Chapter 10 of Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ is titled ‘Revolutions as Changes of World View’ and is the lengthiest of the chapters. Kuhn continues his central argument from previous chapters that scientific revolutions involve a change in perspectives and he writes that the scientist must
‘learn to see a new Gestalt‘
Indeed after a revolution the scientist must learn to ‘see a new world’ and the student of science is trained to see the world in this way. There are significant differences between these perspectives which are ‘incommensurable’. Kuhn draws a parallel with an experiment in which subjects were required to wear inverting prisms and learnt to adapt to this new visual world – there is a transformation in their perception. He goes further and suggests that perception of scientific paradigms and visual perception share a similar underlying physiology. A similar analogy is drawn with the previously mentioned experiment involving anomalous cards presented as part of a sequence. Kuhn suggests that the evidence for these changes in perspective should be sought in behaviours (although it is also possible to examine the perceptual constructs themselves rather than behavioural proxies).
Kuhn questions the assumptions that the perception follows directly from the sensory observations as outlined in the highly influential philosophy of Descartes. He emphasises the importance of an understanding of the mind in understanding science and asserts that there is an absence of a language of perception. Kuhn gives examples to support his argument including the identification of atomic elements which resulted from a different perspective rather than a focus on experimentation alone. Indeed he describes John Dalton who formulated the atomic theory as a meteorologist rather than a chemist who approached some of the questions posed by chemists by using a different paradigm. Along the way he replaced the affinity theory which had predominated up until that time. In this example it becomes clear that the paradigm change involved a change in culture in which common assumptions were abandoned, where debate between highly regarded proponents of the different perspectives illuminated the core issues in the paradigm change and in which a significant proportion of the scientific community would need to be persuaded of the advantages of the new paradigm.
This chapter raises many questions and further defines the nature of the paradigm changes Kuhn refers to throughout.
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.
For a review of Chapter 9 see here.
In Support of Method – Critique of Feyerebend’s ‘Against Method’ see here.
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