Thomas Samuel Kuhn was born on July 18, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1949 and remained there as an assistant professor of general education and history of science. In 1956, Kuhn accepted a post at the University of California, Berkeley, where in 1961 he became a full professor of history of science. In 1964, he was named M. Taylor Pyne Professor of Philosophy and History of Science at Princeton University. In 1979 he returned to Boston, this time to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as professor of philosophy and history of science. In 1983 he was named Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy at MIT. Dr. Kuhn was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1954 and was awarded the George Sarton Medal in the History of Science in 1982. He held honorary degrees from institutions that included Columbia University and the universities of Notre Dame, Chicago, Padua and Athens. He suffered from Cancer during the last years of his life and died on Monday, June 17, 1996 at the age of 73 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was survived by his wife and three children.


Of the five books and countless articles he published, Kuhn’s most renowned work is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which he wrote while a graduate student in theoretical physics at Harvard. Initially published as a monograph in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, it was published in book form by the University of Chicago Press in 1962. It has sold some one million copies in 16 languages and is required reading in courses dealing with education, history, psychology, research, and, of course, history and philosophy of science. Structure has also generated a good deal of controversy, and many of Kuhn’s ideas have been powerfully challenged.


“Thomas Kuhn changed the view of scientific progress totally. Where once the history of science was seen as a steady progression where theory is added to theory until the truth is found, Kuhn saw a series of revolutionary changes of the world-view of science, where the view of one period had very little in common with the previous. Most importantly, he questioned the possibility for science ever to find a truth” (from


The essence of Kuhn’s concept of paradigm is the rejection of the positivistic notion of progress of knowledge. See the following bibliography on Kuhn:


The Road Since Structure, James Conant and John Haugeland, eds., "Thomas S. Kuhn, Philosophical Essays", 1970-1993 with autobiographical interview, (University of Chicago, 1995).

Steve Fuller, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History of Our Times (University of Chicago Press (contra Kuhn's book is in fact a defense of Big Science and suppression of Free Inquiry.

Chronicle of Higher Education January 26, 2001; Matteo Materlini, ed., Feyerabend Against Method, Lakatos and Feyerabend at their politically incorrect best, pub. $20.00.Technology and The Good Life (humans and their gods) Issues of great consequence in today's high tech innovators we can ignore at our peril.

Chronicle Review, University of Chicago Press, 1427 East St., Chicago, IL 60637.


Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has been by far the most important and influential theory of the history of science since its publication in 1962. Kuhn’s theory wholly revised the framework of debate among professional historians of science. It displaced, even if it did not immediately vanish, the positivistic professional historians of science as the basic understanding of science. It destroyed the philosophy of science as a valid scholarly understanding. It opened pathways for historians to utilize the work of anthropologists and sociologists in studying the history of science. It provided a suite of critical methodologies for historians to challenge scientists' own accounts of their work.


The Arts and Humanities Citation Index: The compilers of The Index examined the record for the years 1976-1983 and issued a report on the most cited works of the 20th century. The most cited author was Lenin, which speaks volumes on the state of The Humanities in the West toward the end of the cold war. But the most cited single works were--in third place, Northrop Fyre’s Anatomy of Criticism; second, Joyce’s Ulysses, and well in the lead Kuhn’s 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Interest in Kuhn’s book has not waned. The Index is now online and records one hundred citations to the book for 1999 plus another four hundred in The Social Sciences Citation Index. The tone of the citation is reverential. It is reported that Structure is Al Gore’s favorite book and William Safire’s New Political Dictionary has an article on “Paradigm Shift,” a phrase popularized by Kuhn, which reports both George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton being impressed with its usefulness.


(For trends and fads in The Humanities world, the Arts and Humanities Citation Index is impossible to improve on. See New Paradigm Thinking (; Thomas Kuhn's Theory of Scientific Revolutions (; Thomas Kuhn's irrationalism by James Franklin, The New Criterion, Thomas Kuhn's Irrationalism (


Kuhn distinguished between two kinds of science--normal science (or) revolutionary science. Normal science is science pursued by a community of scientists who share a paradigm. A paradigm is a consensus among a community of practising scientists about certain concrete solutions called “exemplars” to central problems of their field. Their consensus is based on commitment to the paradigm. The commitment is derived from their training and values; it is not the result of critical testing of the paradigm. Normal science is intellectually isolated from “outside” influences, including the paradigms of other scientific fields and non scientific events and values.


The basic content of Kuhn’s book can be inferred simply by asking--What would the humanities crowd want said about science? Once the question is asked the answer is obvious. Kuhn’s thesis is that scientific theories are no truer than the ones in the humanities. The idea that science is all theoretical talk and negotiation that never really establishes anything, is one that caused trouble long ago for Galileo. Kuhn’s ‘achievement was to put the view of Galileo’s scholarly opponents back on the agenda. Up to his time, philosophy of science had concentrated on such questions as how evidence confirms theories and what the difference is between science and pseudo science, that is, questions about the logic of science. Kuhn declares that logic is outmoded and is replaced by history.


The history of scientific achievements hardly support Kuhn's thesis. According to the summary of Francis Fukuyama's End of History"--

“The cumulative and progressive nature of modern science has been challenged by Thomas Kuhn, who has pointed to the discontinuous and revolutionary nature of change in the sciences. In his most radical assertions, he has denied the possibility of “scientific” knowledge of nature at all, since all ‘paradigms’ by which scientists understand nature ultimately fail. Kuhn’s thesis makes the story of science into one simple emotive plot line that literary folk find so engaging. Some powerful examples are Morte d’ Arthur--the peaceable order and its aging king, their virtue undermined by internal corruption, falling to the challenge of the vigorous and bloodthirsty young challenger. The plot made Frazer’s Golden Bough a literary hit decades before. Kuhn’s success is also an instance of the enduring appeal of theomachy, a mode of explanation that worked so brilliantly for Marx and Freud and long before, for Homer. What was previously thought to be a continuous and uninteresting succession of random events is discovered to be a conflict of a finite number of hidden gods (classes, complexes, paradigms as the case may be), who manipulate the flux of appearances to their own advantage, but whose machination may be uncovered by the elect to whom the king has been revealed.” (Francis Fukuyama)


Further reasons for Kuhn’s success are not hard to find. He gave permission to “anyone” who wished to connect on science to ignore completely the large number of sources, which undeniably are progressive accumulations of established results-sciences like ophthalmology, oceanography operations research and ornithology. Kuhn’s thesis had a special appeal to social sciences (e.g. theology, philosophy, hermeneutics, homiletics, education, etc.) Kuhn’s work was a perfect Sixties product, and since he managed to publish it in 1962 his success was “inevitable”--indeed, as the philosophers say, overdetermined (see especially Steve Fuller, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History of Our Times (University of Chicago).


Fuller’s critique of Kuhn’s thesis is that it is not sufficiently leftist. His claim is that Kuhn gave no attention to the complaints the left wished made against the complicity of science in the military industrial complex. It was disappointing that after all of Kuhn’s work in replacing the logic and philosophy of science with its history and sociology, he failed to so much as mention the several effects the left wished to be targeted.


The villain of Kuhn’s work, according to Fuller, was James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard University from 1933 to 1953. His “General Education in Science” program at Harvard, in which Kuhn taught, explicitly aimed to give future policy makers a broad understanding of science. In the era of the atomic bomb, Sputnik and the moon race, of penicillin, DNA and “the pill”, it was clear that science had much greater social implications than had been thought only a decade or two before. Conant was one of the “action-intellectuals” who defined America’s early Cold War, vision, especially in the areas of science and educational policy. Central to it was The National Science Foundation, which provided large sums for basic research, of the kind that had turned out unexpectedly to be at the basis of the making of the atomic bomb in contrast to the ideologically specified technological ends, like Lyenko's biology and Nazi eugenics.


Conant’s preface to Kuhn’s first book, The Copernican Revolution (1957) linked the decline of Western Europe to its outdated humanities curricula. Science tends to lack a story line or anything that engages the emotions or encourages the taking of sides. “No one admires or condemns the metals on the behavior of their salts,” as Kuhn justly said. His solution was history. Carefully chosen episodes in the history of science in early modern times before it had become too complicated would allow the student to engage with the excitement of discovery, “the interplay of hypothesis and experiment,” and the conflict of personalities and ideas. This was the plan Kuhn implemented in his own teaching and refined in his books, but his thesis was not exported to universities other than Harvard, and when Conant became U.S. Ambassador to West Germany, Kuhn was left undefended and in 1955 refused tenure on the grounds that he was not an expert on anything in particular. General education for humanists at Harvard retreated to the plan of introducing them to a little real science. But the simplified history-as-moral-lesson scheme certainly had its revenge with the success of Kuhn’s book (compare Fuller’s work with that of Frances Stone Saunder’s, The Cultural Cold War.)


