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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [Paperback]

Thomas S Kuhn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Dec 1996
Thomas S. Kuhn's classic book is now available with a new index."A landmark in intellectual history which has attracted attention far beyond its own immediate field. . . . It is written with a combination of depth and clarity that make it an almost unbroken series of aphorisms. . . . Kuhn does not permit truth to be a criterion of scientific theories, he would presumably not claim his own theory to be true. But if causing a revolution is the hallmark of a superior paradigm, [this book] has been a resounding success". --Nicholas Wade, "Science" "Perhaps the best explanation of [the] process of discovery". --William Erwin Thompson, "New York Times Book Review" "Occasionally there emerges a book which has an influence far beyond its originally intended audience. . . . Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" . . . has clearly emerged as just such a work". --Ron Johnston, "Times Higher Education Supplement" "Among the most influential academic books in this century". -- "Choice" --One of "The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the Second World War", "Times Literary Supplement" Thomas S. Kuhn was the Laurence Rockefeller Professor Emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include "The Essential Tension; Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912; " and "The Copernican Revolution".

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: 20.3 x 13.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, relevant, readable 16 Aug 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterwork 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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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but difficult to interpret in isolation 18 Mar 2010
"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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars the good book that spawned a lot of mediocre thinking
This is another of those books that are more talked about than read. It was conceived as a modest work of sociology on certain types of tranistion in science - those in the... Read more
Published on 13 May 2011 by rob crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This book is motivated by how we write the history of science. Descriptive theory. Are there any prescriptive insights here? Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2010 by A reader
2.0 out of 5 stars YAWN
besides what the other reviers state ill add that even if one DOES accept the philosophy of kuhn that would merely mean that philosophy and science wasnt useable for much. Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2010 by sanyata
1.0 out of 5 stars Now philosophers don't need to feel bad...
Philosophy has seen more and more of it's best parts hived off into other subjects. One sometimes gets the feeling this leaves a type of "science envy". Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2008 by Danny of Arabia
1.0 out of 5 stars Mumbo-jumbo works best when least understood.
Kuhn's ideas are not new, he references Fleck's seminal monographs, but this is an aside. The point is that both Fleck AND Kuhn are just WRONG. Read more
Published on 20 May 2008 by Mr. P. Briody
5.0 out of 5 stars Small and perfectly formed: one of the greats of 20th Century...
A true classic of twentieth century literature, this wonderful little book, which argues for the contingency of scientific knowledge, deserves space on the bookshelf next to The... Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2007 by Olly Buxton
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but be prepared to read between the lines.
As anyone who invests the time to study the customer responses below will see, Kuhn has a lot of fans. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars To be read by all 'educated' persons by the turn of 21 centu
I challenge you to suggest another work which provides a perspective such as this book provides.This book is profound ... and extremely intelligent. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars got it wrong...
As a scientist and someone who has always loved this book, I wanted to try and clarify Kuhn's message for Chris. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 1999
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