t. For if X-rays are not known then the experiments would not pick up on them. In any case procedures limit the observable phenomena as they should, but it is important to realize that they are looking for something and guided by assumptions and not discovering the true nature of everything.

(61) Third type of discovery, of Leyden jar (electricity as liquid), actually formed the paradigm but was also directed by it. So in search of proof for paradigm of liquid electricity, built Leyden jar, which changed the paradigm itself and allowed it to win over other paradigms in pre-paradigmatic phase. In this case everyone competed over a similar set of phenomena that they all tried to explain.

(62) “To a greater or lesser extent (corresponding to the continuum from the shocking to the anticipated result), the characteristics common to the three examples above are characteristic of all discoveries from which new sorts of phenomena emerge. Those characteristics include: the previous awareness of anomaly, the gradual and simultaneous emergence of both observational and conceptual recognition, and the consequent change of paradigm categories and procedure often accompanied by resistance.”

The novel is experienced only with difficulty. It is only when it becomes impossible to ignore that it is recognized, otherwise it is chalked up to errors of observation. In the cases it also often emerges from several labs at once, this is a testament to the power of a paradigm, it directs research into specific problems and in a sense it lays the work for its own overturning by focusing in on anomalies.


(66) How paradigms shift not only by discoveries, but by the formulation of new theories as well. Paradigm shifts are destructive and constructive. They destroy the old paradigm including some of its problems and procedures and makes new ones. If the last section kicked of new paradigms with observation, this one does it by theory. In reality both are always interconnected and are found in different measures in different cases. This is why it is possible to speak of oxygen as discovered but also as invented in theory.

(68) Failure of existing puzzles to turn out as they should is the prelude to new ones.

(68-69) On the influence of technology on the speed of paradigm shifts. Because of lack of printing press and journals and slow communication, Ptolemy’s astronomical model lasted with anomalies for quite a long time. Also on the influence of politics and science. Because of outside disruptions astronomy was much slower to react to the anomalies. Interesting… “In a mature science – and astronomy had become that in antiquity – external factors like those cited above (fashion, political shifts, philosophical styles) are principally significant in determining the timing of break-down, the ease with which it can be recognized, and the area in which, because it is given particular attention, the breakdown first occurs.”

So the technological shift and technical discoveries are not really science in this sense, the printing press was not an instrument of experimentation.

(74) “In each case a novel theory emerged only after a pronounced failure in the normal problem-solving activity. Furthermore, except for the case of Copernicus in which factors external to science played a particularly large role, that breakdown and the proliferation of theories that is its sign occurred no more than a decade or two before the new theory’s enunciation. The novel theory seems a direct response to crisis.” Kuhn adds that in these cases the crisis came for anomalies that overturned what was previously though to be solved. The puzzles were solved wrong. Also the solutions were thought of before but because they came in times of normal science those solutions were ignored. Only when the existing paradigm shows problems are new theories given a chance. These however he says are not true for every science but only for the case of physics. It is only in revolutionary phases that this happens though because otherwise it is just too much trouble.


(77) No falsification takes place when a crisis is hit, scientists are usually adamant and stick to the paradigm and only leave it when a better paradigm shows up. Paradigms compete by being compared to nature and to each other. Science accommodates anomalies by ad-hoc explanations, in fact it is part of science. More importantly when a new paradigm comes the anomalies may not be explained but may become part of the definition of the element. So Newton’s assumptions on mass and force cannot be refuted in any way, they are part of the paradigm.

Implicit is that only one paradigm can be held at a time by any one person.

(80) Science is about puzzles, a perfect paradigm is a technical tool. Puzzles can be seen as counter-instances or refutations by one man and as puzzles for the paradigm by another. Science is not the “confrontation of statement with fact”, when there is error it is the scientists not the theory that is wrong.

When the moon’s apogee was calculated in Newtonian physics it was half of what it was observed. But scientists stuck to it and found that the error was in the math. It paid off even 60 years later. (So perhaps it is the history of physics to show that patience pays off and not all sciences?)