Saunder’s work describes the CIA spending large sums of money to promote such all-American cultural products as abstract Expressionism. Kuhn’s vision of science was as disconnected from reality as Pollock and as free from bothersome detail as Rothko. But as Fuller’s spin on the story makes it resemble more closely the thesis of Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shain’s Acid Dreams (1985) and Joy Steven’s Storming Heaven (1987). Fuller’s accusation is that Kuhn was a patio fauvist, a purveyor of gift-wrapped fusion to the intellectual bourgeois, a chocolate revolution that exists in the children's fiction world of theories and paradigms, without import in the real world.


Kuhn’s thesis is expressed in the postmodern and “other theory” forms of leftism and act mainly to keep revolutionaries off the streets by channelling their mental energies into endless efforts to understand the incomprehensible. Fuller offers no evidence that Kuhn’s thesis was diverted from the path of true socialism, the false political nature of Kuhn’s concept of paradigm, both in the original and its caricature. The research community that pursues a paradigm is a political entity, in the sense that it acts to preserve itself and out miniver its rivals, but its talk of “revolting” is very harmless; the revolution is in the past against the previous paradigm, and no present entities have anything to fear from it--via post modern Tolerance syndrome in our radically diverse social arena. Like the violence in a science fiction horror film, it’s all virtual and its over when you come out into the light. In this milieu of the denizens of the academy who love to compete for grants and students with powerful lobbies of rampant paradigms may take a less sanguine view.


Fuller’s well informed documenting of cultural theorists of the fifty years before Kuhn’s book and the bifurcation of nineteenth century relativism into anthropological and Nazi wimps and their ilk. Fuller’s major flaw in his work is the absence of knowledge about science and its enormous historical evidence of its unique power to decide the structure of reality. We must never forget that Post Modernism completely rejects any and all possibilities of “objectivity.” The enormous influence of the Sociology of Knowledge locates us in the relativistic maze of post modernism (see my work, The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis and Thomas Kuhn’s Concept of Paradigm: Narrative Displacement in the History of Science).


Fuller’s caricature of the scientific enterprise as “showcase activity” is almost totally repudiated by the history of the enormously successful scientific success. Fuller’s caricature of science as a little more than “tribal rituals” done primarily for the benefit of the spectators. Clearly Fuller’s environment is the dead center of the post sixties generation of “tenured radicals.”


To the bewilderment of scientists, that field has almost universally followed Kuhn in his substitutes of history and sociology of science for logic and philosophy. In particular, the explanation of why some change occurs in science, such as the belief in Copernicus’s system replacing belief in Ptolemy is required to be in terms of social causes, such as the interest of patrons. This mode of explanation is contrasted with that which refers principally to the better support of the evidence that a later theory has (see my essay, “Theories of Explanation”). The contrast in styles of explanation was the crux of the recent “science wars,” where books such as Paul Gross and Norma Levitt’s Higher Superstition (1994) and Noretta Koertage’s collection, A House Built On Sand, vigorously attacked the “social constructivist,” Kuhn’s successors for “relativism” (see my bibliography on Relativism).


If science was “constructed” at the whim of powerful interests, could it not be just as easily constructed some other way, and thus be “relative” to one’s tribe, education or community committed to a paradigm? And would that not be to deny scientific truth entirely? As Richard Dawkins, the biologist noted for his “self gene” theomachy write, “Show me a relativist at 30,000 feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite.” Like other “constructionist” respondents, Fuller did not deny scientific truths, or assert relativism. Fuller calls his position a “non-relativist construction.” By this he means that usually different scientists will come to agree on what they say about reality, but the reason for this is not in reality, but in particular in social relations. Social groups have many things in common, so they will naturally agree on many things. Fuller and other “constructivists” require two remarkable argumentative leaps: (1) Simply ignore the critics’ arguments that constructivism left its adherents no reason to believe any of the deliverances of science, such as those concerning the effects of acts at 30,000 feet. This problem is not resolved by making one’s constructivism “non relativist.” If beliefs are fixed by the political requirements of communities on the ground that gives no reason to trust them at 30,000 feet, the second (2) leap is more insidious and important and here Fuller makes explicit, for once, the actual reasoning that lies at the bottom of the turn to historical and sociological explanation. Since the move to such causal explanation and away from logic is at once so crucial, so baffling, and so rarely argued for it is worth attending to his presentation (see my “Theories of Logic for Classical Theories to Goedel’s Theme of Calculus of Probability”; and also “Critique of the Counter Culture--Rejection of Language, Logic, Truth and History.”) It occurs in Fuller’s earlier book, Philosophy of Science and Its Discontents (1989). Fuller provides a few examples especially to place “fallacy watchers” on alert--is that “knowledge exists only through its embodiment in linguistic and social practices.” These in turn are transmitted by communities and it is hardly likely that a world view or even a proposition could persist through this transmission. Indeed Fuller argues that, even if scientific theories were true, they could not cause reliable transmission of themselves


This argument is the central plank of the social constructivist position. It is also at the center of the shift from logic to history that Kuhn argues for. Although extra- ordinarily popular, it is a very bad argument, so bad that the philosopher David Stone named it the winner of his “Competition to Find the Worst Argument in The World.” “We can know things only insofar as they fall under our conceptual or linguistic schemes; therefore, we cannot know things as they are in themselves.” In other words, our knowledge is fatally flawed just because it is our knowledge. This is an argument that has underpinned many irrationalist program in the history of thought, from classical Idealism to the Cultural and Epistemological Relativism supported by mainline anthropologists (see my Narrative Displacement in Social Theories, especially cultural relativism which collapsed in the 1930s).


It is clear why Fuller’s argument is a version; he says, “We can know things only via causal (social) processes acting on the brains of real scientists. Therefore the content of our theories is fully explained by social factors causing them.” That is, we cannot know things as they are in themselves (a’la’ Kant’s First Critique). Alan Olding’s telling caricature is appropriate, “We have eyes therefore we cannot see.” This is why no amount of raging about relativism, scepticism and truth is going to make any impact on constructivists. This precludes any justification for either their own ideology or critique of any alternative ideology. They never cease repeating, “those entities in Platonic worlds, like truth and theories, cannot cause belief in themselves. Scientists are people after all and as such are responsive only to social or similar causes.”


Perhaps an analogy from electronic calculator implements the laws of arithmetic. If we ask why the number 4 is displaced when we punch 2 plus 2, then there is a causal explanation in terms of the circuitry (eg. the logic holds for all systems not based on this arithmetic model. A computer could not possibly function on base 10 because of the size necessary for successful functioning. It is not as if numbers magically cause electrical effects, but that physical causes and abstract reasons cooperate. It is the same with scientists and the truth they discover. The truth of the universe's square of gravity is an essential part of the explanation of why the law is believed.


For one thing, its truth is what makes true the measurements that provide the evidence for the theory. There must be some philosophical grounds why causes cooperate with reasons, as it does in the case of the computer analogue. But Kuhn and his postmodern cohorts do not request such a unifying explanatory power of the relationship of causes and reasons; rather they argue that it is irrelevant to explain scientific beliefs. The most serious flaw in Kuhn’s concept of irrational paradigm displacement and its impact on a wide range of disciplines he has influenced, has been the frivolous discarding of the ways things are as a constraint on theory about the way things are. (see especially Robert Kimball, “When Reasons Sleeps,” The New Criterion (May 1994); and Peter Coleman, “Supporting the Indispensable,” New Creation (Sept 1999).


A practising scientist takes a robustly objective view of the relationship of evidence to conclusion, explains what laws of nature are, shows how measurement data, statistic and mathematical models work in science, states which parts of science are well established and which not; illustrates with engaging episodes in the history of science and ends with some colorful rudeness on post modernist solipsism concerning science. Unfortunately such a work does not exist. I am in process of producing such a work (ca. 1000 pages) in Narrative Displacement in The History of Logic of Science: From Classical to Post Modern Anti Science).


The following are some major tools in tracing the revolution in science from the works of Herschel, Whewell and Bridgewater in the 19th century to Kuhn's theory of paradigm in the 20th century.

“The historical progression of the incision of objectivity characteristic of modern science, from the moment of Galileo’s analysis of motion to the theories of evolution and relativity “ is the purpose of this study (The Edge of Objectivity, C. C. Gillispie)


I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) 1985.

Stephen Gaukroger, Explanatory Structures, Concepts of Explanation in Early Physics and             Philosophy (NY: Humanities Press) 1978

Charles C. Gillispie. The Edge of Objectivity, An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas (Princeton University Press) 1960.

Gary Gutting, Paradigms and Revolutions (University of Notre Dame) 1980.

Stanley Jaki. The Relevance of Physics (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press) 1992.

Jaki, The Road of Science and The Ways to God (University of Chicago Press, 1978).

Jaki, The Purpose Of It All (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1990).

