The following is an attempt to interpret Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ using the framework of a discipline which is eclectic, pragmatic and empirical in approach. The starting point of this interpretation is a review of ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ which the reader will find via the link in the Appendix. This third part is a response to Chapter 3 of Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. In this chapter, Kuhn focuses on the nature of normal science.
In moving from a specific science to an eclectic science whose community interacts with many other scientific communities, Kuhn’s conclusions imply that the eclectic scientific community will have a limited role in the normal science of these other scientific communities. However they can play a more influential role in the revolutionary period marking paradigm changes although the conditions under which this occurs are not specified. However in building up a more accurate picture of the complexities of nature, the eclectic scientist must work with a multimodal model with each component sitting within a different community. Whilst a single model may enable a single community to work within relatively controlled conditions, a better approximation to nature through multimodal models necessitates a transition from controlled conditions to increasing boundaries of uncertainty.
This transition necessitates an understanding of the scientific community as well as the need to understand other scientific communities and to be able to build a valid bridge between the central paradigms. This is the crux of the problem. Can an essence of the paradigm within a community be abstracted and integrated with the essence of another paradigm or are the paradigms inherent
within the scientific communities.
The question raises three possible answers. Firstly that the paradigms of different communities are incommensurable which Kuhn suggested was true of paradigms within a community at a time of revolutionary science. The second possibility is that the paradigms are reconcilable but they require an integration of the abstracted essences of these paradigms. The third possibility is also that they are reconcilable but are embedded within the communities and any reconciliation will result from communication between communities and perhaps even the development of a specialised interface language.
Review of Chapter 3 of ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ (see also below)
In Chapter 3 of Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ he focuses on the ‘nature of normal science’ and interestingly gives due consideration both to qualitative and quantitative approaches. The core essence of this chapter lies in three tenets:
1. That ‘normal science’ within a paradigm establishes significant facts
2. That ‘normal science’ attempts to relate facts to theory
3. That ‘normal science’ aims to expand upon theory
These key features of Kuhn’s concept of ‘normal science’ also pre-empt his later discussion of scientific revolutions. What is also interesting about this chapter is that Kuhn again relates scientific paradigms to social structures within the scientific community. For example a successful paradigm will address some of the acute problems faced by the scientific community. Kuhn also makes a point about the complexity of nature being made to ‘fit’ into the relatively rigid structure of a paradigm. While on the subject it is also tempting to apply the same argument to Kuhn’s approach to paradigms in the sense that this is a generalisation about quite complex activities in a vast range of different sciences. This in itself deserves further reflection as it would mean that the concepts of paradigms, normal science and revolutionary science can be subject to the same iterative process he suggests to apply to science itself although strictly speaking this is philosophy. Kuhn has some interesting comments about those that do not work in paradigms and how such scientists are generally ignored by the scientific community unless they are part of a revolutionary movement. As with previous chapters Kuhn offers the reader much to reflect on.
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