Thomas S. Kuhn

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sterl's argt condensed: kuhn relativizes the cartesian divide without overturning it, and therefore renders it general.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Friday, 29 July 2005 22:33 (sixteen years ago) link


I've read through your post several times without seeing where Kuhn's story is wrong or why you conclude that physics as it's currently practiced is not paradigmatic. I wonder what you think "paradigmatic" means. The phrase "anomaly-driven problem solving" isn't relevant to the question - it's a straw man, since Kuhn never said that the problem solving in normal science is mostly devoted to explaining anomalies. Whether it is or not is beside the point, at least in regard to the concept "paradigm," given that according to Kuhn all problems within a normal science - not just the anomaly-driven ones - must be approached within the framework of the accepted paradigms, and most use exemplars. The question of whether there is life on Mars is not anomaly-driven, but nonetheless is within the paradigms of modern chemistry and biology. For what it's worth, where Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions discusses anomalies (chapter 6), they are not the bread and butter of normal science but rather the precursors to revolutionary science (albeit the result of normal science).

A quick example that illustrates both normal and revolutionary science (and I don't pretend to understand the physics that I'm summarizing): When Planck back in the 1890s and early '00s, doing normal science, tried to derive a distribution law for black-body radiation, he modeled his derivation after Boltzmann's derivation of the entropy and velocity distribution of a gas. So Planck wasn't trying to fix an anomaly, but rather to solve problem B by following a strategy used earlier in solving a similar-seeming problem A. This is an example of what Kuhn means by normal science, and Boltzmann's derivation is an example of what Kuhn means by an exemplar. Again, what makes it normal science of its day is that it uses an accepted model and is within the framework of classical physics. What eventually takes it out of normal science and makes it revolutionary is that one of the adjustments that has to be made to Boltzmann's method in order for it to work on the black-body problem is that energy levels have to be posited as discontinuous; this adjustment blows a hole in classical physics. (By the way, according to Kuhn, Planck didn't recognize at first that discontinuity was a requirement - he had in fact botched his derivation, though this was only discovered later by Einstein, who'd already figured out in 1906 (as had Ehrenfest) that discontinuity was required. Planck himself didn't come around to this view until 1908 (according to Kuhn).)

Your point about money is as irrelevant here is it was upthread. Why shouldn't problem solving go where the money is? If you want to say that Kuhn's account of normal science is wrong, you have to show that, whoever chooses the problems, and however the research is paid for, (1) the science conducted does not model itself upon strategies derived from previous puzzles, and (2) the science is not conducted within the framework of accepted paradigms.

"Pure science" versus some other sort of science (that paid for by the Pentagon, etc.) is your bugaboo, or Fuller's, but it has nothing one way or another to do with Kuhn, who never uses the phrase "pure science" or distinguishes between pure and impure. The question as to whether the science is "pure" or not, and who pays for it, simply has no bearing on the concepts "paradigm" and "normal science."

Mind you, I don't understand modern physics well enough to speak with any competence about whether it's paradigmatic or not, or whether it's going through a protracted crisis or not. Physicists don't seem to be acting as if it's in crisis, at least not in accounts read by this layman. Whether it's in crisis or not, relativity and quantum physics don't seem to be on the verge of being abandoned, and physics hasn't broken into two competing schools, those who support relativity versus those who support quantum physics, has it? Therefore, I don't see how you can say that physicists don't share the same disciplinary matrix/paradigm.

Also, is the lack of a unified field theory an anomaly? I suppose this depends on how one defines "anomaly." My understanding or - misunderstanding - of modern physics is that relativity can't be reduced to quantum terms and vice versa. However, if no one's challenging the terms themselves - i.e., relativity isn't making quantum physics wrong, and quantum physics isn't making relativity wrong - then there's no urgency, and no anomaly. Even if you think there should be urgency, the lack of urgency doesn't in any way undermine the concepts "normal science" and "paradigm," and Kuhn never said that crises must lead to revolutionary science. And - conversely - in the postscript that he added in the second edition of Structure in 1969, he said that he'd overemphasized the role of crisis in provoking a paradigm shift and that scientific revolutions need not invariably be preceded by crisis.