M. A. Jeeves and R. J. Berry, Science, Life and Christian Belief (Baker Book House, 1998).

Larry Laudan, Progress and Its Problems (University of California Press, 1977).

Arthur Peacocke, Theology For A Scientific Age (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993). The             fundamental flaw in this work is his adherence to process philosophy.

John Polkinghorne, Quarks, Chaos and Christianity (NY: Crossroad Press, 1996). (see also his Science and Creation and Science and Belief.


(If you would like more information, try the following on the web at Perhaps Kuhn's thesis has the range of significance of only Einstein's equations in the 20th century.


Outline of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Synopsis of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions not in outline form. Prepared by the Philosopher's Web Magazine. Mirror of synopsis at Emory. Access may be faster.

Three scholars speak on Thomas Kuhn and Scientific Revolutions. You will need Audio.

Kuhn at Malaspina University's Science Ring.

Shifting Science - Kuhn, with a nice embedded glossary.

A fine summary of Structure by Andreas Ehrencrona.

A review of Structure by Steven Hodas.

Elegant synopsis from Prof. John Dowell at Bowling Green.

Review of Structure by Daniel P. Moloney.

Thomas Kuhn: Paradigms Die Hard, by Imran Javaid for the Harvard Science Review.

A Tribute to Thomas Kuhn, from Numerous links. Highly recommended.

A brief biography.

The Revolution That Didn't Happen - great reading by Steven Weinberg. Mirror site.

Has There Ever Been A Paradigm Shift?, by Arthur M. Young.

The Function of Dogma in Scientific Research, by Craig Squires.

On Science, Scientific Method and Evolution of Scientific Thought,by Dr. Yogesh Malhotra.

The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions, by Craig Squires.

Review of Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times, by Steve Fuller, from Scientific American.

Thomas Kuhn's Irrationalism, by James Franklin.

Informative slide show on Scientific Knowledge from the Department   of Physics at the University of Illinois.

Scientific Progress, Relativism and Self-Refutation, by Tim McGrew.

Obituary from the New York Times.


We must engage Thomas Kuhn’s enormous contribution to the debate about the nature and narrative displacement in The History of Science by acknowledging some fundamental world-changing ideas.


Before the 18th and 19th century Historiographical Revolution it was a supreme advantage of the Christian faith to be historically grounded against the myth structures of non-Judaeo Christian religion. After Kant’s First Critique he maintained that all of reality was reducible to thinking and acting, western culture progressively grew more hostile to the classical Christian faith. The Scientific Revolution from Galileo, Newton, and Maxwell removed God from the explanatory hypothesis and reduced the Judaeo-Christian God to a “God of the gaps.” Two of Kant’s students, Lessing and Herder, played fundamental roles in the new historiography, which leads directly to Heidegger and the historization of all reality.


A. Kant’s First Critique, Critique of Practical Reason and Religion Within the Bounds of

            Reason Alone.

B. Lessing’s Theological Writings: The Leibnizian epistemology of the “broad ugly ditch.”

C. Herder’s naturalistic pantheism, natural religion and immanent god.

D. Hegel’s geist as the orderer of all matter; Marx invented “geist” into natural laws controlling    matter, directing it to higher forms of expression.

E. Marx and Hegel’s dialectical view of reality contra--

1. The Law of Identity, i.e., 1 = 1.

2. The Law of the Excluded Middle, i.e., A cannot be both A and Non A at the same time From absolute       Time     and Space to Space-Time.

3. The Law of Contradiction, i.e., A cannot be both true and false at the same time under the same circumstances.

F. Theory and Practice from Aristotle to Marx: Priority to Theory or Practice?

G. From Dilthey to Darwin: Erlebnis and the meaning of history.

1. Dilthey to Troeltsch: Analogy of expression and recovery of the past.

2. Overcoming polarity of Subject/Object logic and epistemology in 19th century existentialism and phenomenology, eg., Husserl, Ebner and Buber.

3. Encounter epistemology and historically mediated data about truth (from realism to existential view of truth).

4. History, Truth and Encounter.

5. God, mediated knowledge and Man.

H. Nietzsche and Freud: Death of God and rejection of objective status of God’s existence.

I. From the death of God and the death of absolutes to the death of man. As Keats stated, “All things are falling apart... the center cannot hold.”



Background of American Pragmatism:


I. Philosophical Legacy of the Founders of Pragmatism:


            1. Pluralistic Empiricism

2. Temporalism (Historicism); all consciousness is historically contingent from Hegel to Darwin to Dewey.

3. Cultural and Conceptual Relativism; The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis

4. Probabilism and Fallibilism vs. Absolute Truth and Certitude.

5. Secular Democratic Individualism; Humanistic Pluralism


II. Four Crucial Issues:


1. Education

2. Work

3. Nature of Religion (Christianity)

4. Man: Total product of nature


III. Ten Crucial Themes:


1. The conservation of energy

2. The kinetic-theory of gases

3. The second law of Thermodynamics

4. The evolution of the earth’s crust and of the fossils found therein

5. The stages of embryological development

6. The principles of domestic breeding

7. Quetelet’s, Comte’s, and Buckle’s sociological generalizations

8. Tylor’s laws of development of primitive societies

9. Maine’s theory of the passage from status to contract

10. The Malthusian law of population growth (which Darwin said suggested to him the idea of the struggle for survival).


19th Century Philosophies of Science and Natural Theology:


            American philosophical theology was greatly stirred by the scientific and technological progress of the 19th century. Persons of the stature of Herschel, Hodge, Whewell, Bridgewater, et al., addressed scientific development from a firm commitment to God as creator of the universe and scripture as the Word of God. But we cannot escape from the fact that Darwinism and Pragmatism wee able to combat their conservative theological adversaries (cf. our heritage’s allegiance to Scottish Common Sense Realism and Baconian scientific paradigm precluded effective encounter with the shaping forces of the 19th century. Its Restoration Theme emphasis was totally at variance with the development toward historicism from Hegel to Darwin. Its emphasis on the ‘Unity Theme’ did not address the wars and rumors of wars expressed in denominational conflict, cults warring against ‘established religions,’ labor vs. capital, farmers vs. factories or manufacturing, rural vs. urban interest, west vs. east, north vs. south). Unity Movements merely shattered more light. Any student not engrossed in these cultural crises could look with relief and hope, as the founders of pragmatism did, to the steady and brilliant discoveries by scientific men of different religious, political, national and racial origins. The perspective of science was displacing the transcendental brooding of conservative theology, revivalism and Christian education.


Paradigmatic Shift and Conversion


Perhaps the earliest instance of connection between modern scientific endeavour and the rather religious concept of ‘conversion’ is found at the onset of the Copernican astronomy: “In 1596, in the original preface to The Secret of The Universe (1981,63), Kepler described the stages of his conversion to the Copernican astronomy” (Cohen, p. 10). Even earlier than this, however, had the Latin noun, ‘revolution,’ come to have “the sense of ‘conversion’ in classical Latin” by Martianus Capella as (1) “the courses of sidereal revolution” and by Augustine as (2) “revolutions through different bodies” (Cohen, p. 56). And, more recently, we find J. Tuzo Wilson announcing revolution within the earth sciences after his conversion to the theory of continental drift (Cohen, p. 464).


Thomas Kuhn, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, discusses “an irreversible ‘gestalt switch,’ and a ‘conversion experience’” (Cohen, p. 468). We are provided a variety of examples of such occurrences:;


(1) Joseph Priestly in reference to the conversion of the Scots to Lavoisier’s chemistry (1796).

(2) “Two centuries later, the physicist A. Pais (1982, 150) used the same language in relation to the new physics.

(3) J. Tuzo Wilson has already been mentioned (Cohen, 468).

(4) Huxley in reference to Darwin’s work (Cohen, p. 469).

(5) Darwin with reference to his own work (Cohen, p. 469f).

(6) J.J. Thomson “wrote about how difficult it was to convince himself that atoms are composite” (Cohen, p. 470).


We even have Cannizzaro’s allusion to Acts 8.11 in explanation of his conversion.


Kuhn defines “paradigm” in two senses: as sociological and as exemplary past achievements (Kuhn, p. 175). The sociological refers to the set of “group commitments” (181) to definition (184) or concrete problem solutions by which we learn the paradigm. Exemplary past achievements refer to paradigms as shared examples (187) ie., “acquired similarity relations” (189) which serve as reference points. Foundational to any paradigm, Kuhn insists, is “tacit knowledge and intuition” (191ff), but this is not merely individual or unanalyzable. An example of such knowledge is that “the world changes” (192). That there is such knowledge tends to be verified by its transmission by education, that it has been found more effective than anything else, and that it is subject to change both through education and through discovery of misfits with the environment (196). Conversion occurs when two incommensurable theories are debated and, simplistically put, and one is falsified followed by concession and conversion by the proponent of this theory to the other (198,99).




