Who is Thomas Samuel Kuhn?June 26, 2021
18 July 1922 – d. He was an American philosopher and historian of science, who lived between June 17, 1996. Kuhn’s most important work is “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”.
Thomas Samuel Kuhn was born in Cincinnati in 1922 to a Jewish family. His father was an engineer. He studied physics at Harvard University in 1940, where his father also attended. During his college years, he also took courses in philosophy and literature and wrote for the student newspaper Harvard Crimson.
After graduating, he worked in a radio research laboratory at Harvard in 1943. He worked as a radar technician in England and France. After the Second World War, he returned to Harvard and received his master’s degree, and in 1949 he completed his doctorate under Jophn H. van Vleck, who later won the Nobel Prize.
Kuhn becomes a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard. There he is interested in the history of science, but his main interest has always been its influence on philosophy. Kuhn began as an adjunct professor of philosophy and history of science at the University of Berkeley in 1956 and accepted the professorship a few years later. He wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” at Berkeley. This book (which he calls himself “Essay”) was originally intended as part of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. Kuhn’s starting point is Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache, written by Ludwik Fleck, which was not yet well known at the time and contains many of Kuhn’s own views.
He was a faculty member at Princeton University from 1964 to 1979. Then he moved to MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. Co-founder of Kuhn International Academy of Science.
Thomas Samuel Kuhn died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 73.
There are two important concepts in Kuhn’s view of scientificity. These are the concepts of paradigm and crisis.
Kuhn’s philosophical activity has three stages. The first is normal (ordinary science activity), the second is extraordinary science activity, and the last is depression. Normal science is the period when a paradigm exists. The paradigm is twofold. First, he starts a new tradition. It binds those who believe in the ancient tradition. The other is that it offers exemplary problems and solutions. It is broad-ended, leaving new questions and problems for future generations. Artworks that represent great success, that can successfully explain the object in their field, that are open to scientific developments, that leave problems to be solved for future generations, form a paradigm.
Frames consisting of some conjectures that do not fit into the laws of nature are called paradigms.
Let’s imagine there is a paradigm in a scientific community. This works for a while. After a while, somewhere there is a conflict between theory and fact. Addressing this leads to depression. The depression deepens when there is a situation that the paradigm cannot solve. This shows that the paradigm is not working. It paves the way for a new paradigm. It cannot be set aside just because the paradigm is falsified because of a single outlier example.
It is necessary to create a depression when the paradigm is not secure, when there is something new that it cannot explain. This is done so that scholars who believe in the old paradigm will break away. Thus comes a period of extraordinary scientific activity. This lasts until the new paradigm emerges. Extraordinary science activity is a transitional period between two paradigms. This transition is not cumulative, but revolutionary.
Kuhn says that he knows this operation of science by looking at the history of science.
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Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook