Front Page Titles (by Subject) Paradigms and Determinism - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Paradigms and Determinism - 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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Paradigms and Determinism
“The Basis For An Alliance Between Social and Intellectual History.” (Delivered at the University of California, Irvine; revised version in a forthcoming book edited by John Higham and Paul Conklin.)
How free are we as laymen or scientists to change our minds and learn from experience? The deterministic implications of intellectual and social history tend to make men the prisoners of paradigms or ultimate presuppositions that arise not from rational, conscious choices but rather from unconscious causes.
Intellectual history shares with social history a comparatively deterministic outlook on human action. Unlike political historians, who focus on the deliberate and free choices of individual human agents, intellectual and social historians have tended to see human affairs in less voluntaristic terms. These latter historians view history as the deterministic product of unconscious mental beliefs or institutional structures.
A recent illustration of the deterministic premise underlying intellectual history is Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's book “assumes” that mankind's basic assumptions—the “paradigmatic” ones—are normally immune to the objective, experiential evidence that might modify or falsify them. Kuhn described how orthodox or normal scientific research tenaciously followed a paradigm tradition even when confronted by contrary evidence. If the accumulation of these anomalies became too disturbing, a “crisis” or even a scientific revolution might result: a wholesale shift of legitimacy and community loyalty from one paradigm tradition to another.
Kuhn's major innuendo reflects intellectual history's belief that men, even scrupulous scientists, are normally the slaves of unexamined assumptions. The deepest layers of assumption in belief systems, Kuhn claimed, are so tenacious and mind-numbing that they shape experience more often than are shaped by it. The overarching paradigm that generates theory and experiments normally remains impervious to experience. Presuppositional paradigms determine what the scientist will construe as falsifying evidence, yet these paradigms remain and so are immune to falsification. Except in unforseen revolutionary moments (whose births seem fathered by irrational causes rather than purposeful reasons), paradigms are not tested.
Stephen Toulmin in Human Understanding, vol. I (Princeton, 1972) objected that the very method of intellectual history, in quarrying for influential presuppositions, itself presupposes a deterministic interpretation of human thought and conceptual change. R.G. Collingwood, in his 1940 work An Essay on Metaphysics, had anticipated Kuhn in highlighting the unreasoned and nonobjective process by which people, under the sway of “absolute” presuppositions or “paradigms,” transfer their loyalties from one to another. Toulmin has criticized the determinism of both Collingwood and Kuhn, and has sharpened the issue to an alternative between rational free will and determinism: “Do we make the change from one constellation of absolute presuppositions to another because we have reasons for doing so; or do we do so only because certain causes compel us to?”
Toulmin has also indicted Kuhn's analysis for failing to be a true theory of conceptual change. Kuhn's analysis explains tenacity and tradition rather than the mysterious way that paradigmatic assumptions either withstand anomalies so long or (just as mysteriously) collapse and lose community allegiance.