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perihelion January 4, 2020

Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Reading Thomas S. Kuhn’s book was an enlightening experience. Much more than a mere compilation of facts, Kuhn’s brilliant and insightful writing exposes the very roots of the problem of writing a “history of science.” Whereas other books I have read on the subject, have made their case based soley upon an abstract historicism, or a factual mishmash of dates, Kuhn finds the fine blend of theory and fact. It would in fact be difficult to classify the book along our traditional academic lines. For, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is not a simple work of a historian, philosopher or scientist. Kuhn’s work is much more, since it is able to bring these disperate academic pursuits together in a cogent and forceful form. In the process Kuhn creates an entirely new vision of the sciences, technology, culture, and the history which unites them. Kuhn begins his task by attacking the prevailing “logical empiricist view” of the history of science. He deposes the idea of “rules” which govern history calling such a rigid notion inadequate for a full explanation. The simple problem of dating a scientific discovery substantiates Kuhn’s call for revision. Was the theory of relativity “invented” when Einstein wrote his first theoretical papers on the subject or when he finished his final revision? Kuhn claims that such scientific advances cannot be seen solely as singular events, but more precisely as movements within what he comes to define as a paradigm.