Toward Understanding Kuhn


I. Toward Understanding Revolution


A. A History of Change


I.B. Cohen, Revolutions in Science, pp. 197-269.

Cohen, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 37, 1976

“Eighteenth Century Origins of the Concept of Scientific Revolution.”


B. The “Assumption” of Revolution


Parallel between scientific and social revolution

(1) Stagnate institutions replaced by new ones in keeping with current need.

(2) This change always goes radically against the structure of the first institution.


C. Historical Examples


Alexandre Koyre’, The Astronomical Revolution, “Copernicus and the Cosmic


Cohen, Revolution in Science.


II. Toward Understanding Paradigm


A. Searching for a Definition


Margaret Masterman, “The Nature of Paradigm,” in Lakatos and Musgrave’s Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge.


1. A universally recognized scientific achievement (p. x)

2. A myth (p. 2)

3. A ‘philosophy’ or constellation of questions (pp. 4,5)

4. A textbook or classic work (p. 10)

5. A whole tradition and in some sense a model (pp. 10,11)

6. A scientific achievement (p. 11)

7. An analogy (p. 14)

8. A successful metaphysical speculation (pp. 17,18)

9. An accepted device in common law (p. 23)

10. A source of tools (p. 37)

11. A standard illustration (p. 43)

12. A device or type of instrumentation (pp. 59,60)

13. An anomalous pack of cards (pp. 62,63)

14. A machine-tool factory (p. 76)

15. A gestalt figure which can be seen in two ways (p. 85)

16. A set of political institutions (p. 92)

17. A 'standard' applied to quasi-metaphysics (p. 102)

18. An organizing principle that can govern perception itself (p. 112)

19. A general epistemological viewpoint (p. 120)

20. A new way of seeing (p. 121)

21. As something which defines a broad sweep of reality (p. 128)


Masterman’s three broad categories of understanding:


1. Metaphysical paradigms--equalling those uses in which Kuhn “equates ‘paradigm’ with a set of beliefs” as a metaphysical notion or entity, rather than a scientific one.

2. Sociological paradigms--when used in a sociological sense, i.e., as a universally recognized scientific achievement (p. x)

3. Construct paradigms--when the term is used in a more concrete way, such as an actual textbook or classic work (p. 10).


Kuhn’s Postscript to the 2nd edition: “A paradigm is what a scientific community share, and conversely, a scientific community consists of men who share a paradigm” (p. 176). A paradigm defines those who share a common belief or disciplines (his “disciplinary matrix” and “shared commitments.”).


B. Paradigm Shift


Kuhn’s thesis is that--science progresses not through evolutionary development or a gradual growth, but through a revolutionary displacement of one paradigm for another. Scientific revolution is a paradigm shift.


          Kuhn’s Theory of ‘Paradigm’


Historically, the first scientific-revolution from Galileo to Newton produced an explanatory model of a world-machine, which physics and astronomy could ‘understand’ by reference to immanent physical laws of nature. The Newtonian concepts of absolute time and space, which wee to be replaced by Einstein’s space-time relativity model, were employed to generate a logical contradiction regarding the claim that any transcendence outside space and time could become immanent within the ‘closed world system’ via incarnation, miracle or providence. Einstein’s paradigm created a crisis for the ‘Received View.’ By ca. 1950 there is an acknowledged crisis concerning the nature of science. Enters Thomas Kuhn’s concept of ‘Paradigmatic Revolution’ to evolutionary paradigm.


One of the most crucial issues before 21st century thinkers is how to understand revolutionary changes in general and theological revolutions in particular. Though his relativistic contextualistic presuppositionalism is not defensible, the seminal effort of Thomas Kuhn can be constructively employed in understanding that intellectual and cultural growth is much more than the mere accumulation of new data, which becomes combined in a theory of optimistic evolutionary progress. His work, originally published in 1962, touched off an international confrontation were researched in publications of Toulmin, Hanson, Popper, Feyerabend,, and Harvard’s I. Bernard Cohen, who wrote The Newtonian Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1980). These confirm Kuhn’s original thesis set forth in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1962); in it he attempts to describe revolution in scientific method and expression in terms of paradigm shifts. In dealing with the developmental process, Kuhn states in Structures, “. . .characterized by an increasingly detailed and refined understanding of nature, but development is, or towards anything.” Trigg states, “Kuhn seems to think it is possible to have progress even when it is not progress in any direction. This is absurd.” Kuhn states, “Truth may, like ‘proof,’ be a term with only intra-theoretic applications (quoted by Trigg). They wish to compare theories as representations of nature, as statements bout ‘What is really out there.’ Granting that neither theory of a historical pair is true, they nonetheless seek a sense in which the later is a better approximation to the truth. I believe nothing of that sort can be found.” (Reflections p. 226) He goes to say “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.” (contra ultimate truth, Structures, p. 170)


There is an excellent utilization of Kuhn’s theory of paradigm, or narrative displacement in biblical studies see The Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, ed. Moses Silva (Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, esp. pp. 4,5. Thomas Kuhn and contemporary discussions of scientific discovery and differences between Biblical Interpretation and Science, pp. 469-473)


We must acknowledge up front that there is a difference between his concept of “paradigm” in the first and second editions of Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn rejects the classical Baconian scientific method. He denies that science advances merely by a step-by-step inductive method (Kuhn, pp. 1-4). Scientific research always takes place against the background of “received presupposition or paradigm” and convictions produced by previous existing science. In the “received view” the form was paradigm, a cluster of beliefs, theories, values, standards for research and exemplary research results that provided a framework for scientific advance within a whole field. Kuhn’s second edition proposes the phrase “disciplinary matrix” (compare first edition p. 175 and the new phrase in the second edition pp. 182,187). Long before his death he recommended this new terminology (pp. 182,187). Kuhn’s new “puzzle solving” is divided into three types (pp. 25-30): (1) the paradigm [disciplinary matrix] and works on those areas where the most direct definitive experimental checks on the theory. All these types of investigations are closely regulated by the disciplinary matrix. (2) a second concept of paradigm is that of “normal science”; a particular science becomes “mature” when some investigator or group of investigators advances a fundamental theory, including supporting data, that proves clearly superior. This procedure determines the entire disciplinary matrix for subsequent research. (3) the third situation is that of “extraordinary” science, leading to a scientific revolution. Revolution occurs when an existing disciplinary matrix is replaced by a new one incompatible with the original. A revolution situation arises when anomalies in a particular field cannot easily be ignored. The anomalies begin to fall into patterns that show an order of their own.


An illustration Kuhn uses in his theory is the study of electricity. According to him, the first half of the 18th century there was no standard theory of electricity. There was no clear coherent theory of progress of research. The pluralism of views of electricity expressed by men like Hauksbee, Gray, Desaguliers, DeFay, Nollett, Watson, Franklin, precluded consensus of a unified paradigm (Kuhn, pp. 13-14). Franklin’s view fused all past theories. Soon the theory of electricity became a “normal science.” Kuhn does mention explicitly a revolution introduced by James Clark Maxwell in the second half of the 19th century (Kuhn, pp. 107-8). Maxwell’s electro magnetic theory introduced “displacement current” and other ideas difficult for his contemporaries to digest. The triumph of his theory took time, but surely there was a received narrative displacement! (see esp. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Theology and Philosophy of Science (Philadelphia: Westminster, E.T. 1976)


Kuhn has received mixed reception by philosophers and historians of science. Kuhn claims that his book is a part of a revolutionary change in the historiography of science. A revolutionary change will meet resistance at the beginning (see esp. Gary Gutting, ed., Paradigms and Revolution: Appraisals and Applications of Thomas Kuhn's Philosophy of Science (University of Notre Dame Press, 1980; Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, eds., Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1970; and Ian Hacking, ed., Scientific Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1981; on the role of text books in concealing revolutions see ibid., pp. 136-43. Crucial in our study of Kuhn's concept of paradigm is that constant attention must be given to the radical difference between Description and Explanation!


The application of Kuhn’s paradigmatic revolution is all but universal in postmodern social categories. Kuhn is concerned with the uniqueness of science as he is with similarities to scholarly research of other kinds (Kuhn, pp. 208-9); see esp. Alister E. McGrath, Science and Religion (Blackwell Publishing, 1999; William A. Dembski, Intelligent Design; The Bridge Between Science and Theology (Inter Varsity Press, 1999); also, “The Design Argument” in The History of Science and Religion in Western Tradition; An Encyclopedia (ed. G.B. Fengren, NY: Garland); Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (NY: Free Press, 1996).


Darwin's expulsion of design from Biology that made possible the triumph of naturalism in Western culture. So, too, it will be intelligent design's reinstatement of design within Biology that will undo naturalism in postmodern Western culture.




