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Thomas S. Kuhn:

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions     



1.  Introduction:

--We shall want to describe that research as a strenuous & devoted attempt to force nature [sensations] into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education.  5

--Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like.  5

2.  The Route to Normal Science: 

--The study of Ps (hereafter P). . . is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular scientific community . . . . 11

--In the absence of a P . . . all of the facts [sensation] that could possibly pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.  As a result, early fact-gathering is a far more nearly random activity . . . 15.

--If . . . belief is not already implicit in the collection of facts [induction] -- in which case more than ‘mere facts’ are at hand -- it must be externally supplied . . . 17

3.  The Nature of Normal Science: 

--That enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the performed & relatively inflexible box that the P supplies.  No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. 24

5.  The priority of Ps: 

--Scientist . . . never learn concepts, laws, & theories in the abstract [Plato] and by themselves.  Instead, these intellectual tools are from the start encountered in a historically & pedagogically prior unit that displays them with & through their applications [how-to-do-it, pragmatic performative knowledge, Aristotle]. 46  Cf.  In learning a P the scientist acquires theory, methods, & standards together, usually in an inextricable mixture. 109

6.  Anomaly & Emergence of Scientific Discoveries: 

--Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the P-induced expectations that govern normal science. 52-3

--Professionalization leads . . . to an immense restriction of the scientist’s vision & to a considerable resistance to P change.  The science has become increasingly rigid.  On the other hand, within those areas to which the P directs the attention of the group, normal science leads to a detail of information & to a precision of the observation-theory match that could be achieved in no other way.  64-5

7.  Response to Crisis: 

--Once it has achieved the status of P, a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place. 

--The decision to reject one P is always simultaneously the decision to accept another . . . 77

--[Why some anomalies are powerful]  1)  Sometimes an anomaly will clearly call into question explicit & fundamental generalizations of the P; 2) practical importance [in regard to application, technology]; 3) mere length of time [it has been an embarrassment]. 82

-- The rules of normal science become increasingly blurred [regarding methods & charlatans]. 83

--In periods of acknowledged crisis . . . scientists have turned to philosophical analysis as a device for unlocking the riddles of their field [i.e., they shift from doing science to analyzing the rules & assumptions for doing it; from physics to metaphysics]. 88

8.  Nature & Necessity of Scientific Revolutions: 

--Like the choice between competing political institutions, that between competing Ps proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life.

--Each group uses its own P to argue in that P’s defense.

--It [a new, foreign P] cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle.

--There is no standard [of truth] higher than the assent of the relevant community [the consensus of expert judgment/opinion]. 94

--No P ever solves all the problems it defines & P debates always involve the question: Which problems is it more significant to have solved?  Like the issues of competing standards, that question of values can be answered only in terms of criteria that lie outside normal science altogether.  110

10.  Revolutions as Changes of World View: 

--Is sensory experience fixed & neutral?  Are theories simply man-made interpretations of given data?  The epistemological viewpoint that has most often guided Western philosophy for three centuries dictates an immediate & unequivocal, Yes! *  I find it impossible to relinquish entirely that viewpoint.  Yet it no longer functions effectively, & the attempts to make it do so through the introduction of a neutral language of observations now seem to me hopeless.

   The operations & measurements that a scientist undertakes in the laboratory are not “the given” of experience but rather “the collected with difficulty” [i.e., a process of judgment/selection necessarily informed by theory/belief]. 126

--The alternative [to belief, judgment & interpretation] is not some hypothetical “fixed” vision, but vision through another P [which may not be recognized as such] 128.

11.  The Invisibility of Revolutions: 

--Partly by selection & partly by distortion, the scientists of earlier ages are implicitly represented as having worked upon the same set of fixed problems & in accordance with the same set of fixed canons [methods] that the most recent revolution in scientific theory & method has made seem scientific.  138

12.  Resolution of Revolutions: 

--The competition between Ps is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs [because empirical proof must be guided by theorey, which can only be supplied by the P]. 148

--The transfer of allegiance from P to P is a conversion experience that cannot be forced [comparable to religious conversion].  151

--The man who embraces a new P at an early stage must often do so in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving.  He must . . . have faith that the new P will succeed with the many large problems that confront it, knowing only that the older P has failed with a few.  A decision of that kind can only be made on faith.

--Something must make at least a few scientists feel that the new proposal is on the right track, & sometimes it is only personal & inarticulate aesthetic considerations that can do that.  158.

12.  Progress through Revolutions: 

--Until the very last stages in the education of a scientist, textbooks are systematically substituted for the creative scientific literature that made them possible.  165

--It is a narrow & rigid education, probably more so than any other except perhaps in orthodox theology.  *  Scientific training is not well designed to produce the man who will easily discover a fresh approach.

--In its normal state, then, a scientific community is an immensely efficient instrument for solving the problems or puzzles that its Ps define. 166

--Scientific education makes use of no equivalent for the art museum or the library of classics, & the result is a sometimes drastic distortion in the scientist’s perception of his discipline’s past.  More than the practitioners of other creative fields, he comes to see it as leading in a straight line to the discipline’s present vantage.  167

--The bulk of scientific knowledge is the product of Europe in the last 4 centuries.  No other place & time has supported the very special communities from which scientific productivity comes. 

--We may . . . have to relinquish the notion . . . that changes of paradigm carry scientists . . . closer & closer to the truth.  170

--Nothing that has been or will be said makes it a process of evolution toward anything [absolute or a fixed point outside the P]. 170-1


--People do not see stimuli [sensations]; our knowledge of them is highly theoretical [dependent on & imbedded in discourse] & abstract. 192

--The route from stimulus to sensation is in part conditioned by education [culture].  Individuals raised in different societies behave on some occasions as though they saw different things. 193

--We have no direct access to what it is we know, no rules or generalizations with which to express this knowledge.  Rules which could supply that access would refer to stimuli . . . & stimuli we can know only through elaborate theory.  In its absence, the knowledge embedded in the stimulus-to-sensation route remains tacit.

--We do not see electrons, but rather their track or else bubbles of vapor in a could chamber.  We do not see electric currents at all . . . [cf. Descartes on wax as a conception not a collection of sensations/impressions] 196.

--There is, I think, no theory-independent way to reconstruct phrases like “really there”; the notion of a match between the ontology of a theory & its “real” counterpart in nature now seems to me illusive in principle.  206

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