(83) paradigm breakdown. Paradigm faces an anomaly. Scientists try to solve it and fail. More scientists try, the anomaly becomes the central puzzle of the discipline. The discipline itself changes to focus on that problem as the purpose of the discipline. The rules of normal research loosen. To solve it more and more ad-hoc solutions are given and tried, there is much divergence now between the different scientists’ solutions. This leads to the crisis and the questioning of the foundations. Only when a new theory solves this problem does the old one get thrown out. (not clear if new theory must solve all old problems or only the one the field fixated around). It could be that the problem is solved by normal science, or it is given up on and relegated to future scientists or it induces a paradigm shift.

(87) It also differs from one situation to another, so in light as wave it took less than 10 years to cause paradigm shift, electricity and x-rays in less than a year, in Copernicus and Ptolemy and Einstein decades and centuries.

(85) The old problems and new ones imperfectly overlap, but even then the way to solve them is different, the fundamentals differ. “Others who have noted this aspect of scientific advance have emphasized its similarity to a change in visual gestalt: the marks on paper that were first seen as a bird are now seen as an antelope, or vice Versa. That parallel can be misleading. Scientists do not see something as something else; instead, they simply see it …. Nevertheless, the switch of gestalt, particularly because it is today so familiar, is a useful elementary prototype for what occurs in full-scale paradigm shift.” (fucking Christ how can you observe neutrally. At least say that it is because they are human. Seeing is not science I guess)

(88) In periods of crisis scientists turn to creative philosophy.

(89) On experimental anomalies as unproblematic before crisis: “Still others, like the colors of scratches and of thick plates, were effects that had often been seen and occasionally remarked before, but that, like Priestley’s oxygen, had been assimilated to well-known effects  in ways that prevented their being seen for what they are.” Other anomalies are a result of accidents in labs, others are predicted by new theories often transforming the theory to a paradigm.

(89-90) Sometimes the shape of the future paradigm is foreshadowed in the expected anomalies that the field focuses on, other times you can’t tell at all. “more often no such structure is consciously seen in advance. Instead, the new paradigm, or a sufficient hint to permit later articulation, emerges all at once sometimes in the middle of the night, in the mind of a man deeply immersed in crisis. 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 – must here remain inscrutable and may be permanently so. Let us here not only one thing about it. Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.” (hehe this is encouraging for young upstart entrants)

Ch 9:

(92) “scientific revolutions are here taken to be those non-cumulative developmental episodes in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one.” He calls them revolutions because it requires a clean sweep of previous institutions to be replaced by new ones. To do this they cannot debate on any grounds of merit but must resort to “techniques of mass persuasion, often including force.”

(94) Yet, whatever its force, the status of the circular argument is only that of persuasion. It cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle.” When there is a revolution persuasion not argument and logic take precedence between communities.

(96) Science doesn’t develop cumulatively. “The man who takes historic fact seriously must suspect that science does not tend toward the ideal that our image of its cumulativeness has suggested.” Not only is it rare to cumulate facts it is improbable.

“Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that his anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong.” So the scientist does face reality or nature at some level but not completely just in its rejecting his efforts.

(97) only anomalies giver rise to new theories. There are three types of observation, that already explained by a paradigm, that predicted but yet unobserved and the anomalies.

(101-102) To say that Newtonian laws are special functions of Einstein’s and to conserve cummulative progress is mistaken. For although Einstein’s laws explain those of Newton and they explain the same facts or reference points, what those points mean in each theory is different! So yes we could use that argument to explain why newton’s law worked, but it isn’t contained in Einstein. “Our argument has of course, explained why Newton’s laws ever seemed to work. In doing so it has justified, say, an automobile driver in acting as though he lived in a Newtonian universe… it has not that is, shown Newton’s laws to be a limiting case of Einstein’s. For in the passage to the limit it is not only the forms of the laws that have changed. Simultaneously we have had to alter the fundamental structural elements of which the universe to which they apply is composed.” So in reconciling old paradigm to new the old paradigm is changes, it is described in the new language. Even if it is retained for its simplicity it doesn’t direct research it isn’t science.

(103) Difference between paradigms. They “tell us different things about the population of the universe and about that population’s behavior.” But not only this but also methods, problems, and solutions. They are about the scientific community, no paradigm without community. Theory doesn’t need a community. “The normal-scientific tradition that emerges from a scientific revolution is not only incompatible but often actually incommensurable with that which has gone before.”

Paradigms always contain assumptions that seem tautological in retrospect. To say that stones fall because of their downwards aspect seems tautological, but it is no more than saying they fall because of gravity or that they have mass and are attracted to one another. These are conceptual theories, assumptions of the paradigm.

(108) paradigms don’t necessarily show progress either, Einstein’s problems were those of Newton’s predecessors not his successors. The problems can be more basic and the apparati used less complex. No progress in any sense in physics.

(109) “Previously, we had principally examined the paradigm’s role as a vehicle for scientific theory. In that role it functions by telling the scientist about the entities that nature does and does not contain and about the ways in which those entities behave. That information provides a map whose details are

Elucidated by mature scientific research and since nature is too complex and varied to be explored at random, that map is as essential as observation and experiment to science’s continuing development. Through the theories they embody, paradigms prove to be constitutive of the research activity. They are also, however, constitutive of science in other respects, and that is now the point. In particular, our most recent examples show that paradigms provide scientists not only with a map but also with some of the directions essential for map-making. In learning a paradigm the scientist acquires theory, methods, and standards together, usually in an inextricable mixture. Therefore, when paradigms change, there are usually significant shifts in the criteria determining the legitimacy both of problems and of proposed solutions.”

That is why paradigms cannot compete, they disagree on the problems and the solutions. They talk through each other.

Ch 10: Best Chapter. Revolutions as changes in worldview

When paradigms change it is as if the world changes. “of course, nothing of quite that sort does occur: there is no geographical transplantation; outside the laboratory everyday affairs usually continue as before.” Still paradigm changes cause scientists to see the world differently. (in the social sciences the world does change, like Marx). The student sees lines where the scientist sees a figure, the student must be trained by the discipline to see in its way.

(112) cites experiment on putting on inverting glasses. This causes initial confusion but pretty soon the mind adapts and sees things straight up.

Really a paradigm is required to make sense of reality even outside of science.

But unlike Gestalt scientists can’t make a shift back and forth, and they sometimes do not know it happened, they only say I was wrong now I am right again.

An example of observation, an observation of Uranus in 1769 is still valid today. Or that Chinese celestial theories observed comets and sun spots way before the west but western theories can explain and accept the description of those events.

(117) “If we can be content with the everyday use of the verb ‘to see,’ we may quickly recognize that we have already encountered many other examples of the shifts in scientific perception that accompany paradigm change. The extended use of ‘perception’ and of ‘seeing’ will shortly require explicit defense, but let me first illustrate its application in practice.”

(119) On Galileo vs aristotle on pendulum. Aristotle said it was a body trying to rest but doing so with difficulty because of the chain. Galileo said pendulum would go perpetually swinging without friction. They each saw something different but they described the same thing: “Why did that shift in vision occur? Through Galileo’s individual genius, of course. But note that genius does not here manifest itself in more accurate or objective observation of the swinging body. Descriptively, the Aristotelian perception is just as accurate.”

(120) On Monism and Cartesian dualism. “Do we, however, really need to describe what separates Galileo from Aristotle, or Lavoisier from Priestley, as a transformation of vision? Did these men really see different things when looking at the same sorts of objects? Is there any legitimate sense in which we can say that they pursued their research in different worlds?”

Kuhn is saying the dualist paradigm is being challenged here. The description of seeing as of something external to the person and what differs being perspective is simply a challenge, an anomaly to the dualist paradigm that philosophy is challenging.