What is Kuhn’s notion of paradigms? “A paradigm for him, is the universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners.” (Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. VIII)


While a paradigm is established usage in an accepted model which functions “by permitting the replication of examples anyone of which could in principle serve to replace it”, in the physical and/or behavioral sciences it is rarely duplicated. “Instead, like an accepted judicial decision in the common law, it is an object for further articulation and specification under new and more stringent conditions.” (Kuhn, Structures, p. 23)


Paradigms are shared by the community, indeed, “govern, in the first instance, not a subject matter but rather a group of practitioners” (Ibid, p. 180). It guides this group’s research, defines its problems, and suggests the means appropriate for their solution (p. 103). A paradigm is a vehicle for scientific theory--it tells the scientist something “about the entities that nature does and does not contain and about the ways in which these entities behave.” This is the “cognitive function.” But it also has a ‘normative function,’ that is, it includes some “criterion for determining the legitimacy both of problems and of proposed solutions.” These two functions go together. “. . .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” (p. 109).


Kuhn acknowledges the vagueness and ambiguity of his use of the word ‘paradigm’ in the Postscript in the second edition and suggests that there are really two basic senses in which it is employed. The first, more sociological meaning, refers to the “constellation of group commitments”--the common possession of the practitioners of a particular discipline ‘which is composed of’ ordered elements of various sorts, each requiring further specification.” He suggests that this use might better be called the “disciplinary matrix.” This institutionalized commitment would include ‘laws’ or ‘symbolic generalizations,’ e.g., f=ma. “Metaphysical paradigms,” e.g., “all perceptible phenomena are due to the interaction of qualitatively neutral atoms in the world,” and “shared values,” e.g., qualitative ones. Finally he speaks of the group’s shared commitments “which first led me to the choice of that word,” and which is really the second, “the concrete problem solutions that students encounter from the start of their scientific education, whether in laboratories, on explanations, or at the ends of chapters in science texts” (pp. 181-187). Kuhn’s central thesis is that scientific knowledge has not progressed in cumulative fashion, adding one insight and discovery to another, gradually building up a body of knowledge, as is frequently supposed, but rather that progress has occurred (he does not doubt that the history of science reveals progress) has been a series of ‘revolutions.’ These he defines as a “displacement of the conceptual network through which scientists view the world,” (Structures, p. 102), or, in other words, a shift in paradigm. This is reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes some of the fields most elementary theoretical generalizations as well as many of its paradigm methods and applications.” He quotes H. Butterfield’s description of it as--“handling the same bundle of data as before, but placing them in a new system of relations with one another by giving them a different framework” Ibid., p. 85, N. 80H. Butterfield’s, The Origins of Modern Science--1300-1800 (London, 1949), pp. 1-7). At any rate a scientific revolution is more than a mere reinterpretation of data. All interpretation presupposes a paradigm and interpretation only articulates the paradigm. It does not change or correct it. (Ibid., pp. 121-122) What Kuhn is describing is of fundamental significance, as it is a ‘different’ way of viewing the world.


How does a paradigm shift occur? First, it is a temporal process, i.e., it has a ‘history of ideas’ significance. It begins with a recognition of “anomaly” i.e., “with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm--induced expectations that govern normal science.” (Ibid., p. 52,53) “Normal science” takes place when a paradigm is “in possession” and the scientific community proceeds to solve the problems it poses according to the criteria of solution it suggests. Then follows a period of extended exploration of the area of anomaly with various attempts to fit it into the then-existing theory. Kuhn points out that living with the awareness of anomaly for some time usually produces a state of psychological disorientation and distress. While awareness of anomaly persists and penetrates a field of study “one can appropriately describe the fields affected by it as in a state of growing crisis.” There is a period of pronounced “professional insecurity” (Ibid., p. 67) at the same time, other theories are put forward in attempt to deal with the anomaly. A proliferation of theories, or versions of a theory, is a “very usual symptom of crisis.” A new paradigm cannot take possession until it has first been compared with the older one and nature itself. This testing of the paradigm occurs “only after persistent failure to solve a noteworthy puzzle has given rise to a 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 the allegiance of the scientific community.” (Ibid, p. 145)

The testing, however, is only a facet of the process by which one paradigm is chosen rather than another. Although Kuhn has been criticized as being subjectivistic (cf. Structures, Chapter V, p. 146), he argues well that such decisions are not the coldly objective, factually provable ones the popular mind may attribute to scientists. Such decisions involve questions of standards and value which “can be answered only in terms of criteria that lie outside of normal science altogether, and it is that recourse to external criteria that most obviously makes paradigm debates revolutionary” (Ibid., pp. 110, 147-148). Kuhn speaks in terms of the “conversion of the professional scientific group involved, of a change in “allegiance,” (Ibid., p. 151).


It is ultimately, Kuhn says, a matter of persuasion, not of mathematically objective proof. “Like the choice between competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life. Because it has that character, the choice is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for these depend upon a particular paradigm, and that paradigm is at issue. . . As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice--there is not a standard higher than the assent of the relevant community” (Ibid., p. 94; historiography of science, of crisis, physical, behavioral, and biological, history, art, political, law, linguistics, social and economic theories, psychology and historical theology, hermeneutics, etc....).


Discovery or “novelty of fact” as well as invention or “novelty of theory” commences with the awareness of anomaly, according to Kuhn. Anomaly means the violation of the “paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science” (Kuhn, pp. 52-53). In any developed science, there are some paradigms operative at all times. It is against the horizon of the dominant paradigms that anomaly appears. Kuhn says that “research under a paradigm must be a particularly effective way of inducing paradigm charge” (Ibid.). Some anomaly occurs by accident as in the case of X-rays, but more often novelty of fact is the result of ever-more refined instrumentation and observation suggested by the paradigm then in possession. In the processes of pursuing “normal science” (“extending the knowledge of those facts that the paradigm displays as particularly revealing, by increasing the extent of the match between those facts and the paradigm’s predictions, and by further articulation of the paradigm itself” (Ibid., pp. 64-65) that anomalies of fact are recognized.


“Further development, therefore, ordinarily calls for the construction of elaborate equipment, the development of an esoteric vocabulary and skills, and a refinement of concepts that increasingly lessens their resemblance to their usual common-sense prototypes. That professionalization leads, on the one hand, to an immense restriction of the scientist’s vision and to a considerable resistance to paradigm change. The science has become increasingly rigid. On the other hand, within those areas to which the paradigm directs the attention of the group, normal science leads to a detail of information and to a precision of the observation-theory match that could be achieved in no other way. Furthermore, that detail and precision-of-match have a value that transcends their not always very high intrinsic interest. Without the special apparatus that is constructed mainly for anticipated functions, the results that lead ultimately to novelty could not occur. And even when the apparatus exists, novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong. Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm.” (Ibid. 64-65).


This background function of one paradigm, or set of paradigms for the emergence of another set is the thread of continuity in the discipline. “Novelty of theory,” “novelty of fact,” “awareness of anomaly.” The kind of theory that Kuhn is talking about is such as the Copernican versus Ptolemaic astronomic theory. This involves a paradigm shift on a far wider scale than is required for discovery or “novelty of fact.” It is not just an isolated phenomena that must be seen in a totally different way, but a very fundamental view of the universe. A theory organizes a whole range of data and has more far-reaching consequences. Hence a paradigm shift on the level of theory is both rarer and more revolutionary. Kuhn says, “Because it demands large-scale paradigm destruction and major shifts in the problems and techniques of normal science, the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity” (Ibid., pp. 67-68).


Although there are “novelties of fact” in theology in the sense of new historical or archaeological data, the kind of paradigm shift that I am suggesting as pertinent to doctrines of God, Man, Nature, History, Scripture socio-political structuralism, operative paradigms, on level of ‘theory’ rather than ‘fact.


More exactly, they are conceptual paradigms. Although like most concepts, have some concrete image underlying them--think of the pyramid model of authority, or the “deposit” model of Truth.


            Operative conceptual paradigm; Presupposition; the relation between fact and theory, between knowledge and its social base is a dialectical one, that is, knowledge is a social product and knowledge is a factor in social change” (Berger, Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality, p. 87).

After the awareness and recognition of an anomalous situation, there is usually a concentration of research in the area of anomaly. If the anomaly persists over a period of time, or if there are other circumstances, either internal or external to the discipline, which make the anomaly particularly pressing, then the anomaly “comes to seem more than just another puzzle of normal science, (and) the transition to crisis and to extraordinary science has begun,” (Ibid., p. 82). The anomaly may be recognized at first by only a restricted segment of the community of practitioners but as it develops into a crisis more and more of the eminent men in the discipline become concerned with the problem area. It is then that the problem of “Professional insecurity,” mentioned above, occurs.


The increased interest and research in the area of anomaly leads to suggested modifications of the theory of paradigm on which the discipline has been operating. Kuhn says that “proliferation of versions of a theory is a very usual system of crisis (Ibid., p. 71). The previous paradigm and rules of operation in “normal science” becomes blurred and few of the practitioners can agree on what the rules or the paradigm are. New theories are then put forward in attempts to deal with the anomaly more successfully.


