The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

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The term paradigm shift refers to the process by which scientists learn to perceive the world differently. “When the transition [from one paradigm to another] is complete,” Kuhn writes, “the profession will have changed its views of the field, its methods, and its goals.” In other words, scientists begin to view the world from a fresh perspective, asking new questions and using new methods to find answers.

Paradigm Shift Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quotes below are all either spoken by Paradigm Shift or refer to Paradigm Shift. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

When acute, this situation is sometimes recognized by the scientists involved. Copernicus complained that in his day astronomers were so “inconsistent in these [astronomical] investigations . . . that they cannot even explain or observe the constant length of the seasonal year.” “With them,” he continued, “it is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head and other members for his images from diverse models, each part excellently drawn, but not related to a single body, and since they in no way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.” Einstein, restricted by current usage to less florid language, wrote only, “It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built.”

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), Nicolaus Copernicus, Albert Einstein
Related Symbols: Jigsaw Puzzles
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Examining the record of past research from the vantage of contemporary historiography, the historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. […] In so far as their only recourse to that world is through what they see and do, we may want to say that after a revolution scientists are responding to a different world.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Looking at the moon, the convert to Copernicanism does not say, “I used to see a planet, but now I see a satellite.” That locution would imply a sense in which the Ptolemaic system had once been correct. Instead, a convert to the new astronomy says, “I once took the moon to be (or saw the moon as) a planet, but I was mistaken.”

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), Nicolaus Copernicus
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Though a generation is sometimes required to effect the change, scientific communities have again and again been converted to new paradigms. Furthermore, these conversions occur not despite the fact that scientists are human but because they are.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:
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Paradigm Shift Term Timeline in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The timeline below shows where the term Paradigm Shift appears in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6. Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discovery
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Normal Science vs. Extraordinary Science Theme Icon
Kuhn argues that a paradigm shift begins with an “anomaly”: some case or instance in which the rules of the paradigm... (full context)
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
Lavoisier’s discovery of oxygen initiated a paradigm shift . But Kuhn is careful to point out that Lavoisier had long been skeptical of... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Response to Crisis
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Moreover, as Kuhn insists, a true paradigm shift is not cumulative; instead, it requires scientists to go back to basics. To illustrate this... (full context)
Chapter 10. Revolutions as Changes of World View
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
...and the particular normal-scientific tradition that the student has been trained to pursue.” When a paradigm shift occurs, therefore, part of the student’s world changes. (full context)
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
...theory of perception to describe why this is the case. Kuhn thus hopes for a paradigm shift in both psychology and philosophy that would help him explain this non-fixed, non-neutral form of... (full context)
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
...and family structures in general. Paradigms do not determine single facts or experiences, and so paradigm shifts affect many ideas and observations at once.  (full context)
Chapter 12. The Resolution of Revolutions
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
But rather than seeing this miscommunication as evidence of scientists’ stubbornness, Kuhn believes that a paradigm shift is “a conversion experience that cannot be forced.” If normal science is effective because it... (full context)
Chapter 13. Progress through Revolutions
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Normal Science vs. Extraordinary Science Theme Icon
...for moments of crisis (and subsequent scientific revolutions), this textbook-based education also helps to make paradigm shifts possible. However, it does not necessarily equip students to think outside the box in the... (full context)
Postscript - 1969
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
...pre-paradigm periods, scientific communities share some basic ideas and beliefs. What really changes in a paradigm shift is that the shared beliefs become more specific—they offer more “challenging puzzles” and supply better... (full context)
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
...most demonstrate the need for Kuhn’s argument. Similarly, he acknowledges that the crises that start paradigm shifts may be introduced from other disciplines or subgroups. (full context)