Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 12, No 2 (2020)

A Critical Assessment of Thomas Kuhn’s Understanding of Scientific Progress

Emmanuel Adetokunbo Ogundele, Abidemi Israel Ogunyomi


Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolution, distinguishes between two types of sciences – one, normal; the other, revolutionary. However, the transition from normal to revolutionary science (what he calls paradigm-shift) is initiated by anomaly. This anomaly arises when the paradigm guiding a particular community of scientists malfunctions, thus resisting all efforts to reposition it. Hence, science for Kuhn, grows through the paradigm-shift initiated by tension. However, Kuhn argues that the process of choosing another paradigm that will guild scientific practices requires a thorough debate among a community of scientists. In this debate, a new paradigm is selected out of numerous competing others by the method of elimination. This selection is based on their ability to solve problems and to guide research work without developing further faults. Nevertheless, in this understanding of scientific growth, in our view, inheres some contradictions. In the first places, Kuhn attributes growth to paradigm-shift through tension and anomaly but argues that a new paradigm must be selected based on its ability not to develop fault. It is not, however clear how paradigm-shift can occur if there is no fault, tension or anomaly in research. Secondly, he bases the selection of a new paradigm on the inarticulate aesthetic sentiments, faith and destiny, which contradicts the initial argument that it must be selected based on its observed inherent problem-solving ability out of the numerous others. We shall discuss these notable flaws in Kuhn’s view of scientific growth, using the method of critical argumentation and conceptual clarification.

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