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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

“Thomas Kuhn, Is Science Objective?”~ Aidan, Dylan, Katherine


Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn was born on July 18, 1922. He was an American physicist, historian, and scientific philosopher. Before Kuhn, there wasn’t any really detailed map of how science progressed. But he helped to paint a picture of the way that science was able to grow and contribute more knowledge to the scientific community. Kuhn discussed his answer to the question “is science objective” quite clearly in is 73 years of living. His universally acclaimed novel The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was the gateway into his thinking of the objectivity of science. Through different books and essays, Thomas Kuhn let us into his world of how he views the progress of science, and his views on the objectivity of science as a whole. So, let’s delve into the mind of the paradigm shifter himself, and find out if science is truly objective.

Before Kuhn, science was thought to progress with the continual adding of new theories to an old theory and adding new beliefs in to the same realm of old beliefs. Kuhn did not agree with this theory. Kuhn instead saw science as having two different forms, “normal science, and “revolutionary science.  He saw normal science as being the form that was described as the old theory of how science progressed. He described it as the regular work of a scientist within a certain set of beliefs, where they keep adding new theories to an already existing theory, and keep adding up onto it. His theory of revolutionary science is a bit more dramatic. Revolutionary science is the way in which science progresses with the total shifting of views on a certain scientific idea. This was the main point behind Kuhn’s outlook on the progress of science. He described a set of thoughts or collection of opinions on one topic as a paradigm, and the dramatic shift of opinions on the topic as a paradigm shift. Revolutionary science was when a paradigm shift would take place, and an existing paradigm would be replaced with a new paradigm. This was opposite to the idea of normal science, and was how Kuhn described science to progress.

Paradigms and paradigms shifts were the focal points behind Kuhn’s theory of revolutionary science as described above, and the main way that Kuhn was able to answer the question of the objectivity of science. In science, a paradigm is a theory or set of thoughts that is widely accepted and practiced as the truth at that time. A paradigm shift is a total change in your set of view about a particular paradigm and it is most closely related to scientific progress but you could use it as a way to describe your own personal beliefs. We all exist in our own different paradigms. We all have our own personal beliefs on certain things and our outlook on the world is affected by those beliefs. And we can experience paradigm shifts in our own lives where our views on certain things are turned upside down. And as well, the scientific community and society exists in certain paradigms through out history at all. For example, right now we exist in the paradigm that landmasses are being moved constantly by continental plates. This is different from the old theory that the continents were always where they are. Thomas Kuhn believed that there are so many different paradigms going around, and that all the time they are changing, that there is no way that science can just settle on one of them. The existence of paradigms and paradigm shifts make it so that science isn’t just based on one total truth, but instead many different ideas of the truth.

File:Duck-Rabbit illusion.jpg

Rabbit – Duck Optical Illusion



This was a picture that helped Kuhn to describe his idea of paradigm shifts, and the idea of how everyone sees different things even if they are looking at the same concept in science and elsewhere. Just as in this picture, you may happen to see a rabbit, or you may happen to see a duck. Or you may see a shape which no one else has seen before. This helped him to describe the idea of different paradigms as being different ways of seeing things and making science subjective that way since we each see something different.



So with all this information, is science objective? Through the lens of Thomas Kuhn, we would have to say that it is not. Thomas Kuhn would say that since there are so many competing paradigms and differences of opinions, science is subjective. Because all theories are based on subjective conditioning and ideas, there is no way that science is able to be fully objective. Science can only progress and shift and change as different paradigms are brought up, and it is subject to be flipped on its head again and again.  Therefore, science is a way to study and understand the world in a collective way, but based on opinions and outlooks that continue to change as time goes on.


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