James A. Marcum: Thomas Kuhn's Paradigm Shift


Thomas Kuhn’s influence on the academic and intellectual landscape in the second half of the twentieth century is undeniable. It spans the natural sciences, and the historical and philosophical disciplines that examine them, through to the fine arts and even to business. But what did Kuhn espouse? In brief, he popularized the notions of the paradigm and the paradigm shift. A paradigm for Kuhn is a bundle of puzzles, techniques, assumptions, standards and vocabulary that scientists endorse and employ to undertake their day-to-day activities and thereby make remarkable advances in understanding and explaining the natural world...

In 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – the book in which Kuhn set out his ideas on paradigms and scientific development – was published, as the final monograph in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. In 1964 he joined Princeton University’s history and philosophy of science programme; and in 1979, he left Princeton for the department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. In 1991, Kuhn became professor emeritus; and he died on June 17, 1996 in Cambridge, MA.

In Structure, Kuhn’s main aim was to criticize the widely accepted view – promoted by the Logical Positivists – that the accumulation of scientific knowledge across time is incremental and contiguous.