(121) “What occurs during a scientific revolution is not fully reducible to a reinterpretation of individual and stable data. In the first place, the data are not unequivocally stable. A pendulum is not a falling stone, nor is oxygen dephlogisticated air. Consequently, the data that scientists collect from these diverse objects are, as we shall shortly see, themselves different.” Also the process in which a community shifts its paradigm is different from a shift in interpretation. The scientist is not an interpreter because there is no fixed data, rather he is like the man wearing inverted glasses. “Confronting the same constellation of objects as before and knowing that he does so, he nevertheless finds them transformed through and through in many of their details.” (no mention of human paradigm)

(122-123) Yes scientists interpret data, but they do so in a paradigm and not to test a paradigm. (Ok so the data is the same and interpretation is within the paradigm) when the paradigm fails there is a gestalt switch there is no interpretation just the seeing of a new type of the event, though descriptively similar. Interpretation implies piece-meal or logical linking to particular items of experience, whereas this is not relative to other experience it is a complete switch in paradigm. “instead they gather up large portions of that experience and transform them to the rather different bundle of experience that will thereafter be linked piecemeal to the new paradigm but not to the old.”

Yeah you get it, he is merely elaborating for dualists. The object does change, but my question of seeing is valid in that they do see the same thing. Everyone sees the screen glow from the cathode tube.

(125) “Living in that world, Galileo could still, when he chose, explain why Aristotle had seen what he did. Nevertheless, the immediate content of Galielo’s experience with falling stones was not what Aristotle’s had been.”

(126) Well what if we looked at sensory imprints, is that objective and descriptive, common to both? Kuhn says no. “But is sensory experience fixed and neutral? Are theories simply man-made interpretations of given data? The epistemological viewpoint that has most often guided Western philosophy for three centuries dictates an immediate and unequivocal yes! In the absence of a developed alternative, I find it impossible to relinquish entirely that viewpoint. Yet it no longer function effectively, and the attempts to make it do so through the introduction of a neutral language of observations now seem to me hopeless.” Ok so Kuhn did affect his own thinking. He thinks he is in a paradigm shift to monism and he wont switch till a better heory has arrived, so he is following his own rules and not living irrationally. Heh.

More importantly the scientist rarely deals with raw experience. He deals with measurements and operations which are paradigm determined. They are world views. We do not have the language for neutral description!. Even trying to make a neutral language, the starting point is within a paradigm and as stripped down as it is it always has assumptions. A scientist cannot go more primitive than vision of pendulum as pendulum or handle and that is within a paradigm determined. Paradigm is epistemology. I wonder if Chomsky would disagree and say at base there is a human blueprint for language.

(129) “After a scientific revolution many old measurements and manipulations become irrelevant and are replaced by others 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 (defeated back to dualism). 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. (Paradigms in paradigms in paradigms so English language paradigm in which science exists ensures change is not completely disorienting) As a result, postrevolutionary science invariably includes many of the same manipulations, performed with the same instrument and described in the same terms, as its prerevolutionary predecessor.”

So the example he gives at last is the shift from viewing combined elements as compounds or mixtures. So carbon dioxide was 73% carbon and 27% oxygen it was thought combination of the two in percentages and parts. Instead Dalton said no its two units of carbon and one unit of oxygen. The numbers themselves changes and began being expressed as 2 carbon one oxygen. The very measurement with the same instrument changed, nature had to be beaten to fit into the new paradigm. So it isn’t the same world even though some parts seem familiar and transferable they are not.

He is a tortured monist like me J He realizes the problem and the logical failure of dualism but he also realizes how hard it is to acknowledge it without slipping into relativism and constructivism of the extreme sort in which there is no real resistance to human conceptions. So he is not a dualist. I guess he is a historian.

Ch11: The invisibility of revolutions

(136) Scientific revolutions are so hard to notice because there is an authority which hides them and smoothes out the shifts. These are text-books of science, popularizations and the philosophy they yield to. This is unique to science and maybe theology. “Textbooks themselves aim to communicate the vocabulary and syntax of a contemporary scientific language. Popularizations attempt to describe these same applications in a language closer to that of everyday life. And philosophy of science, particularly that of the English-speaking world, analyzed the logical structure of the same completed body of scientific knowledge.” All three of these “record the stable outcome of past revolutions and thus display the bases of the current normal-scientific tradition.” They have to be misleading otherwise learning and normal science would be impossible.

