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on 12 March 2017
It was for a friend, who likes it
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on 6 April 2017
Probably the greatest non-fiction book I've ever read. Fantastic !
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on 24 April 2017
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 August 2012
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from Ptolemy's earth-centred solar system to the Copernican sun-centred paradigm and Newtonian mechanics being superseded by quantum mechanics.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.

Whether you are a practicing scientist, someone interested in science, or someone who would like to know more about how scientific breakthroughs happen you'll greatly benefit from reading this book. You may not agree with Khun's every conclusion, but the longevity of the ideas presented here makes them relevant for every serious discussion about scientific endeavor.
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VINE VOICEon 2 October 2008
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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on 12 November 2015
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. My point being that some new paradigms have a more profound impact than others on the scientific community and society at large. If we take the Quantum Revolution as an exemple, it had implications and consequences far beyond what many other new paradigms ever had. Quantum Physics had a huge philosophical influence and continues to have deep repercussions across the intellectual world. And from QP are continuously derived an infinite array of technological applications. Each paradigm in every science had its own influence, but some had more impact than others. I wish Kuhn had discussed this aspect, but I am not sure he even mentioned it.

Potential readers also need to know that the various examples given by Kuhn are mainly taken from the history of physics and chemistry. There is practically nothing about the life sciences, which ironically are dominant today. That may be the reason why I thought the book was a bit dated. Yet it remains a must read for anyone who wish to better understand the fascinating process of scientific discovery.
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on 15 June 2013
Beautifully written. There's a tendency to over-egg the case, and perhaps Kuhn should say more about the extent to which relevant scientists saw themselves as engaging in revolutionary change. But a great account of the struggle for understanding in the field of science; even non-scientists ought to find it gripping. Helpful introduction to this edition by Ian Hacking.
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on 18 March 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. Arguably the force of his statements in Structure is partly responsible for this interpretation, but he explicitly states in later writings that this is a misunderstanding.

Overall I really recommend reading "The Copernican Revolution" and "The Essential Tension" in addition to Structure, because reading his historical works illuminates his philosophical position. I think you'll see that Kuhn has been misused by those who wish to champion extreme relativism.
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on 16 August 1999
As a scientist and someone who has always loved this book, I wanted to try and clarify Kuhn's message for Chris.
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. Point is, until anyone proves otherwise, the paradigm in place is the one that works. Science is the continual establishment and discarding of these paradigms as fact permits.
While this seems simple now, when it came out it was a revolutionary contradiction to the staid and now seemingly antiquated belief that science is a clean, steady progression to a full understanding of all phenomena. Truth is that, as Kuhn so elegantly illustrates, it moves by jumps and starts, with periodic changes in the equilibrium of things.
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