Friday, November 18, 2005

Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" on The Priority of Paradigms

How can it be that "rules derive from paradigms, but paradigms can guide research even in the absence of rules" (42).

A. The paradigms of a mature scientific community can be determined with relative ease (43).

B.The "rules" used by scientists who share a paradigm are not easily determined. Some reasons for this are that :
1. scientists can disagree on the interpretation of a paradigm.
2. the existence of a paradigm need not imply that any full set of rules exist.
3. scientists are often guided by tacit knowledge—knowledge acquired through practice and that cannot be articulated explicitly (Polanyi, 1958).
4. the attributes shared by a paradigm are not always readily apparent.
5. "paradigms may be prior to, more binding, and more complete than any set of rules for research that could be unequivocally abstracted from them" (46).

C.Paradigms can determine normal science without the intervention of discoverable rules or shared assumptions (46). In part, this is because :
1. it is very difficult to discover the rules that guide particular normal-science traditions.
2. scientists never learn concepts, laws, and theories in the abstract and by themselves.
a. They generally learn these with and through their applications.
b. New theory is taught in tandem with its application to a concrete range of phenomena.
c. "The process of learning a theory depends on the study of applications" (47).
d. The problems that students encounter from freshman year through doctoral program, as well as those they will tackle during their careers, are always closely modeled on previous achievements.
3. Scientists who share a paradigm generally accept without question the particular problem-solutions already achieved (47).
4. Although a single paradigm may serve many scientific groups, it is not the same paradigm for them all.
a. Subspecialties are differently educated and focus on different applications for their research findings.
b. A paradigm can determine several traditions of normal science that overlap without being coextensive.
c. Consequently, changes in a paradigm affect different subspecialties differently—"A revolution produced within one of these traditions will not necessarily extend to the others as well" (50).
d. When scientists disagree about whether the fundamental problems of their field have been solved, the search for rules gains a function that it does not ordinarily possess (48).


Post a Comment

<< Home