(137) An increasing reliance on textbooks is crucial to the emergence of normal science and is a hallmark of its achievement. Textbooks hide the past revolution by rewriting everything in the language of the present one, and by only including those contributions thought of as important and those problems thought of as worth dealing with, and those phenomena that the paradigm notices. Could the development of technology of communication and control and of printing allowed the formation of normal science? This would explain why Europe advanced so fast at later stages.

(138) “But scientists are more affected by the temptation to rewrite history, partly because the results of scientific research show no obvious dependence upon the historical context of inquiry, and partly because except during crisis and revolution, the scientist’s contemporary position seems so secure.”

(139) Scientists are inherently prone to forget and ignore history as it shows the presence of human error and imperfection. The founders are retained but their content is hollowed out. “fortunately, instead of forgetting these heroes, scientists have been able to forget or revise their works.” This makes it look like science is exhibiting cumulative linear progress. Textbooks help consolidate paradigm shifts. So Galileo is made to appear as a Newtonian operating with gravity and Dalton is made to looks like he pursued his final answer from the start when it actually came later.

(141) text-books make it look like science progress by individual additions which taken together make up the body of knowledge. These additions seem to be naturalized and uncoordinated. In reality paradigms coordinate work around reality, problems etc… Science is not built brick by brick but by blueprint. The very reality the textbook weaves is not that of previous paradigms. Theories emerge together with the facts. Reference to ancients and standardization gives the field a lot of authority and credibility linking it to an old tradition. Though even sometimes similar vocab is used, like molecule, they have no context as to what the word means and its context.

(The same thing is done in the social sciences, by linking to a historical past which has no relevance to present a paradigm is created. OK so Kuhn was really important since we are still today claiming to remake his discoveries as novel and groundbreaking, it’s time to move on.)

(142) “Boyle offered it (definition of molecule) in order to argue that no such thing as a chemical element exists; as history, the text-book version of Boyle’s contribution is quite mistaken. That mistake, of course is trivial, though no more so than any other misrepresentation of data. What is not trivial, however is the impression of science fostered when this sort of mistake is first compounded and then built into the technical structure of the text. Like ‘time,’ ‘energy,’ ‘force,’ or ‘particle,’ the concept of an element is the sort of textbook ingredient that is often not invented or discovered at all. Boyle’s definition, in particular, can be traced back at least to Aristotle and forward through Lavoisier into modern texts. Yet that is not to say that science has possessed the modern concept of an element since antiquity. Verbal definitions like Boyle’s have little scientific content when considered by themselves … the scientific concepts to which they point gain full significance only when related, within a text or other systematic presentation, to other scientific concepts, to manipulative procedures, and to paradigm applications.” Concepts like element are not invented out of context, and they do not have to be invented old vocab is reused in new paradigms to mean something new. So space and time existed but never in the same way.

Ch12: The resolution of revolutions.

Paradigm shifts begin with a few individuals, they are usually deeply concentrated on the crisis provoking problem and relatively young or newcomers to the field.

(145) “Therefore, paradigm-testing occurs only after persistent failure to solve a noteworthy puzzle has given rise to crisis. And even then it occurs only after the sense of crisis has evoked an alternate candidate for paradigm. In the sciences the testing situation never consists, as puzzle-solving does, simply in the comparison of a single paradigm with nature. Instead testing occurs as part of the competition between two rival paradigms for allegiance of the scientific community.” You can’t compare theories to neutral data because the data is paradigm constructed. You can’t compare sets of theories to data because they are different worlds. Verification fails. You can’t use falsification either because scientists are adamant in protecting a theory in front of failure.

(146) Scientists in different paradigms are incommensurable, they will disagree on the problems, “their standards or their definitions of science are not the same.”

