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Thomas S. Kuhn. 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'

Published onAug 24, 2021
Thomas S. Kuhn. 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'

Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 bestseller The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is arguably one of the most influential, but also controversial, works in twentieth century philosophy of science. Kuhn argues that instead of showing cumulative and linear progress, the development of science is rather characterized by sudden revolutionary shifts whereby one ‘paradigm’ (scientific world picture) is substituted by another. These revolutions are so radical that subsequent paradigms become ‘incommensurable’, i.e., they cannot be meaningfully compared because there is no common measure. Furthermore, Kuhn argues that a scientific revolution resulting in a paradigm shift is not governed by logical and rational rules but by extra-scientific factors. Kuhn was one of the first thinkers to focus on the socio-historical dimension of science. Yet Kuhn was also criticized for being too pessimistic about the apparent rationality and continuity in science. Some critics even branded him as a radical relativist. In 1970 Kuhn added a Postscript to the second edition of his book in which he tries to refute these accusations. There Kuhn insists that he is not a relativist. He writes: “Later scientific theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles [...] That is not a relativist’s position, and it displays the sense in which I am a convinced believer in scientific progress.”

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