The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas Kuhn:

Kuhn begins by formulating some assumptions that lay the foundation for subsequent discussion and by briefly outlining the key contentions of the book.

  1. A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs (p. 4).
    1. These beliefs form the foundation of the “educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice” (5).
    2. The nature of the “rigorous and rigid” preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a “deep hold” on the student’s mind.
  2. Normal science “is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like” (5)—scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
  3. To this end, “normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments” (5).
  4. Research is “a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education” (5).
  5. A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly “subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice” (6). These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—”the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science” (6).
    1. New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
    2. When a shift takes place, “a scientist’s world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory” (7).