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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Paperback – 5 Dec 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New ed of 3 Revised ed edition (5 Dec. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226458083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226458083
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

There's a comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn's use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science", his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science--all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.

Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts--or the way his work has been used to cast doubt--on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists' reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science". As one of Kuhn's obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." --Mary Ellen Curtin

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
As a practicing scientist and someone who has always been interested in history and the development of scientific ideas "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" has for long time been the book that loomed large on my intellectual horizon. Thomas Khun's book has for a long time had a reputation as the definitive and seminal work on understanding how new scientific ideas come about and how and why they gain support. Part of my reluctance to start reading this book stemmed from my belief that it would be an overly philosophical work, with a lot of opaque technical jargon, and with very little relevance to actual scientific practice. However, to my great surprise and delight, nothing could be farther from the truth. This book is written in a very matter-of-fact style, and it is easy to understand what Khun is getting at. His own background in science and history of science probably made him very sensitive to the working and thinking of practicing scientists.

The insights that Khun has arrived at are still relevant almost half a century after this book has been published. The idea of "paradigm shifts" has even entered the mainstream consciousness, to the point that it can be caricatured in various cartoons and silly t-shirts. However, after reading this book it is not quite clear to me whether Khun wanted this to be a description of the way that science works, or more of a normative prescription for how to arrive at truly fundamental changes in some scientific discipline. This is particularly relevant for disciplines or directions of research that seem to have gotten stuck in some dead end, as has been the case with particle physics for several decades.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Dalby VINE VOICE on 2 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in the philosophy of science and the good practice of science should read this. I have read both the review of Danny of Arabia and Mr P Briody and they do not understand the significance of Kuhn's thesis. This is not a threat to science, science cannot be threatened by something that captures its very essence.

This is how we do science and as a research scientist for now nearly 20 years it is certainly how I see science from the inside. This is not crank philosophy or something from the creationist movement, this is an intelligent discourse. It does not have any hidden relgious agenda. It just states that science is relativistic and science is relativistic, only very bad scientists would ever argue that they know the absolute truth.

More than this it is well written and accessible and it should be read much more widely. It certainly is a clearer view than Popper's and while they are different in some aspects they do not present a completely different view of science. Both agree that certainty does not exist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Fliberdigibek on 18 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is not the easiest book to interpret if you come to it cold. Those of a relativist inclination tend to leap too easily on the apparent claim that science isn't so special after all and is merely a sociological phenomenon. Scientists tend to see it as arguing that there is nothing about the current state of science that is better than Aristotle. The end result is that people tend to either love it or hate it, but they've both misinterpreted it - in my opinion.

In his later writings Kuhn makes clear that he feels there is some sense in which science advances. But he is unhappy with what he perceives to be simplistic explanations of what that sense is. Indeed he struggles to articulate it clearly himself. Some of the other reviews claim that he must be wrong because of the successes and accuracy of science, but Kuhn never denies the operational successes and the extraordinary accuracy of prediction. He is simply uncomfortable with the claim that extreme accuracy implies that the ontology of the theory is closer to the truth than less accurate theories. I think he's struggling with what such a claim really means and I think his doubts are not unreasonable.

Sometimes, particularly in Structure, he is too bold in his statements. Personally I think that his claim that theoretical words change meanings during scientific revolutions is sound, but I'm not so sure that pre- and post-revolutionary science are truly incommensurable. His observation that there is very rarely a cast iron falsification of a theory is, in my opinion, an accurate challenge to naive Popperianism, but he is frequently misinterpreted as claiming that therefore there are no good reasons for adopting a new theory.
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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Aug. 2000
Format: Paperback
As anyone who invests the time to study the customer responses below will see, Kuhn has a lot of fans. I myself read the Structure of Scientific Revolutions back in my early student days, and at the time I was inclined to look on it quite favourably. Recently however, I decided to reread it, and now am no longer sure that I holds any philosophical water. Personally I would still say read this book - but do not accept everything it says uncritically - much of the underlying philosophical basis of the argument (the incommensurability of paradigms, the relationship between observation and theory, etc) is open to question.
Kuhn is also subject to multiple interpretations as a quote from below demonstrates:
(Gdyas) "Kuhn is NOT arguing that anything that silly socio-psychobabble that all science is colored by personal perspective, and therefore faulty. What Kuhn doing is making the essential connection between the immutable fact and the people discovering and interpreting it. Scientists collect facts and build from them an idea of how things work as a whole. This is what he calls a paradigm. It thoroughly describes our reality as we have thus far been able to describe it. BUT: when a fact is discovered that does not fit this paradigm, the reality itself is discarded, and after a bit of chaos, a new paradigm is installed. Thus, science uses fact to produce a way of interpreting the world that more and more closely approximates reality"
From my reading of Kuhn, I would regard the last sentence in particular as highly questionable as a summary of his views. Kuhn himself wrote:
"One often hears that successive theories grow ever closer to, or approximate more and more closely to, the truth.
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