Thomas Kuhn's View of Science Essay

2943 Words Apr 28th, 2013 12 Pages
Thomas Kuhn’s View of Science
Peter Roberts

Thomas Kuhn was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the 20st century. Beginning his academic career in physics, he developed an interest in the history of science, which eventually saw him turn to the philosophy of science. His ideas were influenced strongly by the time he spent studying the works of historical scientists, such as Aristotle and Copernicus, in their original contexts. Kuhn were published his seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962. Kuhn describes the work of scientists in a scientific field as being conducted under the banner of a ‘paradigm’, which he defined as “universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model
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Pre-science, characterised by constant debate amongst practitioners over basic fundamentals, moved into a mature science with the birth of its first paradigm.

Kuhn named this activity of scientific puzzle solving ‘normal science’. Normal science, said Kuhn, was the usual work of scientists, solving problems and further articulating the paradigm under which they work 8 . Normal science involves formulation of theories and experimentation. Puzzles are solved, and many phenomena are observed that would not have even been searched for (or perhaps recognised) had it not been for the guiding influence of the paradigm. Often normal science continues for a very long time with many such successes. Along the way, scientists may come upon counter examples or inexplicable phenomena. These, however are usually not cause for general concern, and are pushed aside or explained away. For example, an anomaly was observed in the orbit of Mercury in 1859 by Urbain Le Verrier. He noted that the rate of the precession disagreed from that predicted from Newton’s theory by 38 arc seconds per century. The problem was largely ignored, with a number of unsuccessful ad hoc solutions being proposed in the years that followed. Eventually, however, such anomalies mount up and can no longer be ignored. Kuhn noted that many scientific fields had undergone periods of

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