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Paradigm: A Criterion for Choosing Problems

  1. Jul 18, 2008 #1
    Paradigm: A Criterion for Choosing Problems

    I graduated in 1959 as an electronics engineer. I had been taught how to use math to solve engineering problems. I was taught how to do math but never taught what math and science was really about. After reading Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” several years ago I began to understand the ways of math and the ways of solving problems in the natural sciences.

    Normal science is a puzzle-solving enterprise. Normal science is a slow accumulation of knowledge by a methodical step-by-step process undertaken by a group of scientists.

    “One of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions…A paradigm can, for that matter, even insulate the community from those socially important problems that are not reducible to the puzzle form, because they cannot be stated in terms of the conceptual and instrumental tools the paradigm supplies.”

    The author notes that all “real science is normally a habit-governed, puzzle-solving activity” and not a philosophical activity. Paradigm and not hypothesis is the active meaning for the ‘new image of science’. Paradigm is neither a theory nor a metaphysical viewpoint.

    Kuhn’s new image of science—the paradigm—is an artifact (a human achievement), a way of seeing, and is a set of scientific problem solving habits. Normal science means research based upon one or more past achievements ‘that some particular community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice…and these achievements are sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group pf adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity’ furthermore they are sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to solve’. Such achievements Kuhn defines as paradigm.

    “A puzzle-solving paradigm, unlike a puzzle-solving hypothetico-deductive system, has also got to be a concrete ‘way of seeing’.”

    Kuhn constantly refers to the ‘gestalt switch’ when discussing the switch in reference from one paradigm to another as ‘re-seeing’ action. Each paradigm has been constructed to be a ‘way-of-seeing’. Here Kuhn is speaking not about what the paradigm is but how the paradigm is used. He is defining a paradigm as a newly developed puzzle-solving artifact that is used analogically to understand another artifact; for example, using wire and beads strung together to facilitate understanding the protein molecule.

    I think that we place “Science” on too high a pedestal and thereby distort our comprehension of political and social problems. We cannot solve social and political problems like we solve the questions formed by the normal sciences.

    Do you think that we place Science on too high a pedestal?
  2. jcsd
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