Paradigm shift

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File:Duck-Rabbit illusion.jpg
Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way.

A paradigm shift, as identified by American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn, is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline.



  • Kuhn acknowledges having used the term "paradigm" in two different meanings. In the first one, "paradigm" designates what the members of a certain scientific community have in common, that is to say, the whole of techniques, patents and values shared by the members of the community. In the second sense, the paradigm is a single element of a whole, say for instance Newton’s Principia, which, acting as a common model or an example... stands for the explicit rules and thus defines a coherent tradition of investigation. Thus the question is for Kuhn to investigate by means of the paradigm what makes possible the constitution of what he calls "normal science". That is to say, the science which can decide if a certain problem will be considered scientific or not. Normal science does not mean at all a science guided by a coherent system of rules, on the contrary, the rules can be derived from the paradigms, but the paradigms can guide the investigation also in the absence of rules. This is precisely the second meaning of the term "paradigm", which Kuhn considered the most new and profound, though it is in truth the oldest.
  • What we need, then, is a new 'paradigm' - a new vision of reality; a fundamental change in our thoughts, perceptions, and values. The beginnings of this change, of the shift from the mechanistic to the holistic conception of reality, are already visible in all fields and are likely to dominate the present decade. The various manifestations and implications of this 'paradigm shift' are the subject of this book. The sixties and seventies have generated a whole series of social movements that all seem to go in the same direction, emphasizing different aspects of the new vision of reality. So far, most of these movements still operate separately and have not yet recognized how their intentions interrelate. The purpose of this book is to provide a coherent conceptual framework that will help them recognize the communality of their aims. Once this happens, we can expect the various movements to flow together and form a powerful force for social change. The gravity and global extent of our current crisis indicate that this change is likely to result in a transformation of unprecedented dimensions, a turning point for the planet as a whole.
    • Fritjof Capra (1982) The Turning Point Preface.
  • The world does not change, but we work in a new world. The world that does not change is a world of individuals. The world in and with which we work is a world of kinds. The latter changes; the former does not. After a scientific revolution, the scientist works in a world of new kinds.
    • Ian Hacking, "Working in a New World: the Taxonomic Solution" in Paul Horwich (Ed.), World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science (1993)
  • The transition from a paradigm in crisis to a new one from which a new tradition of normal science can emerge is far from a cumulative process, one achieved by an articulation or extension of the old paradigm. Rather it is a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes some of the field’s most elementary theoretical generalizations as well as many of its paradigm methods and applications. During the transition period there will be a large but never complete overlap between the problems that can be solved by the old and by the new paradigm. But there will also be a decisive difference in the modes of solution. When the transition is complete, the profession will have changed its view of the field, its methods, and its goals.
    • Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Chap. 8 : The Response to Crisis
  • One perceptive historian, viewing a classic case of a science’s re-orientation by paradigm change, recently described it as “picking up the other end of the stick,” a process that involves “handling the same bundle of data as before, but placing them in a new system of relations with one another by giving them a different framework.” Others who have noted this aspect of scientific advance have emphasized its similarity to a change in visual gestalt: the marks on paper that were first seen as a bird are now seen as an antelope, or vice versa. That parallel can be misleading. Scientists do not see something as something else; instead, they simply see it. We have already examined some of the problems created by saying that Priestley saw oxygen as dephlogisticated air. In addition, the scientist does not preserve the gestalt subject’s freedom to switch back and forth between ways of seeing. Nevertheless, the switch of gestalt, particularly because it is today so familiar, is a useful elementary prototype for what occurs in full-scale paradigm shift.
    • Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Chap. 8 : The Response to Crisis
    • Kuhn is quoting here from Herbert Butterfield The origin of modern science. 1946
  • A fundamental change is taking place in the nature and application of technology in business, a change with profound and far-reaching implications for companies of every size and shape. A multimillion dollar research program conducted by the DMR Group, Inc., studied more than 4,500 organizations in North America, Europe, and the Far East to investigate the nature and impact of changes in technology. The synthesis and analysis of this information indicate that information technology is going through its first paradigm shift. Driven by the demands of the competitive business environment and profound changes in the nature of computers, the information age is evolving into a second era. Computing platforms in most organizations today are not able to deliver the goods for corporate rebirth. It is only through open network computing that the open networked client/server enterprise can be achieved. In nontechnical language this book shows managers and professionals how to take immediate action for the short-term benefits of the new technology while positioning their organizations for long-term growth and transformation...
    • Don Tapscott and Art Caston (1993) Paradigm Shift: The New Promise of Information Technology. McGraw Hill, Inc. Abstract

External links

This page was moved from wikiquote:en:Paradigm shift. Its edit history can be viewed at Paradigm shift/edithistory