|Photo: Tania Lombrozo|
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|The Structure of Scientific Revolutions|
Inspired, in part, by the theories of psychologist Jean Piaget, who saw children's development as a series of discrete stages marked by periods of transition, Kuhn posited two kinds of scientific change: incremental developments in the course of what he called "normal science," and scientific revolutions that punctuate these more stable periods. He suggested that scientific revolutions are not a matter of incremental advance; they involve "paradigm shifts."
Talk of paradigms and paradigm shifts has since become commonplace — not only in science, but also in business, social movements and beyond. In a column at The Globe and Mail, Robert Fulford describes paradigm as "a crossover hit: It moved nimbly from science to culture to sports to business."
But what, exactly, is a paradigm shift? Or, for that matter, a paradigm?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following:
Simple Definition of paradigm:
- : a model or pattern for something that may be copied
- : a theory or a group of ideas about how something should be done, made, or thought about
More than 50 years after Kuhn's famous book, these definitions may seem intuitive rather than technical. But do they capture what Kuhn actually had in mind in developing an account of scientific change?