Meaning of paradigms


Paradigm can be defined as "a set of scientific and metaphysical beliefs that make up a theoretical framework within which scientific theories can be tested, evaluated, and if necessary revised" (Cambridge dictionary of philosophy). Kuhn considers paradigms as scientific practices or accepted models, which include laws, theories, applications, instrumentations. They offer the models, from which the particular coherent traditions of scientific research spring. (See also Galilean and Aristotelian traditions of science)

The word "paradigm" can be used in different scopes: we can talk about general paradigm of science (e.g. inductive-deductive paradigm, in which theories are constructed by induction and applied by deduction, refer to general paradigms in diciplines (e.g. Newtonian mechanics or quantum mechanics, Euclidean or Cartesian geometry) or consider just specific theories or views in some subdiscipline (e.g. Maxwell's mathematization of electormagnetic field, light optics).

Paradigms and scientific changes

Logical empirists believed that the science changes gradually, as a cumulative process, in which new empirical facts cause revisions in theories and are added to ever-increasing knowledge base. As a contrast, Kuhn argues that scientific changes are in fact changes of paradigms. The scientific changes occur by 'revolutions' in which an older paradigm is overthrown and replaced by a new framework which is incompatible or even incommensurable with it. These episodes of revolution are separated by long periods of "normal science" during which the theories are refined and elaborated. These normal times are also called periods of "puzzle solving", because they are more like tinkering with details than searching the truth.


Kuhn, T.S.: The structure of scientific revolutions. 2nd edition. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970.

For future study: The Western paradigm

Shepperson and Tomaselli: in Europe the scientific paradigm is Cartesian-Newtonian. -> too limited for e.g. African culture

R. Rorty: in Western though there is a specific kind of dialogue within which valid knowledge claims can be made. Claims that fail to conform this spesific mode of justification are dismissed as "priest-crafts"?

A. Gramsci: "common sense" of European establishment intellectuals = "eloborated practices of that group of people who subscribe to the notion of a scientfic method" (Shepperson and Tomacelli, refering to Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks", 1971).

Western dichotomy: subjective vs. objective - basis of European languages Descartes: mind vs. matter -> human and natural sciences

M. Whiteman: "Philosophy of space and time and the inner constitution of nature: a phenomenological study". Macmillan, London, 1967.

- theoretical basis of Western science is paxis upon which
Euclidean geometry is based? -> necessity that symbolic thought
relates coherently to some convergent practical activity.
- classical shapes are intelligible because they relate to the
absolute grids of space and time in the Newtonian cosmological model.
- symbolic logic rests on the deductive discourse of linear proof argument
- number systems are related to measuring devices
- everything must be measurable by numbers; + linear time conception