The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

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Bird/Antelope Symbol Analysis

Bird/Antelope Symbol Icon

The bird/antelope drawing, a classic Rorschach test, symbolizes paradigm shifts in science. When the piece of paper with the drawing on it is held horizontally, the drawing appears to be of a bird; when it is held vertically, the drawing appears to be of an antelope (another example of this that Kuhn uses is the duck/rabbit drawing). To Kuhn, this rotation of the paper symbolizes how a scientist going through a paradigm shift “sees differently from the way he had seen before.” Just as a someone looking at the bird/antelope drawing vertically perceives a different picture, Kuhn argues that after a scientific revolution, “scientists are responding to a different world.” However, while these Rorschach tests are reversible (one can always flip the paper back to its original orientation), Kuhn is careful to note that the same is not true for paradigm shifts. Once scientists have perceived the world in a new light, they believe that in order for the new paradigm to make sense, all their previous perceptions had to have been mistakes.

Bird/Antelope Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bird/Antelope. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions published in 2012.
Chapter 8 Quotes

The marks on paper that were first seen as a bird are now seen as an antelope, or vice versa. That parallel can be misleading. […] the scientist does not preserve the gestalt subject’s freedom to switch back and forth between ways of seeing. Nevertheless, the switch of gestalt, particularly because it is today so familiar, is a useful elementary prototype for what occurs in full-scale paradigm shift.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), Aristotle, Galileo Galilei
Related Symbols: Bird/Antelope
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bird/Antelope Symbol Timeline in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bird/Antelope appears in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8. The Response to Crisis
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
...this name). If in the old paradigm, scientists looked at a picture and saw a bird, now they have rotated the paper—and so they see an antelope. (full context)
Chapter 12. The Resolution of Revolutions
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
...and so cannot always be proved by logic. “Like the gestalt switch,” in which a bird suddenly appears as an antelope, “it must occur all at once, or not at all.” (full context)