The gradual move into “extraordinary science,” that is, a state of crisis, is usually accompanied by a turn to philosophical analysis on the part of scientists--a procedure they normally eschew. But they are now more inclined to examine the presuppositions of their discipline and questions of methodology loom larger in their minds.


Kuhn summarizes the characteristics of a discipline moving from period of normalcy to one of crisis as follows: “the proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research” (Ibid., p. 91). It begins with a “sense of malfunction” that can lead to crisis and finally to a “revolution” or shift in paradigm.


Kuhn defines scientific revolutions as “those non-cumulative developmental episodes in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one” (Ibid., p. 92). This is really a paradigm-shift, but he feels the word “revolution” is justifiable in terms of the parallel he finds to political revolutions, and this in two respects: First of all--


“Political revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created. In much the same way, scientific revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, again often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way. In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution” (Ibid., p. 92).


            This is the genetic or developmental aspect of the parallel, but there is another and (Kuhn says), more profound aspect of similarity. I would like to quote him again at some length because it also applies in a most striking way to the changes taking place in the theology. The second aspect of similarity is in the manner of choice among competing paradigms. To quote Kuhn:


            “Political revolutions aim to change political institutions in ways most institutions themselves prohibit. Their success therefore necessitates the practical    relinquishment of one set of institutions in favor of another, and in the interim, society is not fully governed by institutions at all. Initially it is crisis alone that attenuates the role of political institutions as we have already seen it attenuate the role of paradigms. In increasing numbers, individuals become increasingly estranged from political life and behave more and more eccentrically within it. Then as the crisis deepens, many of these individuals commit themselves to some concrete proposals for the reconstruction of society in a new institutional framework. At that point the society is divided into competing camps or parties, one seeking to define the old institutional constellation, the others seeking to initiate some new ones.” (Ibid., p. 93)


            At this juncture, Kuhn remarks, that “political recourse fails”, and the choice is like that between competing paradigms--it is a choice between “incompatible modes of community life.” The issue is not something that can be settled by logic or experiment alone. “Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm’s defense.” The argumentation becomes circular and it cannot compel those who refuse to step into the circle (cf. Hermeneutical circle). Ultimately, “as in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice, there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community.” (Ibid., p. 94). I Cohen JHI, 1976)


It is at this point that Kuhn has been accused of being too subjectivistic and of making the scientific enterprise an a-rational one (see Dudley Shapere, “Meaning and Scientific Change,” in Mind and Cosmos: Essays in Contemporary Science and Philosophy (University of Pittsburgh Series in the Philosophy of Science III: Pittsburgh: The University Press, 1966), pp. 41-85; and by the same author, his review “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” The Philosophical Review, LXXII, (1964), pp. 383-394); Karl Popper, “Normal Science and Its Dangers,” and Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,” both in Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge, Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, eds., (Cambridge: The University Press, 1970). But the criticism seems deliberately to misunderstand his point, which is that a paradigm change is a basically different way of “seeing” the world, that it involves not only the facts, but values and presuppositions. A change on a level as fundamental as this (again he recalls the analogy of the gestalt switch) is more a matter of persuasion and conversion than of merely logical argumentation, that however, does not make it irrational nor a matter of some “mystical” experience. Kuhn summarizes his own refutation of his critics on this point as follows:


“The conversion experience that I have likened to gestalt switch remains, there fore, at the heart of the revolutionary process. Good reasons for choice provide motives for conversion and a climate in which it is more likely to occur. Translation may, in addition, provide points of entry for the neutral reprogramming that, however inscrutable at this must underlie conversion. But neither good reasons nor translation constitute conversion, and it is that process we must explicate in order to understand an essential sort of scientific change.” (Ibid., p. 204; note also Lonergan’s notion of conversion)


Since it is a process of persuasion, language becomes a critical problem and hence, the reference to ‘translation’ in the above citation. There is a problem of communication--“two men who perceive the same situation differently but nevertheless employ the same vocabulary in its discussion must be using words differently. They speak, that is, from what I have called incommensurable viewpoints! How can they earn hope to talk together much less to be persuasive” (Ibid., p. 200). After some discussion of the process of sensation and response to stimuli, he says that those who experience such communication breakdowns can at least “recognize each others as members of different langauge communities and then become translators.” They can at least refrain from explaining the other behavior as error or madness.


The choice between competing paradigms cannot be decided by the criteria of “normal science” because that always presupposes some paradigm, and each paradigm justifies itself on the basis of its own criteria. It is a question of values that “can be answered only in terms of criteria that lie outside of normal science altogether, and it is that recourse to external criteria that most obviously makes paradigm debate revolutionary.” (Ibid., p. 110). The competing paradigms are compared and tested, compared with one another and with nature--but the choice is not made on that basis alone. The criteria external to the discipline itself play a significant role.


Not only are there external criteria involved in the choice of paradigms, but these are external factors active in precipitating the crisis. Kuhn gives the example of the social pressure for calendar reform, the medieval criticism of Aristotle and the rise of Renaissance Neoplatonism as factors in the Copernican revolution.” In a mature science “. . .external factors like these cited above are principally significant in determining the timing of breakdown, the ease with which it can be recognized, and the area in which, because it is given particular attention, the breakdown first occurs.” (Ibid., p. 110)


The authorities (i.e., “community of practitioners”) in a scientific community are the scientists themselves, and the beliefs of the scientific community are determined by the scientists, not by a broader population, nor by antiquity, not by external authorities. The practitioners of a scientific discipline are autonomous; theologians are not.


In concluding this description of the process of paradigm change according to Kuhn, we shall cite two conditions which he argues must be met by a paradigm seeking the allegiance of the community: “First, the new candidate must seem to resolve some outstanding and generally recognized problem that can be met in no other way. Second, the new paradigm must promise to preserve a relatively large part of the concrete problem-solving ability that has occurred to science through its predecessors” (Ibid., p. 169).


In other words, despite all the external factors involved, the new paradigm must respond to the felt need of the community of practitioners without overturning all the past achievements of that community. It may require adjustment of some of the acquired knowledge in the discipline and it may be seen in a totally new light, but it does not reject all the achievements of the older paradigm.




Brown, H.I., Perception, Theory and Commitment (Chicago, Phoenix edition, 1979).

Cohen, I.B., “18th Century Origins of The Concept of Scientific Revolution” Journal of The History             of Ideas, 37: 257-287, 1976).

Gutting, Gary, ed., Paradigms and Revolutions (University of Notre Dame Press, 1980).

Kuhn, Thomas, The Essential Tension (Chicago, 1977).

Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 1970); also see his “Second Thoughts on Paradigms,” in Frederick Suppe, ed., The Structure     of Scientific Theories (University of Illinois Press, 1973). “The Function of Dogma in Scientific Research,” in Scientific Change, ed. A.C. Crombie (New York, 1963). “Energy Conservation as an Example of Simultaneous Discovery,” in Marshall Clagget, ed., Critical   Problems in the History of Science (Madison, WI, 1959).

Kuhn, Thomas, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in The Development of Western Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957).

Kuhn, Sources for History of Quantum Physics: An Inventory and Report (Philadelphia: Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, 1966) Heilbron, Forman, Allen).

Kuhn, The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago: University Press, 1977).

Kuhn, Black-Body Theory and The Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912 (London: Oxford, 1978).

Lashchyk, E.M. Scientific Revolutions: A Philosophical Critique of The Theories of Science of Thomas Kuhn and P. Feyerabend. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1969.

Stafleu, Marinus D. Time and Again (Toronto: Wedge Pub., 1980)

Strauss, J.D., Rationality and Growth of Scientific Knowledge in Light of T. Kuhn’s Concept of Paradigmatic Revolution (Forthcoming)

Strauss, J.D. Seminar: Historiography of The Physical Sciences; Seminar: Historiography of Biological Theories; Seminar: Historiography of Social Sciences; Three Research Bibliographies in Philosophy, Theology, Science. See bibliography on “History of Science” on reserve in LCClibrary.

Trigg, R. Reason and Commitment (Cambridge, 1977 printing).


Notes on Kuhn’s Theses:


Ethics As A Science: Naturalism and A Kuhnian Reinterpretation

McBrien, Bernadette D., Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1977.


There is a tradition in the history of moral philosophy that claims ethics is a science. Recent developments in the philosophy of science embodied in the “Kuhnian model” prompts a return to this scientific tradition in moral philosophy in an effort to give it a new interpretation. It is argued that some naturalists took as their model of science the Logical Positivist or Deductivist view of science. However, it is shown that the logical problems that plague the strict formulations of Deductivism also apply to ethics as a science. Other problems specific to naturalism are also discussed, and it is concluded that if the claim that ethics is a science is to be established, it must be developed on an alternative model of science.


