Thomas Kuhn: - normal science - ordinary day-to-day activities that scientists engage in when their discipline isn't undergoing revolutionary change

  • paradigm (model / patroon) - consists of two components: a set of fundamental theoretical assumptions that all members of a scientific community accept at a given time, and a set of ‘exemplars' or particular scientific problems that have been solved by means of those theoretical assumptions, and that appear in the textbooks of the discipline in question.
  • in short a paradigm is an entire scientific outlook - a constellation of shared assumptions, beliefs, and values that unite a scientific community and allow normal science to take place.
  • normal science = puzzle solving - trying to eliminate minor puzzles (problems) while making as few changes as possible to the paradigm
  • normal scientists accept the paradigm unquestioningly, and conduct their research within the limits it sets. The paradigm itself is not negotiable.
  • anomalies - phenomena that simply cannot be reconciled with the theoretical assumptions of the paradigm, however hard normal scientists try. When anomalies can't be ignored anymore, the existing paradigm isn't trusted anymore and this marks the beginning of a period of ‘revolutionary science'.
  • scientific revolution = paradigm shift
  • “The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience which cannot be forced”.
  • peer pressure
  • Kuhn didn't believe in the ‘cumulative, linear' conception of science
  • facts about the world are paradigm-relative, and thus change when paradigms change
  • different paradigms are incommensurable (not able to be judged on the same standard) and incompatible (incapable of existing together). But is it possible for the two to exist together?
  • incommensurability of standards: the idea that proponents of different paradigms may disagree about the standards for evaluating paradigms, about which problems a good paradigm should solve etc. So even if they can communicate effectively, they will not be able to reach agreement about whose paradigm is superior.
  • theory-ladenness of data: data are invariably contaminated by theoretical assumptions. It's impossible to isolate a set of ‘pure' data which all scientists would accept irrespective of their theoretical persuasion. Does objective truth exist?
  • algorithm for theory choice - a set of rules that when applied to two competing theories would tell us which we should choose. According to Kuhn there is no such thing.
  • Kuhn's work has played a role in the rise of cultural relativism in the humanities and social sciences. (truth is always relative to a particular culture)
  • Kuhn's work wasn't intended to undermine or criticize the scientific enterprise, but rather to help us understand it better.

Logical positivism - science is a paradigmatically rational activity, the surest route to the truth that there is. (period prior to publication of Kuhn's book)

  • Payed little attention to history of science (ahistorical).
  • drew a sharp distinction between what they called the ‘context of discovery' and the ‘context of justification'
  • ‘context of discovery' refers to the actual historical process by which a scientist arrives at a given theory: subjective, psychological process that wasn't governed by precise rules according to positivists.
  • ‘context of justification' refers to the means by which the scientist tries to justify the theory once it's already there (includes testing the theory, searching for relevant evidence etc.): objective matter of logic according to positivists.
distinction between theories and observational facts - positivists believed that disputes between rival scientific theories could be solved in a perfectly objective way, by comparing the theories directly with the ‘neutral' observational facts.
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