Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Just a note: If you have been following my reading of Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Part I, Part II, Part III) you may be feeling a bit uncomfortable by now. At least, I hope you are (and I hope it’s not because of boredom or the tediousness of my writing!). If you are, its because Kuhn’s analysis leads to what many have called a “crisis of rationality.” Don’t worry, it gets worse. And that makes it much better. I have planned three more posts on Kuhn. We press on.

The Storming of the Bastille

The silly part about Kuhn’s essay is that he relates the progressive activities of science to political revolutions. This is nearly as bad as when athletes consider their “game” (which I thoroughly enjoy watching) to be a “war.” It is no wonder that war is an acceptable part of life today, for we clearly have no idea how truly horrifying it actually is. But I digress…

Popular French weight loss system

Despite my requisite disgust at the use of violent metaphors, there is actually something to the analogy. The revolution is preceded by a growing mistrust of the dominant authority, be it a government or a governing paradigm (it’s interesting, the analogy between a paradigm and a government, isn’t it?). As the unsolved problems multiply, unrest grows and a new solution or framework is sought. Then comes the guillotines. Well, not quite yet, but they are oiling them up, getting them ready for action. (So much for my righteous anger at violent metaphors…)

For Kuhn, the impetus for a paradigm shift is the emergence of anomalies, a “phenomenon for which the paradigm has not prepared the scientist.” However, because of the formative power of the prevailing paradigm, novelty in both experimentation and theory is very difficult to come by. It seems – and this is my conjecture – that paradigms and worldviews have a certain ‘stickiness’ to them (not unlike the blades of a guillotine after a hard day’s work – one must remember to thoroughly clean one’s guillotine if one wants to keep it in working order for a long time!). What I mean by this is that once we are embedded in a system of thought, it is difficult to remove ourselves from the paradigm and invent, for lack of a better term, a new worldview/political system/paradigm. It takes quite a jolt, and according to Kuhn comes only after a long and arduous process. (more…)


Read Full Post »