Incomplete reflection on the Kuhn’s Structure of the scientific revolution

I was thinking what should I do after reading a book, when I have no one discuss it? So, I thought of writing about it.

In this note I will try to convey what I have learned or experienced after reading the essay, “the structure of scientific revolution” by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn wrote it in 1962 after he began teaching sciences to non-science students. The book lays out a schematic theory for the evolution of science in general and scientific specialties. It draws upon several famous historical examples, mostly from physics and astronomy, but perhaps more to illustrate Kuhn’s system than to substantiate it. The book divided in various chapters with a post-script added by Kuhn seven years later. (That I am yet to read in order to improvised on this note)

During the early twentieth century, a group of logical positivists, (for example Bertrand Russell and  Ludwig Wittgenstein), rejected all metaphysical doctrines and held that true knowledge comes from human experience alone (correct me if I am wrong!), particularly via its most rigorously controlled form, the scientific method: the accumulation of data under controlled conditions, construction of theories on the basis of the data, and verification of theories by experimentation and observation according to objective standards of logic.  Although subsequent adherents to this school often call themselves as logical empiricist’ and they insisted that theories cannot be really verified, only falsified, the underlying assumption  of them was that the history of science has been the unbroken accumulation of knowledge in an orderly, unified sequence. (I will soon add citation to this)

 

In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn disagrees with the logical positivists almost completely. Although he also believed that scientists aim for an increasingly accurate understanding of nature, he found that community of scientists, such as physicists or biologists, often goes through period of divisive disagreement of theory and the nature of data. The final triumph of one faction of a scientific field over another involves the interactions of people. or in other words most scientists spend their entire careers posing and solving problems in accordance with an establish paradigm, assuming that they have fundamental grasp of how nature behaves. (Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm’s defense. for example, Priestley and Lavosier both saw oxygen, but they interpreted their observations differently).

For Kuhn, Science is a social process as well as a knowledge-gathering enterprise. He has given various examples to strengthen his arguments. I am not sharing them to keep the note short.

The key features of his arguments are

  • The idea that sciences relies on paradigms, a term that Kuhn borrowed from linguistics
  • Second was Kuhn’s distinction between normal science and scientific revolutions.
  • Third, Kuhn’s system presents a scientific revolution as phenomena among a community of workers; therefore, it is social.

So, don’t feel bad if you were never good in sciences or in solving those mind-wrecking problems. They are and they were just paradigms. And this also shows us how our education system has been ruined by focusing more on problem solving (May the problem that does not exist at all) rather than critical thinking or questioning.

A science student has no touch with philosophy or social sciences and social science student has no curiosity for sciences. Everything is job oriented. Or better to say, corporate oriented.  Although, the questions that are still with me are about the link between science and technology. How even after rejecting and struggling with many paradigms has not stopped us advancing technologically? There is definitely a link between science and technology.

Kuhn concerns himself with only the pure science, and he specifically addresses the cognitive (or epistemic) function of science. He does not explore science’s ultimate value of truth of its place in human culture. And please note that Kuhn is not underestimating sciences but he is only questioning it.