In Chapter II the reinterpretation of ethics as a science on the Kuhnian model is initiated. First, the views of Kuhn, Hanson and Feyerabend are explained as arising out of criticisms of the Deductivist model. They pose a model of science involving a view of theories as deep conceptual systems or paradigms, such that scientific observation is theory-laden, theories are incommensurable, and meanings of descriptive terms in a theory are theory-dependent.


The above results lead to the conclusion that Kant’s analysis of the character of moral reasons is philosophically independent of his doctrines of transcendental freedom and of noumena and phenomena. The Philosophical objections to these doctrines have no bearing whatsoever on the philosophical merit of Kant's analysis of moral reasons and his attempt to draw normative ethical consequences from such analysis. In fact, Kant's analysis of moral reasons commits him philosophically to no particular approach to the problem of freedom and determinism.


Kuhn's Philosophy of Science and Science Education

Siegel, Harvey J., Ed. D. Harvard University, 1977.


This thesis addresses various concerns in Thomas S. Kuhn’s philosophy of science, and its implications for philosophy of education. Kuhn’s work has great significance for philosophy of education in that it raises important new questions, and argues for radical new doctrines, in the two areas that are, in my opinion, central to the philosophy of education--epistemology and philosophy of science; and educational practice and pedagogic strategy.


I first set out. . .Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Here are addressed. . .all of Kuhn’s most substantive claims. Included are organized discussions of Kuhn’s central notions, particularly his distinction between “normal” and “revolutionary” science, the notion of “paradigm,” the related notions of “anomaly” and “crisis,” the resolution of crisis, progress in science, and scientific truth as a reasonable ideal of scientific practice.


In Part I, I consider the main reactions to Kuhn’s work. . . . The notion of “paradigm” and the criticisms of that notion raised by various authors, along with Kuhn’s rebuttal of these criticisms; the debate over the objectivity. . .of scientific theory debate and theory choice; Kuhn’s views about scientific progress, the growth of knowledge and the role of truth in scientific theorizing; the overall consistency of Kuhn’s position; and the legitimacy of a proposed reconstruction of Kuhn’s position intended to defend Kuhn from his critics.


Methodology and Rationality: A Critique of Popper and Kuhn

Sarkar, Husain, Ph.D., University of Minnesota


Prominent in the contemporary philosophical market are the methodologies of Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos and Thomas Kuhn. Among other things these methodologies are designed to meet at least the following problems: (1) the problem of demarcating science from non-science; (2) the problem of theory selection in science; and (3) the problem of the growth of scientific knowledge. History of science plays an increasingly important role in elucidating and corroborating methodological system. But the discussions between these methodologies is less than fruitful and often question-begging or inconclusive because they use, as their spring-boards, different presuppositions about the nature, aim and function of methodologies.


Two major themes inform the thesis: Firstly, a structure is provided in which to discuss methodologies. Secondly, a paradox is stated which makes much of the discussion in methodology that invokes the history of science for purposes of elucidation or evidence suspect.


In the discussion of Kuhn an interpretation is offered which makes ‘normal science’ as the foci around which Kuhn’s methodology revolves. This interpretation is also novel in the following respect: by paying close scrutiny to the logical features in Kuhn which are almost never discussed in the literature it is shown that Kuhn and Lakatos are far closer in their methodological perspectives than is generally believed.


Perspectives on The Kuhn-Popper Debate--New Directions in Epistemology

Mosley, Albert G., Ph.D., The University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1975.


The dispute is first reviewed; Popper’s view of ‘falsificationism’ as the method of science, Kuhn’s critique of that position, and the reactions to Kuhn’s critique. The debate is then focused around the notion of ‘rationality,’ and the dispute between Kuhn and Popper is reflected in the dispute between trial and error and ‘insight’ accounts of the nature of intelligence. A reconstruction of the notion of ‘rationality’ is offered which requires the aptitude for insight, and it is argued that such faculties are most needed and most obvious during revolutionary episodes in the growth of scientific knowledge.


The Kuhn-Popper Debate by Beauchamp, Emmette W., III, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, 1975.


The Kuhn-Popper Debate is a continuing controversy that has been of interest not only to philosophers, but also to social scientists and historians. Unfortunately the Kuhn-Popper debate is riddled with lacunae in communication to such an extent that it is no easy matter to find where these philosophers really are in contention. Thus. . .on the surface it seems that Popper is the champion of the bold, critical scientist, who trifles little with a theory that has been discomfited by experimental facts but readily advances a new, highly testable theory in its stead. Kuhn, per contra, apparently views science through the eyes of the diligent researcher, who is cognitively committed to a single tradition or “paradigm” even in the face of counter-evidence.e Only with the advent of the socio-psychological phenomenon that Kuhn calls a “crisis” do scientists break away from established frameworks and scramble to realign their cognitive commitments.


In particular, I find and discuss three problem areas that a methodology of science must successfully resolve. (1) the relation between a normative methodology and a descriptive history of science, (2) the avoidance of sociologism. . .and (3) the problem of epistemic relativism.


A Paradigm in Crisis: A Study of Thomas Kuhn’s Theory of Science

Kournay, Janet A., Ph.D., Columbia University, 1977


“. . .According to Kuhn’s view, the history of science has been marked by recurring revolutions in both fact and theory. More specifically, it asserts that: (1) Scientific development is not cumulative on the theoretical level: new theories. . .are not additions to, and in fact explanations of, the information contained in older laws and theories. . .but rather, replacements of those older theories, replacements usually called forth to resolve factual difficulties confronting those older theories, replacements that constitute nothing less than scientific revolutions. (2) Scientific development is not cumulative on the factual level: new theories--since they transform the concepts with which scientists describe the world, including observable objects and events, and even the way scientists see the world--new theories transform the facts for scientists as well.


. . .the adequacy of this theory of Kuhn’s is investigated. And the results are quite negative. To begin with, it is determined, in contrast to what Kuhn has claimed, that his theory of scientific development is not based on a close attention to the history of science. On the contrary, the relatively few and undiversified historical examples that are presented by Kuhn are generally too sketchy and undocumented to serve as any kind of support for his view, and sometimes appear even to refute it. And far too frequently, his consideration of historical cases gives way entirely to trivial truths, arguments “in principle,” or unfounded (and false) speculations. And small wonder: as it turns out, Kuhn’s theory implies that the facts, shaped as they are by theories, and changing with them, can never be used to justify any theory, so that it is hardly to be expected that the facts uncovered by historical research justify Kuhn’s theory.


What it leaves. . .is the firm conviction that philosophy of science would profit from more than mere lip-service paid to the history of science.


Paradigmatology, Paradigms and Education: A Study of Thomas Kuhn and Magoroh Maruyama with Implications for Contemporary and Future Education Murrell, Wm. G., Ph.D., University of New Mexico, 1979


The purpose of the study is to investigate the science of paradigmatology. This science is the science of structures of reason or different paradigms. The science of paradigmatology has three branches--(1) the study of different paradigms, (2) cross-paradigmatic communication and (3) trans-paradigmatic process.


Thomas S. Kuhn’s study of paradigms in the European-American tradition of science provides the context for identifying the different paradigms used in this tradition of science. Two different paradigmatic orientations are identified and discussed. The uni-directional causal paradigm is identified as the paradigmatic orientation of the classical view of science and of normal science in Kuhn’s explanation of science. The mutual causal paradigm is identified as the paradigmatic orientation of Kuhn’s explanation of revolutionary science. Criticisms of these two paradigmatic orientations in Kuhn’s explanation of science are considered and related to the development of scientific methodologies. The preference of the European-American tradition of science for the uni-directional causal paradigm is established and is shown to be limited by the monopolarization of paradigmatic commitments during periods of normal science. These limitations are discussed and their influence on the sociological structure of the scientific community is presented in relation to community, communication and education.


The influence of scientific methodologies is discussed to illustrate the appeal that Kuhn’s explanation of the paradigm view of science has had on social scientists in education, sociology, political science, history and anthropology. . . .


The specific characteristics of the uni-directional causal paradigm and the mutual causal paradigm are presented according to Magoroh Maruyama’s analysis of different paradigms. . . .


Cross-paradigmatic communication is discussed to illustrate the influence different paradigmatic perspectives have on communication. . . . Trans-paradigmatic process is the process of creating new paradigms and is the basis for future education. It is contrasted with the textbook tradition of education. The implications of the different orientations of these two paradigms are discussed in relation to contemporary and future education...


Works About Thomas Kuhn:


Amsterdamski, S., Between Experience and Metaphysics: Philosophical Problems of the Evolution             of Science, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1975.

Baillie, P. “Kuhn’s Inductivism,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 53 (1975), 54-57.

Beauchamp, E.W., The Kuhn-Popper Debate, University of Texas dissertation, 1975.

