Paradigm shift

You have probably come across the term “paradigm shift” before. But who invented it and what does it really mean?

The term was elaborated in Thomas S. Kuhn’s book – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.


“Achievements that share these two characteristics I shall henceforth refer to as ‘paradigms’”:

“(1) Their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity. (2) Simultaneously, it was sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve”.

Extraordinary science:

“History of science indicates that, particularly in the early developmental stages of a new paradigm, it is not even very difficult to invent such alternates. But that invention of alternates is just what scientists seldom undertake except during the pre-paradigm stage of their science’s development and at very special occasions during its subsequent evolution”.

“The proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research”.

Revolution leading to paradigm shift is characterised by questions that cannot be answered by normal science:

“Like the issue of competing standards, that question of values can be answered only in terms of criteria that lie outside of normal science altogether, and it is that recourse to external criteria that most obviously makes paradigm debates revolutionary”.

Revolution is likely to be settled by someone from a different field who uses a different paradigm routinely.

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