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Thomas Kuhn – Metaphysiologist

“Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses.” – This guy ->

Kuhn came from a background in physics, having obtained his Ph D from Harvard University but later through academic freedom switched to history of science and philosophy. After obtaining his Ph D he began teaching University of California Berkeley, later moving to Princeton and finally MIT. It was at Berkeley that he published what’s considered his most influential work and a landmark in history, philosophy and scientific knowledge, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions.

The main concept highlighted in his book was questioning the foundations of knowledge so much that one is forced to change how they view the world, resulting in a paradigm shift. A paradigm is a lens which one views the world through. An example of a paradigm shift may be turning to a religious point of view from a scientific view or vice-versa. This is as opposed to the concept of inquiring further and deeper knowledge in a specific paradigm, which is the traditional way of science.

So really, this guy didn’t follow the zeitgeist (am I using the word right?) of the time. His concept of paradigm shifts and questioning foundations is quite against the norm of science, even in our society today. Developments in science such as the discovery of the Higgs Boson are testaments to that.

Personally, as much as I fancy the concept that there’s always more to be gleaned through questioning the foundations of what one knows, there’s also an intangible line of “leave well enough alone” that I wouldn’t like to cross. Before he became curious and started researching about the Matrix, it can be said that Neo had a reasonably average life. After discovering the Matrix however, all of what Neo knew as reality was flipped inside-out and spun 180 degrees. This is a rather extreme example and it was for the greater good that Neo gave his life, but I’d rather ponder and know within my own relative reality.



5 thoughts on “Thomas Kuhn – Metaphysiologist

  1. I think Kuhn’s work might be thought of as the actual consideration of the zeitgeist itself; the shift in paradigms that he talks about are built out of the sort of shift in consciousness that is characterized as the ‘zeitgeist’ of different conceptual periods, or cultural eras. At different times, different people are responsible for the progression of the zeitgeist – artists, scientists, politicians, and other public individuals – but most often these ideas begin to spread organically within society: people we give credit for these shifts are merely those who ‘put their finger on it,’ so to speak.

    In this way, do you think that his idea of paradigm shifts might be considered part of our modern expectations of history, science and culture? (ie, Do we just not expect for the future to be so fundamentally different from the present that it is difficult to imagine?)

    Posted by Bryan | October 26, 2012, 9:09 pm
    • So what you’re saying is that Thomas Kuhn rather defined the zeitgeist through his work, and the social norm is whatever paradigm a society as a whole generally looks through?

      I think it might be a stretch to say that paradigm shifts are the “social norm.” If the conversations I can’t help but overhear in the hallways in my day to day life gives any representation, the future in all its broadness is not quite what many my fellow schoolmates have in the forefront of their minds.

      That being said, it is an idea that the future may be fundamentally different than we are now, however it seems as though such predictions can be overshot by quite a bit. Speculations from the 1900s included personal flying vehicles for everyone by the turn of the century. And while celebrities and politicians seem to be leading the way in that regard, I don’t think our society will evolve to be as such anytime soon.

      I think I speak for everyone when I say that I cannot predict the future of our society (although environmentalists may lean a bit towards the apocalyptic view of things) but instead of expectations for the future, perhaps it may be easier to use the classic guess and check method. After all, I daresay the human race is among the more adaptable of species in this world.

      Posted by carrotdandan | October 30, 2012, 4:16 am
  2. Another interesting aspect of Kuhn approach to scientific paradigm shifts is why and when we switch from one paradigm to the a new one. Is it only related to the fact we discover a better paradigm? The fact that the previous paradigm fails more and more to describe the reality? Or perhaps even some external and non-scientific reasons? And what does the existence of paradigms tells us about the quest for absolute truth through science?

    Posted by Celso Gonzalez | October 29, 2012, 5:35 pm
    • I think you hit it spot-on, that ultimately it’s the individual’s choice based on whatever judgement they use to shed their current paradigm for another, more befitting to them paradigm. And I believe that Kuhn’s ultimate goal was to shed some more light (another paradigm, if you will) onto the subject of scientific truths and how through shifting older paradigm for new, supposedly superior paradigms, we may approach the infinity that is truth.

      Posted by carrotdandan | October 30, 2012, 4:23 am


  1. Pingback: Scientific Philosophy Group Headings | Philosophy 12 - September 30, 2013

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