(149) “More is involved however, than the incommensurability of standards. Since new paradigms are born from old ones, they ordinarily incorporate much of the vocabulary and apparatus both conceptual and manipulative, that the traditional paradigm had previously employed. But they seldom employ these borrowed elements in quite the traditional way. Within the new paradigm, old terms, concepts, and experiments fall into new relationships one with the other.” Finally the third difference between paradigms is that they occupy different worlds.

(150) “Again, that is not to say that they can see anything they please. Both are looking at the world and what they look at has not changed. But in some areas they see different things, and they see them in different relations one to the other … Equally, it is why, before they can hope to communicate fully one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift.”

New paradigms emerge because old scientists die. In a sense it is a gradual change. Conversion cannot be forced. It is not that scientists are stubborn they simply live in different worlds.

(152) “Still, to say that resistance is inevitable and legitimate, that paradigm change cannot be justified by proof, is not to say that no arguments are relevant or that scientists cannot be persuaded to change their minds.” There will be persuasion and proof will not play a part, so what tactics allow conversion and which fail? What makes scientists convert? “Some  of these reasons – for example, the sun worship that helped make Kepler a Copernican – lie outside the apparent sphere of science entirely. Others must depend upon idiosyncrasies of autobiography and personality. Even the nationality or  the prior reputation of the innovator and his teachers sometimes play a significant role. Ultimately therefore we must learn to ask this question differently. Our concern will not then be with the arguments that in fact convert one or another individual, but rather with the sort of community that always sooner or later reforms as a single group.”

(153) That the new paradigm can solve problems the old one could not.  This works better if the new paradigm  is more accurate quantitatively. The prediction of phenomena unsuspected by the old one. The shock value when a new theory predicts something (like light at center of disk Poisson and Fresnel) also helps speed conversion.

(155) These are the arguments, rarely made entirely explicit, that appeal to the individual’s sebse if the appropriate or the aesthetic – the new theory is said to be ‘neater,’ ‘more suitable,’ or ‘simpler’ than the old.” These may be less valid in the sciences than mathematics. (maths not science)

(156) “In short, if a new candidate for paradigm had to be judged from the start by hard-headed people who examined only relative problem-solving ability, the sciences would experience very few major revolutions. Add the counterarguments generated by what we previously called the incommensurability of paradigms, and the sciences might experience no revolutions at all.

“Paradigm debates are based less on past achievement than on future promise” This is not to say that this alone allows a paradigm to win (aesthetics, future potential) but that it must win over a few or many men who will turn the paradigm into a problem solving machine if it hopes to win. Rather than a single group conversion what happens is a gradual shift in the distribution in the field.” At some point enough men convert and articles are written for the new paradigm to take over and those who stubbornly persist and maintain the old one are no longer  called scientists, they are out of the community.

Ch 13: Progress through revolutions

(160) To a very great extent the term ‘science’ is reserved for fields that do progress in obvious ways.” What is special about science and not in art or philosophy? “Nowhere does this show more clearly than in the recurrent debates about whether one or another of the contemporary social sciences is really a science. These debates have parallels in the pre-paradigm periods of fields that are today unhesitatingly labeled science.” But why doesn’t art or the natural sciences obsess over science in this way? It is because the actual question is why is my field not moving forward like physics and what must I do to have it move forward like physics? Kuhn answers it is anxiety that rises from disagreement over the field. Only agreement over the field makes the questions of what is science uncontroversial.

(161) “part of our difficulty in seeing the profound differences between science and technology must relate to the fact that progress is an obvious attribute of both fields” So yes technology does progress. But why?

(162) “if we doubt, as many do, that non-scientific fields make progress, that cannot be because individual schools make none. Rather, it must be because there are always competing schools, each of which constantly questions the very foundations of the others. The man who argues that philosophy, for example, has made no progress emphasizes that there are still Aristotelians, not that Aristotelianism has failed to progress.” Progress is only possible in normal science within a paradigm when no competitors are to be found. (Is this true? Can we not say there is progress outside?) The absence of competing paradigms makes progress easier to see.

