The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions can help.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Themes

Themes and Colors
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
Normal Science vs. Extraordinary Science Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Linear Progress vs. Circular History

From physics to chemistry to biology, science textbooks tend to present the history of science as a linear story of progress. Thomas Kuhn, a historian who first trained as a physicist, argues the opposite: in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he suggests that each great scientific discovery ushers in a new way of looking at the world (what Kuhn calls a paradigm), which then prompts a new set of scientific questions and…

read analysis of Linear Progress vs. Circular History

Perception and Truth

Though scientists’ work relies on collecting empirical data, Thomas Kuhn’s treatise The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argues that scientists’ views of the world also play an important role, because their perceptions are what dictate which questions they ask and what they focus on in their research or experiments. As Kuhn sees it, each radically new scientific discovery ushers in a new way of perceiving the world—what Kuhn calls a paradigm—that the scientists in…

read analysis of Perception and Truth

Intuition and Emotion

Science is usually thought of as an objective discipline based on observation, facts, and hard data. Yet in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, historian Thomas Kuhn argues that science is far less logical than it seems. Kuhn believes that each world-altering scientific discovery, from the law of gravity to the theory of relativity, actually begins with intuition—in a “lightning flash” of genius, one scientist’s instincts lead them to experience the world in a new…

read analysis of Intuition and Emotion
Get the entire The Structure of Scientific Revolutions LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions PDF

Community and Knowledge

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, historian of science Thomas Kuhn argues that many of the most important scientific discoveries are made by individuals. However, these individuals’ insights can only be applied in specific, real-world ways when a larger group of scientists learn about them and accept them as fact. Kuhn thus claims that community is essential to scientific work—only when many scientists have similar educations and a shared set of goals can they…

read analysis of Community and Knowledge

Normal Science vs. Extraordinary Science

Science textbooks present science as an endless process of new discovery. But in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, historian Thomas Kuhn argues that the kind of work most scientists do day-to-day actually discourages novelty and original thinking. Instead, Kuhn suggests that there are two different kinds of science: extraordinary science, in which one individual suddenly conceptualizes the world in a new light, and normal science, which involves trying to “force nature” to…

read analysis of Normal Science vs. Extraordinary Science