(I'm once again talking in ignorance, but it seems to me that an example of a potential anomaly in physics would be if "dark energy" was determined not to exist, making the accelerating expansion of the universe a true anomaly, i.e., something not yet explicable by the theory of relativity.)

kuhn also claims that generally paradigms don't shift within generations but between them and a key reason they are ABLE to shift is young ppl. come in and accept the new ones and the old foax eventually go away.

Well, first off, even if Kuhn had said this, it wouldn't be an integral part of his ideas. But in fact it's not what he said. He said the shifts sometimes take a generation, implying it's because oldsters are less likely to make the shift than are young 'uns, but he didn't say that no one in the old generation accepts a shift, which would be absurd, since sometimes the guy who starts the shift is in the old generation himself, e.g. Copernicus, Planck. Kuhn's own writing shows examples of adherents of an old theory going over to the new: Lorentz and Jeans, for instance, in regard to the quantum (and Planck too, for that matter). Whether the scientists are old or young, a significant number of scientists in a field must be converted from the old paradigm to the new one, and old people dying off won't have an impact on whether young 'uns convert if the young 'uns don't have good reason to. People aren't born into a new paradigm; they have to invent it, or embrace it.

So your word "key" and your capitalization of "ABLE" are very wrong. The key reason that a paradigm is able to shift is not that old people die off but that the new paradigm does stuff that the old one can't. That is what chapter 12 of Structure is about. The idea that old people have trouble accepting a new theory was old hat (Kuhn: "these facts and others like them are too commonly known to need further emphasis"). Kuhn's reason for bringing it up was to emphasize that shifting one's allegiance to a new paradigm was like a conversion experience, but also that people who resisted the new paradigm were not being irrational - that the functioning of science in its normal state demands that a lot of scientists assume that the paradigm they've got "will ultimately solve all its problems, that nature can be shoved into the box the paradigm provides." In any event, look at pp 150-159 of the second edition of Structure, and you'll see that Kuhn is chiefly concerned not with what prevents people from adopting a new paradigm, but rather with what persuades them to.

Also, a reason that paradigm shifts may take a generation or longer is that it takes a while for the new paradigm to be worked out. That it took until 1928 for quantum physics to pull itself together into a paradigm wasn't due to obstruction by fogies but rather due to the whippersnappers taking that long to come up with a worked-out model. So when we talk of "competing" paradigms, we're being somewhat misleading, since the "new" paradigm doesn't fully exist yet: It's under construction. Even if everyone has abandoned the old paradigm, the revolution isn't over until the construction is substantially complete.

Here's a thought (based on what Kuhn himself said): What's a crisis for one person might not be a crisis for others, hence what's a reason for overhaul for one person won't be for another. Was astronomy really in a crisis in the early 1500s due to the need for calendar reform and to the imprecision of Ptolemy's system? Hadn't these "problems" been known for years, without anyone revamping cosmology due to them? Maybe it was a crisis for Copernicus but wasn't a crisis for astronomy and physics until the Copernican ideas began to be plausible to more than a few intellectuals; it was then that you had to come up with a new concept of motion. So you could say that Copernicus caused the crisis more than that he responded to one. To return to the quantum discontinuity, in Kuhn's account it wasn't introduced in response to any big crisis but just because in 1906 Einstein and Ehrenfest realized you couldn't derive Planck's distribution law without it. This is what caused all the excitement and led to rethinking a bunch of other stuff as well.