(164) On the difference between scientists as isolated from society: “Unlike the engineer and many doctors, and most theologians, the scientist need not choose problems because they urgently need solution and without regard for the tools available to solve them. In this respect also, the contrast between natural scientists and many social scientists proves instructive. The latter often tend, as the former almost never do, to defend their choice of a research problem – e.g. the effects of racial discrimination or the causes of the business cycle – chiefly in terms of the social importance of achieving a solution. Which group would one expect to solve problems at a more rapid rate?” He is saying that doctors are not scientists either. Too many problems, too many solutions and too many paradigms. Having one paradigm also allows a narration of the past that is linear and teleological.

(167) The special thing about revolutions in science is that there is no arbiter other than the community to decide on which paradigm wins out.

(168) “Every civilization of which we have records has possessed a technology, an art, a political system, laws, and so on. In many cases those facets of civilization have been as developed as our own. But only the civilizations that descend from Hellenic Greece have possessed more than the most rudimentary science. The bulk of scientific knowledge is a product of Europe in the last four centuries. No other place and time has supported the very special communities from which scientific productivity comes.”

The characteristics of these communities:

“The scientist must, for example, be concerned to solve problems about the behavior of nature. In addition, though his concern with nature may be global in its extent the problems on which he works must be problems of detail. More important, the solutions that satisfy him may not be merely personal but must instead be accepted as solutions by many. The group that shares them may not, however, be drawn at random from society as a whole, but is rather the well-defined community of the scientist’s professional compeers. One of the strongest, if still unwritten, rules of scientific life is the prohibition of appeals to heads of state or to the populace at large in matters scientific … The group’s members, as individuals and by virtue of their shared training and experience must be seen as the sole possessors of the rules of the game or of some equivalent basis for unequivocal judgments.”

(169) Because of the way this community is set up and because of scientists’ perception that there is progress, revolutions tend to progress in terms of problem solving. “Because the unit of scientific achievement is the solved problem and because the group knows well with problems have already been solved, few scientists will easily be persuaded to adopt a viewpoint that again opens to questions many problems that had previously been solved.” The new paradigm will only be adopted when nature shows a problem in the old one, when it solves those crucial problems and when it preserves a large number of old solutions from the predecessor. “Though new paradigms seldom or never possess all the capabilities of their predecessors, they usually preserve a great deal of the most concrete parts of past achievement and they always permit additional concrete problem-solutions besides.” This is not to say that new paradigms are always adopted because of problem solving ability but that scientists tend to keep these in mind.

(170) Scientific revolutions grow the field in depth, it might move towards complexity but never in breadth. The case then is that there is progress in science but not towards truth, it is towards more complexity and more detail and more problems solved. “We may, to be more precise, have to relinquish the notion, explicit or implicit, that changes of paradigm carry scientists and those who learn from them closer and closer to the truth.” Science does evolve but not towards truth.


(177) The largest community is that of all natural scientists, then disciplines then lower etc… SO paradigms within paradigms. “A paradigm governs, in the first instance, not a subject matter but rather a group of practitioners.”

(Is science made possible because of a European political system? One of its own)

(Criticisms, this much of a wholesale paradigm break is only true of physics because of the hierarchies in the field. Normal and revolutionary stages are not so starkly offset from one another they occur more frequently and both characterize normal science. (these are in journal of phil sci review of book issue) Feyerabend ofcourse is against any method to define what science is and accepts all comers. Scientists can compare paradigms or use both, they are not incommensurable) If observation is the same for all observers in the human paradigm what of the use of instruments in advanced sciences. So a telescope doesn’t just provide observation it also produces bovel and different observations)


I also think that this conception ignores the novelty of science. Tracing back to Galileo makes it seem that he is in the same profession as contemporary science. i do not think this is so given the invention of journals and disciplines and funding and departments, science today cannot be equated with the enterprise of it in the past. Communities were not so closed off as they are today and paradigms therefore included far more people.

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