Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions can be seen, without exaggeration, as a landmark text in intellectual history.
In his analysis of shifts in scientific thinking, Kuhn questioned the prevailing view that science was an unbroken progression towards the truth. Progress was actually made, he argued, via "paradigm shifts", meaning that evidence that existing scientific models are flawed slowly accumulates – in the face, at first, of opposition and doubt – until it finally results in a crisis that forces the development of a new model. This development, in turn, produces a period of rapid change – "extraordinary science," Kuhn terms it – before an eventual return to "normal science" begins the process whereby the whole cycle eventually repeats itself.
This portrayal of science as the product of successive revolutions was the product of rigorous but imaginative critical thinking. It was at odds with science’s self-image as a set of disciplines that constantly evolve and progress via the process of building on existing knowledge. Kuhn’s highly creative re-imagining of that image has proved enduringly influential – and is the direct product of the author’s ability to produce a novel explanation for existing evidence and to redefine issues so as to see them in new ways.
Table of Contents
Ways in to the Text
Who was Thomas Kuhn?
What does The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Say?
Why does The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Dr Jo Hedesan is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical History and Humanities at the University of Oxford.
Dr Joseph Tendler received his PhD from the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Opponents of the Annales School.