Again, the pieces by Kuhn that I recommend most are "Revisiting Planck," which is reprinted as the Afterword to the second edition (i.e., U. of Chicago rather than Oxford) of Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912, and "What Are Scientific Revolutions?" which is the first article in The Road Since Structure. I still feel that you and I are talking passed each other, and that you don't have Kuhn's ideas fully in sight. Some preconception or need is blocking your vision, or distorting it. Kuhn's most crucial ideas - his opposition to teleology, his belief that scientific knowledge does not accumulate incrementally, his quasi-Darwinian account of how different scientists vary in their response to anomalies, his idea that scientists use models rather than following rules, and his understanding that a scientific revolution doesn't simply involve adjusting theories to facts, since the new theories create different "facts," which is what makes them "incommensurable" with the old - haven't yet piqued your interest. One thing you need to do is to set aside for the time being questions relating to mainstreams and margins and whether good stuff gets shunted aside when paradigms dominate and whether power relations as they reveal themselves in science are fair or not. You might even want to set aside for the moment the question of whether Kuhn is right or not and rather make an effort to get inside of Kuhn's head - become Kuhnian, as it were, in relation to Kuhn. Study Kuhn's writing from "the viewpoint that gives [his] opinions the maximum internal coherence and the closest possible fit to nature." Assume that, within his framework, he knew what he was about. E.g., he lived until 1996, and he certainly would have noticed that physics hadn't come up with a unified field theory, and he would have known what postwar physicists spent their time working on - he'd been trained as a physicist, after all. So you have to ask yourself why it didn't, from his point of view, jump out at him that his story either doesn't hold or that normal science is nonparadigmatic or that it held only in the special cases he examined but not today. Assume that - in fact - from his point of view, his story does hold today and that normal modern physics is paradigmatic. Read him with an eye towards finding out what that point of view is.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Sunday, 7 August 2005 03:10 (sixteen years ago) link

you cretin

ulrich schnauss, Sunday, 7 August 2005 03:16 (sixteen years ago) link

sterl's argt condensed: kuhn relativizes the cartesian divide without overturning it, and therefore renders it general.

I can't make sense of this statement. It's written in some sort of code that I was never taught.

Anyway, for the sake of argument, let's say that, except where I explicitly dispute Kuhn, every idea that I attribute to Kuhn on this thread can also be assigned to me. And of course any of the ideas on this thread that I seem to be presenting as my own can also be assigned to me, even if I stole them. So now let's rewrite your sentence as follows:

kogan relativizes the cartesian divide without overturning it, and therefore renders it general.

So, now, explain and support this contention, using the actual words on this thread as your evidence. Not from anywhere else; just this thread. If you think an idea or an assumption is Kuhn's/Kogan's, check the idea against the words on this thread. And if a sentence or two on this thread seems to point towards a particular belief being Kuhn's/Kogan's, check to see if other Kuhn/Kogan words on the thread are compatible with that belief.

A brief thought, from Kogan if not Kuhn: Descartes' mind-matter divide has nothing to do with the functioning of science one way or the other, including Descartes' science. ("Nothing to do with" being a bit of an exaggeration. Descartes and others never put the divide into effect, but some of them used the divide in their philosophy, some of which was used to justify, explain, and protect science. But it was never an integral part of science.)

Another brief thought from Kogan: I haven't read Descartes in 30 years, and don't remember much of what I did read.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Sunday, 7 August 2005 04:13 (sixteen years ago) link

(Futile attempt to get someone to respond to my actual ideas.)

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Sunday, 7 August 2005 04:15 (sixteen years ago) link

your attempts would be better timed in about thirty-odd hours from now

kingfish (Kingfish), Sunday, 7 August 2005 07:55 (sixteen years ago) link

if it doesn't have anything to do with 'intellectual' analysis of gwen stefani videos, folx here ain't interested

Atom Heart - Dots, Sunday, 7 August 2005 08:30 (sixteen years ago) link

bloody khunts

latebloomer (latebloomer), Sunday, 7 August 2005 13:09 (sixteen years ago) link

Two years ago I contributed the gnomic thought to this thread that tigers have stripes to distinguish them from horses. Well, there's been a paradigm shift in my thinking since then. I now believe that tigers only exist because tiger stripes require it. I was too naive to see, back then, that stripes have tigers and not vice versa.

