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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Paperback – 5 Dec 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

About the Author

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.

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Probably the greatest non-fiction book I've ever read. Fantastic !
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Thomas Kuhn's controversial 1962 book produced a radical change in the way of thinking about science and also introduced the now pervasive term 'paradigm shift'.
Before Kuhn, the orthodox view was that science progressed in an evolutionary, cumulative way, gradually getting nearer to the 'truth'. In a nutshell, Kuhn's thesis states that there are alternating periods of 'normal' and 'revolutionary' science. After a revolutionary paradigm shift normal science is resumed with a new theoretical framework. Examples of this shift are the transition from Ptolemy's earth-centred solar system to the Copernican sun-centred paradigm and Newtonian mechanics being superseded by quantum mechanics.
'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions', which has now sold 1.4 million copies, is one of the most influential books of the 20th century and this 50th Anniversary Edition has an excellent new preface by philosopher Ian Hacking.
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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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By Andrew Dalby VINE VOICE on 2 Oct. 2008
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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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When I undertook to read this great classic I expected it to be a book about the history of science, but I ended up reading a philosophy of science treatise. But I have to say that I am in complete agreement with almost everything Kuhn says about the process of scientific discovery. So much so that I did not have the impression of learning a great deal because everything Kuhn said in his famous essay was already integrated to my own view of the evolution of science. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the notion of paradigm in science is very well known today, to the point that various authors now take it for granted.

If I don't have any problems with what Kuhn says, I do have problems with the language he uses, which is very formal. This essay is way too academic for my taste. It gave me the impression to have been written for peers rather than the general public. And that is the main reason why I did not give it the full five-star rating it deserves. And the book is also a bit dated. It was originally published in 1962 and was partly based on ideas he had developed as early as 1949. And the way science is practiced today has considerably evolved since that time. But the basic premises still remain valid today. For most scientists the idea that science is a human endeavour fraught with subjective considerations and non-linear progress must be hard to swallow. As for the philosophers of science I think they have taken this book way too seriously. They generally have a tendency to focus on the individual trees and therefore cannot see the forest. Because of that they seem to have had difficulty to put Kuhn's ideas together into a meaningful whole.

If there is one weakness to this book it is a lack of differentiation between the various paradigms of science.
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