Bellone, E. “Thomas Kuhn e il libre della natura,” Scientia 113(1978), 675-682.

Bloor, D., “Two Paradigms for Scientific Knowledge?,” Science Studies 1(1971), 101-115.

Brown, H., “Reduction and Scientific Revolution,” Erkenntnis 10(1976), 381-385.

Cunningham, F., “Kuhn on Scientific Creativity: An Englesian Critique,” Dialectics and Humanism 5(1978), 73-80.

Daniel, S.H., “On Understanding Kuhn’s Clarification of the Paradigm Concept,” Dialogue 19(1976), 1-7.

Devitt, M., “Against Incommensurability,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 57(1979),29-50.

Doppelt, G., “Kuhn’s Epistemological Relativism: An Interpretation and Defense, Inquiry 21(1978), 33-86.

______, “A Reply to Siegel on Kuhnian Relativism,” Inquiry 23 (1980), 117-124.

Draughton, W.E., Kuhn, Feyerabend, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge, New York University dissertation, 1971.

Flonta, M., “A ‘Weak’ and a ‘Strong’ Version of the Incommensurability Thesis,” Philosophie et logique 20(1978),395-406

Gagnon, M., “Piaget et Kuhn sur l’evolution de la connaissance: unve comparison,” Dialogue 17 (1978), 35-55.

Hanson, N.R., “A Note on Kuhn’s Method,” Dialogue 4 (1965), 371-375.

Kisel, T. With Galen Johnson), “New Philosophies of Science in the USA,” Zeitschrift fur allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 5 (1974), 138-191.

Kleiner, S., “Erotetic Logic and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 21(1970), 147-165.

Kordig, C., The Justification of Scientific Change, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1971.

Kourany, J., A Paradigm in Crisis: A Study of Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science, Columbia University dissertation, 1977.

Lashchyk, E. Scientific Revolutions: A Philosophical Critique of the Theories of Science of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, University of Pennsylvania dissertation, 1969. (One of the first philosophers to argue that Kuhn does not present paradigm changes as irrational.)

________, “A Framework for the Solution to the Rationality Problem,” Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, 1979.

________, “A Rational Reconstruction of Kuhn’s Model of Rationality in Science,” Proceedings of the 16th World Congress of Philosophy, 1978.

Lakatos, I. and Musgrave, A. (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970). (Important papers by Kuhn, Popper, Feyerabend,             Masterman, Watkins, and Pearce Williams).

Laudan, L., Progress and Its Problems, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977 (esp. 133-  151).

Lugg, A., “Kuhn and the Philosophy of Science” [Essay review of The Essential Tension], British Journal for the History of Science.

Machan, T.R., “Kuhn’s Impossibility Proof and the Moral Element in Scientific Explanation,” Theory and Decision 5(1974), 355-374.

________, “Kuhn, Paradigm Choice, and the Arbitrariness of Aesthetic Criteria in Science,” Theory and Decision 8 (1977), 361-362.

Machemar, P.K., “Understanding Scientific Change,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1975), 373-381.

McMullin, E., “Recent Work in Philosophy of Science,” New Scholasticism 40 (1966), esp. 502- 505.

Meiland, J., “Kuhn, Scheffler, and Objectivity in Science,” Philosophy of Science 41 (1974), 179-187.

Meynell, H., “Science, the Truth and Thomas Kuhn,” Mind 84 (1975), 79-93.

Mosley, A., Perspectives on the Kuhn-Popper Debate: New Directions in Epistemology, University of Wisconsin dissertation, 1975.

Musgrave, A., “Kuhn’s Second Thoughts,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22 (1971), 287-297.

_______. History of Science 12 (1979), 289-295.

Novakovic, S., “Is the Transition from an Old Theory to a New One of a Sudden and Unexpected Character?” in R.S. Cohen and M.W. Wartofsky (eds.), Methodological and Historical    Essays in the Natural and Social Sciences (Boston Studies XIV), Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974, 173-196. (Comment by W. Berkson, 197-210.)

Paulos, J., “A Model-theoretic Explication of the Theses of Kuhn and Whorf,” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 21(1980)155-65.

Purtill, R., “Kuhn on Scientific Revolutions,” Philosophy of Science 24 (1967), 53-58.

Putnam, H., “The ‘Corroboration’ of Scientific Theories” in P.A. Schillp (ed.), The Philosophy of Karl Popper (2 volumes), La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1974.

Radnitzky, G. and Andersson, G. (eds.), Progress and Rationality in Science, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1978.

Sarkar, H., Methodology and Rationality: A Critique of Popper and Kuhn, University of Minnesota dissertation, 1976.

Savary, C., “La Conception Kuhnienne de la science et le concept d’ideologie,” Dialogue 17 (1978), 266-285.

Scheffler, I., Science and Subjectivity, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967.

_______, “Vision and Revolution: A Postscript On Kuhn,” Philosophy of Science 39 (1972), 366-374.

Schuster, J.A., “Kuhn and Lakatos Revisited,” British Journal for the History of Science 12 (1979), 301-317.

Shapere, D., “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Philosophical Review 73 (1964), 383-394.

_______, “Meaning and Scientific Change” in R. Colodny (ed.), Mind and Cosmos, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1966, 41-85.

_______, “The Paradigm Concept,” Science 172 (1971), 706-709.

 Shimony, A., “Comments on Two Epistemological Theses of Thomas Kuhn,” in R.S. Cohen, P.K. Feyerabend and M.W. Wartofsky (eds.), Essays in Honor of Imre Lakatos, Dordrecht:     Reidel, 1976.

Siegel, H., “Meiland on Scheffler, Kuhn, and Objectivity in Science,” Philosophy of Science 43 (1976), 441-448.

Sneed, J., The Logical Structure of Mathematical Physics, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1971.

_______, “Philosophical Problems in the Empirical Science of Science,” Erkenntnis 10 (1976),115-146.

Stegmuller, W., “Structure and Dynamics of Theories: Some Reflections on J.D. Sneed and T.S. Kuhn,” Erkenntnis 9(1975),75-100.

________,The Structure and Dynamics of Theories, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1976.

________, “Accidental (‘Non-substantial’) Theory Change and Theory Dislodgement” in R. Butts and J. Hintikka (eds.), Historical and Philosophical Dimensions of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1977, 269-288. (Also in Erkenntnis 10(1976).)

Szumilewicz, I., “Incommensurability and the Rationality of the Development of Science,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 28 (1977), 345-350.

Tibbetts, P., “Hanson and Kuhn on Observation Reports and Knowledge Claims,” Dialectica 29   (1975), 145-155.

Toulmin, S., “Conceptual Revolutions in Science,” Synthese 7(1967), 75-91. (Also in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume III, New York: Humanities Press, 1968; comment by L. Mink, 348-355)

Watanabe, S., “Needed: A Historical-Dynamical View of Theory Change,” Synthese 32 (1975),113-134.

Wisdom, J.O., “The Nature of Normal Science” in P.A. Schillp (ed.) The Philosophy of Karl Popper, two volumes, La Salle, IL, Open Court, 1974, 798-819.

________, “The Incommensurability Thesis,” Philosophical Studies 25 (1974), 299-301.


History of Science:


Berry, C.J., “Kuhn and the History of Ideas” [Essay review of The Essential Tension], British Journal for the History of Science 12 (1979), 295-298.

Buchdahl, G., “A Revolution in Historiography of Science,” History of Science 4 (1965), 55-69.

Greene, J.C., “The Kuhnian Paradigm and the Darwinian Revolution in Natural History” in D. Roller (ed.), Perspectives in the History of Science and Technology, Normal: University of       Oklahoma Press, 1971. (Followed by comments of W. Coleman and L. Wilson.)

Hall, R., “”Kuhn and the Copernican Revolution,” British Journal the Philosophy of Science 21 (1970), 196-197.

Kitts, D.B., “Continental Drift and Scientific Revolutions,” in his The Structure of Geology, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1977, pp. 115-127.

Klein, M., Shimony, A. and Pinch, T., “Paradigm Lost? A Review Symposium” [of Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity 1894-1912], Isis 70 (1979), 429-440.

Kourany, J., “The Nonhistorical Basis of Kuhn’s Theory of Science,” Nature and System 1 (1979), 46-59.

Laudan, R., “The Recent Revolution in Geology and Kuhn’s Theory of Scientific Change” in I. Hacking and P. Asquith (eds.), PSA 1978, Philosophy of Science Association, 1980.

Mehrtens, H., “T.S. Kuhn’s Theories and Mathematics: A Discussion Paper on the ‘New Historiography’ of Mathematics,” Historica Mathematica 3 (1976), 297-320.

Percival, W., “Applicability of Kuhn’s Paradigms to the History of Linguistics,” Language 52  (1976), 285-294.



James D. Strauss

Professor Emeritus

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656