Momus (Momus), Sunday, 7 August 2005 14:42 (sixteen years ago) link

i know a thomas kuhn! he went to antartica. he's crazy.
i don't think it's the same person though. hmmmm

dahlin (dahlin), Sunday, 7 August 2005 14:44 (sixteen years ago) link

Kuhn's most crucial ideas - his opposition to teleology, his belief that scientific knowledge does not accumulate
incrementally, his quasi-Darwinian account of how different scientists vary in their response to anomalies, his idea that
scientists use models rather than following rules, and his understanding that a scientific revolution doesn't simply involve
adjusting theories to facts, since the new theories create different "facts," which is what makes them "incommensurable" with
the old - haven't yet piqued your interest.

I can't give a full answer to yr. post right now Kogan, which would involve the "cartesian divide" thing and also pulling objectionable quotes from Kuhn on "normal science." I will though, I promise. In the meantime, the points you consider Kuhn's main ones are interesting, and are useful, but aren't all that contestable. Opposition to teleology and belief that scientific knowledge doesn't accumulate incrementally are key, yeah, but once you accept them then.. what. I want to know what you think Kuhn thinks "normal science" mainly involves.

One interesting extension of Kuhn was by Lakatos who coined the idea of "Kuhn loss" which encompasses the *destructive* element of scientific revolutions -- those things which had been theoretically encompassed prior, but which a new paradigm fails to account for.

(v/v the cartesian divide thing, a small explanation for now is that Kuhn holds that every paradigm is as "true" as every other -- hence relativizes -- but, he holds that there is a divide between those who CREATE the paradigms and those who do the "puzzle solving" of "normal science" -- hence between the theorizers and the "doers" and so rather than bridging the gap between "theory" and "reality" [i.e. mind and body, knowledge and substance, etc] he simply creates many theory-reality pairs. a monist account of science would recognize that the difference between paradigm-innovative science and "normal" science is in how they are recieved nore than how they are conducted, and thus render them part of a single process rather than two distinct entities)

Secundus Covarient (s_clover), Sunday, 7 August 2005 23:23 (sixteen years ago) link

Since you say you don't know that much about philosophy and science, you can't evaluate your take on Kuhn by evaluating his take on Plato, modern physucs, etc.(comparing your take on Plato and modern physucs to his). So why should we bother evaluating your take on Kuhn by reading him?Not meaning that as a reproach,but it's what I'm wondering. Why don't you just present your ideas as your ideas, anyway? Kuhn is one source, but we shouldn't get hung up on causes and effects, right?H In other news (I'm not that familiar with this whole thread, but that's okay, right?) effect can't cause its own cause in the sense that, say, Fire Outbreak X27 caused the conditions that started it, but that outbreak can cause the conditions (heat causing chemical change, etc.) that cause another fire, in another part of the area{one that couldn't be reached by the time-space of pre-Fire Outbreak X27, of Fire Outbreak X27's birthing spot]; indeed, these conditions might extend the duration and intensity of Fire Outbreak X27 as well as causing the cause of X27. So, while there is some sigificant degree of truth in "a cause can't cause its effect," there can also be siginicant degree of its almost being true (to somebody studying or otherwise effected by the fire's pattern, for instance)(does this effect extend to anyone reading this?)

don, Monday, 8 August 2005 03:59 (sixteen years ago) link

oops I meant "extend the duration and intensity of Fire X27 as well as causing the cause (heat affecting combination of chemicals etc.) of Fire X28": self-perpetuating/preserving *and* effecting the next unit of the same phenomenon.But mebbe you covered that in a class I missed?

don, Monday, 8 August 2005 04:06 (sixteen years ago) link

(another of yr. influnces, I'm reminded by reading and not reading this whole thread, is Wittgenstein--how do you compare him to Kuhn [TS: KUHN VS LUDWIG!] I know I told you to leave that stuff alone and present your "own" ideas but you got me hooked and these are your own too:misprision, swing with it daddyo!)

don, Monday, 8 August 2005 04:28 (sixteen years ago) link

six years pass...

attn kogan:

s.clover, Friday, 20 April 2012 20:32 (ten years ago) link

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