The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas S. Kuhn

Book cover

Worthwhile reading for anyone somehow involved in an academic field, whether scientific or otherwise. It took me a long time to get through this short book, just because there are so many thoughts packed onto each page. It’s really not a book I could read casually.

The term “paradigm” has entered the popular lexicon from Kuhn’s work, but there’s a lot of interesting content here. I was particularly interested in Kuhn’s descriptions of the process by which one paradigm replaces another. In his view, it has little to do with “falsification,” largely because different paradigms often have completely different value criteria as to what counts as an important phenomenon to describe, and especially early in its existence, no paradigm does a particularly good job explaining the world (or its small slice of the world). Rather, the shift occurs as a process of “conversion” much like a religious conversion, or, to use another analogy Kuhn employs, like learning to think in another language. Also interesting–the very different nature of “normal science” and “revolutionary science,” the nature of “pre-scientific” research in various fields, and the way the the use of textbooks obscures the nature of revolutionary science.

I read this book in large part because I was interested in thinking about economics through his lens, and continue to wonder whether the recent financial crisis will lead to a paradigm shift or revolution in Kuhn’s sense. I did not come away from the book with a clear view on these topics, but I certainly feel like the concepts he discusses are valuable and may stay with me for a long time.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars