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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Is A Paradigm Shift, Anyway? | WBAA

Photo: Tania Lombrozo
Tania Lombrozo, psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley summarizes, "Thomas Kuhn, the well-known physicist, philosopher and historian of science, was born 94 years ago today. He went on to become an important and broad-ranging thinker, and one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century."

Photo: Yagi Studio / Getty Images

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Kuhn's 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, transformed the philosophy of science and changed the way many scientists think about their work. But his influence extended well beyond the academy: The book was widely read — and seeped into popular culture. One measure of his influence is the widespread use of the term "paradigm shift," which he introduced in articulating his views about how science changes over time.

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

Accordingly, a paradigm shift is defined as "an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way."
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? 

Source: WBAA

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