Front Page Titles (by Subject) Kuhn\'s Paradigm - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Kuhn's Paradigm - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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“Kuhn's World.” The Occasional Review 6 (Summer 1977): 119–148.
How can we explain growth and progress in science, knowledge, and truth? By social consensus or by individual reason, argument, and logic? Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) discounts the role of objective knowledge in scientific progress and emphasizes both the sociology of knowledge and the subjective process by which scientific communities rally around new “paradigms” during a “crisis” or “scientific revolution.”
Kuhn rejects the image of science as an objective, open-minded, empirical search for truth wherever it leads (in order to accumulate and refine knowledge, and test theories). The history and progress of science reveals a more subjective enterprise, with radical discontinuities between rival mesmerizing paradigms.
Kuhn's scenario of scientific progress runs as follows. “Normal science” is the ordinary orthodoxy of scientists following a socially accepted “paradigm” or model of scientific research. The paradigm framework restricts and blinkers the perceptions of normal science, which seeks to improve the paradigm rather than test it objectively. This subjective view contrasts with the objective image of science as a fact, knowledge, and truth discovering process.
What accounts for new research paradigms or traditions that oust the old normal science? The discovery and awareness of anomalies not covered by the ruling paradigm ushers in a “crisis” period with no social consensus about rival paradigms. A scientific revolution occurs when we meet a transition to a new paradigm. Kuhn holds that this paradigm shift is a noncumulative development like a conversion or gestalt switch. The crucial point is that successive paradigms are logically incompatible and incommensurable. Thus, for Kuhn, the issues of paradigm choice can never be settled by logic or experiment alone. Paradigm debates involve noncomparable world views concerning such nonfactual, value-laden questions as which problems are more important to solve. Einstein's world of space, time, and mass is alien to and incommensurable with that of Newton (e.g., Einstein regards mass not as conserved but as convertible into energy).
Because paradigms are incommensurable, it is not objective or logical criteria which decide paradigm choice but rather personal and aesthetic considerations (such as theoretic simplicity). The reasons that convert individual scientists are not as important as “the sort of community” that endorses a successful paradigm. It is not the problem-solving ability of the new paradigm that serves as the unequivocal criterion of paradigm choice; rather, it is the decision of the scientific group itself.
Several objections weaken Kuhn's theory: (1) Kuhn's account of paradigms applies to his own thesis. By what criterion could we judge Kuhn's paradigm as true? Problematically, by the approval of the relevant scientific community. (2) How objective has Kuhn been in citing historical examples to bolster his case if his own paradigm subtly determines which phenomena he notices as relevant? (3) If scientific change is revolutionary and knowledge is noncumulative, can we rightly call this process “progress”? (4) Is the scientific choice between paradigms a sociological problem? Is the group rather than the individual scientist the fundamental unit of analysis? It seems more plausible to see scientific progress as an evolutionary process whereby individuals gradually accept a new paradigm based on objective criteria (the data given by nature, perception, and reason that is stable intersubjective knowledge and hence commensurable).
By decreeing that paradigm debates cannot be settled by logic, experiments, and objective evidence, Kuhn reduces science to an irrational and subjective enterprise. Without commensurable standards, we can never hope to prove one paradigm better than another. Reason exercised by individuals seems a better paradigm to account for scientific progress.