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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Paperback – December 15, 1996

193 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226458083 ISBN-10: 0226458083 Edition: 3rd

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Editorial Reviews Review

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


Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) argued that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions", and in those revolutions "one conceptual world view is replaced by another". The University of Chicago Press has released The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions to the benefit of all students of the history of science, philosophy, and the impact of science on society (and society on the development of science). If every there were a true classic on the history and development of science that is "must" reading for each new generation, it is Kuhn's benchmark work, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. -- Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 3rd edition (December 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226458083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226458083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

166 of 183 people found the following review helpful By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on November 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure if it is still the case, but there was a time when Kuhn's book was _the_ most frequently cited book in scientific literature. With all respect to my fellow reviewers, it might be a tad bit arrogant to dismiss such a book as "puerile."
Before Kuhn, we were taught in school that scientific progress was linear, that it was an unending progression of refinements and developments, with one "truth" leading to the next "truth." Kuhn's insights including pointing out that such a linear progression was mostly a lie. His thesis was that the major developments in science were mostly revolutionary. That some "truths" turned out to be false. Astronomy was revolutionized by Galielo and Copernicus, and man was divested from the center of the universe. Physics was revolutionized by Newton. Biology and Darwin. It didn't hurt that plate tectonics came along shortly after Kuhn published, and Kuhn looked like his model was predictive, too.
Part of Kuhn's impact, I have to admit, was a result of the time which the book was first published. In the middle and late 1960's, questioning authority was the heart of any undergraduate's thinking, and Kuhn's ideas were read by some as a license to question all authority.
Perhaps as a consequence, Kuhn's model has been carried by other writers beyond all reason, with everyone from sociologists to New Age fuzzies usurping his terminology, making "paradigm shift" a nearly instant cliche. But his influence has gone far beyond those who want to mis-apply his ideas to everything from post-modern dance to sociobiology. Uniformitarianism has been bloodied, perhaps permanently. By geologists, evolutionists, archaeologists and more; the influence has been pervasive and real.
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343 of 395 people found the following review helpful By Suet on August 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Thomas Kuhn performed a signal service for historiography of science by studying how new ideas and new ways of thinking displace the old. He invented the term 'paradigm shift' to describe what happens when 'normal science' runs into 'anomalies' and enters a 'crisis', which in turn leads to a 'scientific revolution'. Nobody had heard of such things before, so Kuhn had a scoop. He sketched some historical examples in iconoclastic style; the result is this short book, first published forty years ago and still wowing Cultural Studies students today.

Much of what Kuhn the historian of science says here is sensible and well taken. It has certainly been influential, perhaps in ways the author never intended, and should be read for that reason. But there are odd omissions. The greatest paradigm shift in physics since Newton - the adoption of fully-fledged quantum mechanics after 1925 - finds no significant place in this study. Eminent physicists, including Einstein, and even Schrodinger, one of its founders, regarded the new paradigm with deep distaste on aesthetic and philosophical grounds. Yet the methodology was adopted universally almost at once. What sociological factors, what structures of power and patronage brought this about? We are not told.

It is when Kuhn puts on his philosopher-of-science hat and tells us about the 'incommensurability of paradigms' that we should question what he means, and more especially what some people have read into it. The idea is that Archimedes or Aristotle, encapsulated in their ancient world-view, would have been unable to see what Newton was getting at in his 'Principia'; and likewise Newton if you gave him a copy of Dirac's 'Quantum Mechanics'.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 1997
Format: Paperback
Kuhn, doesn't need any more appreciation (at least not from me), and there's more than enough in the other reviews, so what I'll try to provide is a brief synopsis of how the book outlines Kuhn's radical theory.In many ways, the theory is still radical, because people still want to believe that science marks progress, and moves unerringly from one theory to the next, better one. What Kuhn did, was decimate the idea that the 'progress' of science was a steady movement towards the truth, and the never articulated preconception that the "truth" itself (or if you prefer the better theory) was self-evident and would be recognized on sight.Illustrated with hilarious examples of the manner in which the most scientific of all sciences, Physics, has floundered about over the centuries, the book makes its point very forcefully. There is no science disembodied from scientists, there is no scientific theory that is not profoundly influenced by the scientific and social milieu it finds itself in. Kuhn isn't saying science is completely divorced from "reality" or "truth", the Structure of Scientific Revolutions just looks very closely at major and minor scientific "advances" of hte previous centuries and finds no evidence that suggest the dynamic of scientific progress is smooth.
Kuhn was a physicist, but gave that up to work in History of Science. This book is rather compact for a text that would so radically alter its entire discipline (and many others besides), but that is probably what gives it the broad appeal it has. It's not a "difficult" book, nor is it unduly academic. It's certainly not going to be a cake-walk, Kuhn's conception is sufficiently strange to make demands on the reader (as is his language).
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