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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [Paperback]

Thomas S. Kuhn
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 15 1996
Thomas S. Kuhn's classic book is now available with a new index. "A landmark in intellectual history which has attracted attention far beyond its own immediate field. . . . It is written with a combination of depth and clarity that make it an almost unbroken series of aphorisms. . . . Kuhn does not permit truth to be a criterion of scientific theories, he would presumably not claim his own theory to be true. But if causing a revolution is the hallmark of a superior paradigm, [this book] has been a resounding success." —Nicholas Wade,Science "Perhaps the best explanation of [the] process of discovery." —William Erwin Thompson,New York Times Book Review "Occasionally there emerges a book which has an influence far beyond its originally intended audience. . . . Thomas Kuhn'sThe Structure ofScientific Revolutions. . . has clearly emerged as just such a work." —Ron Johnston,Times Higher Education Supplement "Among the most influential academic books in this century." —Choice One of "The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the Second World War,"Times Literary Supplement 

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There's a "Frank & Ernest" comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn's use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science," his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science--all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.

Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts--or the way his work has been used to cast doubt--on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists' reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "Structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." As one of Kuhn's obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." --Mary Ellen Curtin

About the Author

Thomas S. Kuhn was the Laurence Rockefeller Professor Emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include The Essential Tension; Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912; and The Copernican Revolution.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End of Modernism Oct. 21 2003
Thomas Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1922. He taught physics at Harvard, the history of science at Berkeley, and the philosophy and history of science at Princeton and MIT. His best-known book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, introduced the term "paradigm shift" into the modern vocabulary when it was first published in 1962. Kuhn's study of paradigm shifts in science makes it hard to view science as an objective discipline that steadily advances towards the truth. Instead, Kuhn shows science to be a very human enterprise where truth is as likely to be resisted as it is to be embraced.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn defines a "paradigm" as a set of assumptions, rules, or model problems that define what the important questions are and how to go about answering them. Without a paradigm, would-be researchers are overwhelmed by the sheer mass of data. A "paradigm shift" occurs when a group of scientists reject all or part of their existing paradigm to adopt a new one. This process not only means changing assumptions: it also means reevaluating previous conclusions to see if the old facts still fit within the new paradigm.
Kuhn uses the term "normal science" to describe the work that scientists do as they work within a given paradigm. Their shared set of assumptions, rules, and model problems fairly makes it easy to see what research remains to be done. Occasionally, anomalies will appear. These are events that cannot be explained within the existing paradigm. Normal science tends to ignore anomalies. Instead, by concentrating attention on a small range very specific questions, "the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientist Few Scientists Know Nov. 20 2009
This review is more of a personal comment on why I feel scientists should read this book, rather than a summary of ideas within Kuhn's book.

As a research scientist who has worked in government/industry and academia, I was rather embarrassed when I discovered Kuhn's book later in my career. Kuhn, who was a PhD physicist, had published a book that is the most cited single-author publication in the arts and humanities citation index for the later 1900s. Irrespective of what one thinks of his ideas, this track record should be sufficient to make it part of all science education. But, I had never heard of him! With time I discovered that I had lots of company in the scientific community. As I gave seminars to scientific audiences (primarily chemists I will have to admit), in Canada and internationally, on his ideas I discovered that only about 5% had heard of Kuhn, and only about 3% had read any of his books. I know of no science department within research universities that recommends Structure to their students or that requires or recommends their students take a course that would introduce them to Kuhn's and other philosophical examinations of science. If they exist I would be interested in hearing about them.

Compared to many other philosophical and social examinations of science I have read, Structure is, in my perspective as a scientist, easier to read, more organized, and more concise. If you focus on what is innovative, useful, descriptive of some aspects of science, and thought provoking, then this a book a scientist should place at the top of a 'must read' list. How can I call myself a 'scientist' if I have no understanding of the history and philosophy of my field? This statement applies to any professional field.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Essential but agonizing March 20 2004
This was my first book as a master's student in environmental studies. I'd heard of it. I knew it was important. As soon as I saw the reading list, I knew it was going to be the first book.
I struggled to read this book. I struggled to understand it. I struggled to read it again! Let's not kid around. No matter how exciting, innovative, enlightening, and relevant his ideas were, this was the most poorly written book I had ever been subjected to. I started looking around for help because I was drowning in the language. I was trying to grasp the concepts but flailing abuot in a sea of unfamiliar and jumbled words. As I asked around, I discovered something. Just about everyone in a science field has read his book eventually. Physicists, mathematicians, friend of a friend in a biotech lab, a friend in computer science and his wife who teaches it in a drug abuse psychology class... Everyone read this book. Everyone appreciated the revelation in this book once they understood it. Everyone found it relevant to their scientific careers.
Science doesn't take baby steps upward toward 'truth' but a series of ideas that come into consensus that are thrown out for new ones. Doing scientific projects using the same formula as everyone in your field is normal science. When the number of things the consensus can't explain pile up, someone comes up with a new idea to handle those anomaloes. There is a struggle and a new consensus forms. This is very simplified. The book was so difficult for me, as it was for just about anyone I talked to, that I don't claim to understand the ideas fully. But what I did see was relevant.
I had done a thesis in undergrad, and I realized how normal it was. I tested different treatments on plots of land.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars kettlebella
A must read this book teaches the limits of science and allows us to discern all the information out there today
Published 4 months ago by kettlebella
5.0 out of 5 stars good
as it was described perfect condition, I like it, shipped on time and delivered faster than I thought thank you soooo much
Published on Sept. 23 2011 by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, relevant, readable
As a practicing scientist and someone who has always been interested in history and the development of scientific ideas "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" has for long time... Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2011 by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
In many ways, this book is the most important philosophical work of the 20th century. It is, however, a deceptively easy read - the themes and concepts explored by Kuhn are... Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2009 by Moez
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Tho
The complete title of this review is "Philosophic common sense applied to Science Evolution of Thought". Read more
Published on June 17 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
4.0 out of 5 stars How and Why Organizations/Communities Resist Change
This relatively easy read while, focusing on the history of changes in scientific paradigms, really is applicable to a much wider audience. Read more
Published on May 18 2004 by W. Fritz Krauss
5.0 out of 5 stars should be mandatory reading for grad students in all fields
This book, more than any other, has changed the way that I think about scholarship. I am not even a student of the "hard" sciences (I study linguistic anthropology) and... Read more
Published on May 9 2004 by Linguodude
2.0 out of 5 stars This book makes you think, and that's good
Unfortunately, the author, undoubtedly influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant, tries to use reason against itself in a most disgraceful fashion. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by Eric Kassan
5.0 out of 5 stars Science, Its History, and the Its Prospects for Objectivity
Kuhn's work in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions basically introduced the history of science to philosophers of science. Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by ctdreyer
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical Look at Scientific Exploration
How do we know what we know and what assumptions do we make in the process that might be inaccurate? Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr.
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