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What Is A Paradigm Shift, Anyway?

https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/07/18/486487713/what-is-a-paradigm-shift-anyway?t=1591168088414

npr.org

What Is A Paradigm Shift, Anyway?
Thomas Kuhn, the well-known physicist, philosopher and historian of science, was born 94 years ago today. Psychologist Tania Lombrozo takes a look at what his "paradigm shift" really means.

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A paradigm shift

A paradigm shift

To define a paradigm shift, we should first look at a definition for a paradigm.

A paradigm is defined as a pattern that may be copied, or a group of ideas about how something should be done, made or thought about.

A paradigm shift is then defined as a major change that happens when a new and different way replaces the regular way of thinking or doing something.

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History of the paradigm shift

Psychologist Jean Piaget saw children's development as a series of separate stages marked by periods of adjustments. Inspired partly by Piaget, Thomas Kuhn - a physicist, philosopher, and historian of science -proposed two kinds of scientific change:

  • Incremental developments in the course of "normal science."
  • Scientific revolutions that accentuate the more stable phases.

He proposed that scientific revolutions are not a matter of incremental progress; they involve "paradigm shifts."

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Various distinct senses

The term paradigm can be used in many distinct senses. For example:

  • A paradigm could refer to a special kind of achievement that draws an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, but is open enough to leave all sorts of problems for the new group to solve.
  • Paradigms can be used to offer general epistemological viewpoints, like a broad sweep of reality, when it "determines large areas of experience at the same time."

What Thomas Kuhn meant originally by paradigm has, over time, assumed an expansive set of meanings, sufficiently open-ended to allow other possibilities to be explored.

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Paradigm Theory

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When A Paradigm Shifts

A paradigm shift occurs when one paradigm theory is replaced by another:

  • Ptolemy's astronomy giving way to Copernican astronomy.
  • Newtonian physics (time and space are the same everywhere for everyone) replaced by Einsteinian physics. (time and space are relative to the observer's frame of reference.)

Thomas Kuhn and Why Paradigms Shift

The term "paradigm shift" was coined by the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). He argued that science couldn't advance until most people working within a field agree upon a paradigm. Before the agreement, collaboration and teamwork are restricted.

Once a paradigm theory is established, those working within it can start doing normal science. But now and then, normal science reveals anomalies that can't be explained within the dominant paradigm. When the inexplicable results start piling up, it eventually leads to a "crisis."

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  • French biologist Louis Pasteur said in 1854 on originality as a special gift: 'Fortune favours the prepared mind.'
  • In 1903, American inventor Thomas Edison said of genius that it is '1 per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration'.
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Original work in the world of commerce

In the early 20th century, original work entered the world of commerce. Chemical, pharmaceutical and electrical companies hired large numbers of academically trained scientists, believing that innovation was vital to commercial success and that science belonged in commercial organisations.

Companies such as General Electric and Eastman Kodak didn't think creative and productive work had anything to do with hiring awkward geniuses but with finding the organisational forms that allowed ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

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