Philosophy Word of the Day – Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996)

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the most influential book in modern philosophy of science, Kuhn argues that scientists work within and against the background of an unquestioned theory or set of beliefs, something he characterizes as a ‘paradigm.’

Sometimes, however, a paradigm seems to come unstuck, and it is necessary that a new one be provided.  What makes Kuhn’s positions stimulating and controversial is the central claim that there can be no strictly logical reason for the change of a paradigm.  As in political revolutions, partisans argue in a circular fashion from within their own camps.

Expectedly, this claim was anathema to old-fashioned rationalists like Karl Popper, for whom science is the apotheosis of sound and logical defensible thought.  Paradoxically, however, Kuhn and Popper are both evolutionary epistemologists, seeing essential analogies between their (very different) views of scientific change and the evolution of organisms.”

Michael Ruse in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995)

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