Review of Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ – Chapter 9

Chapter 9 is titled ‘The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions’ in which Kuhn he further discusses the nature of scientific revolutions. An important feature of this chapter is that Kuhn draws parallels between scientific and political revolutions. To support this analogy he explains how within political organisations and scientific communities groups arise with significantly different values from the mainstream. The scientific communities and political parties are housed within the institutions and the new movements are not able to successfully challenge within these institutions but must instead separate from these institutions with the support of their proponents. However Kuhn is careful to distinguish between scientifc and political revolutions. With scientific revolutions there are fundamental features of nature at play which determine the course of events. For instance the scientific paradigm is challenged by an anomaly which becomes a central feature of the new paradigm. The anomaly is a feature of nature and the paradigm which successfully explains the analogy replaces the old paradigm rather than resulting from a cumulative change in the old paradigm. Essentially there is a transformation of paradigms rather than a cumulative change. The logical positivists challenge this assertion by arguing for instance that Newtonian mechanics is a special case of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Kuhn takes time to address this and argues that the restriction that is placed on the Theory of Relativity impinges on the utility of this theory under these constraints. Furthermore the paradigm changes also extend to the rules governing the behaviour of scientists in the scientific community. The proponents of the different paradigms are unable to hold joint discussions since they operate within different frameworks with divergent views which cannot be resolved.

The anomaly therefore is the determining factor in the competition between paradigms as ultimately it is this  anomaly which highlights the problems in the old paradigm and is explained in the succeeding paradigm and this in turn is a feature of nature. I think this perhaps is the most significant differentiator between political and scientific movements assuming of course that the properties of group behaviour are not deterministic but instead are contingent on the interplay between the properties of memes and the properties of the group. Even here however darwinists would argue that memes demonstrate selective fitness and are therefore subject to general principles which with some work can be identified.

Kuhn‘s has produced a very deep work. A chapter such as this can be read repeatedly and still offer new insights. The analogies themselves give the reader the opportunity to use their knowledge of parallel systems to further understand the central arguments. Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’ (see Appendix below for review) in comparison draws on some of Kuhn’s work but reduces the central argument to a simple premise which is significantly easier to challenge. The inter-relatedness of Kuhn’s chapters provides, I think a stark contrast which hints at the ‘Gestalt’ that Kuhn discusses in the previous chapter.


Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Narrated by Dennis Holland. (Paperback originally published in 1962). Audible. 2009.


For a review of the Introduction see here.

For a review of Chapter 1 see here.

For a review of Chapter 2 see here.

For a review of Chapter 3 see here.

For a review of Chapter 4 see here.

For a review of Chapter 5 see here.

For a review of Chapter 6 see here.

For a review of Chapter 7 see here.

For a review of Chapter 8 see here.

In Support of Method – Critique of Feyerebend’s ‘Against Method’ see here.

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