What is Philosophy
What is Philosophy
of Science
What is Verification
and Falsification
about Science
Science according to
Scientific method
Paradigm and
paradigm shift
Karl Popper -
Logic and status
Consequences of Popper's theses
Alternative Science
Chalmers: What is this
thing called Science?
Epistemology -
induction deduction

Paradigm and paradigm shift



Within all types of activities an enormous amount of conclusions, experiences and belief structures are collected. Within philosophy of science, belief structures are called "paradigm".


Paradigms evolves continuously

Belief structures or paradigms are found within all human activities, for instance politics, philosophy, sports and music. As we gain additional experience within an area, also the belief structures within the area evolves. Belief structures are therefore seen to evolve continuously within many areas.

The additional experience rarely implies that the previous conclusions were erroneous, they were merely less complete than today. And tomorrow we have probably learnt even more about the area.


Paradigm shifts

At rare occasions something is discovered, is invented, or just occurs, that radically changes the belief structures within an area. Examples are a political revolution, a new type of instrument like electric guitar or synthesizer, or the possibility to buy baker’s yeast for baking.

Such radical changes sometimes become publicly known, as opposed to the less remarkable common development within an area. Therefore a belief may exist that changes in belief systems are common and that an area cannot evolve without them.

The public may also have missed that a new belief system is not necessarily incompatible with earlier opinions, they may be just complimentary.

A football team today uses different tactics as compared to 50 years ago. This does not imply that football played at that time was "erroneous". In 50 years from now, the game, the rules and the balls will probably have evolved further.

When Jimi Hendrix during the sixties howled his guitar sounds it implied a development of both his own and other's handling of guitars.


Paradigm shifts within science

Paradigm shifts, i.e. changes in belief systems, related to the activity science were discussed by Thomas Kuhn in the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. These concepts are used abundantly within teaching of philosophy of science.

Minor shifts, that influence our belief structures to a minor extent, occur frequently and are called "discoveries" within science.

A paradigm within science it the confidence in the scientific method. This paradigm is not changed during the last 300 years.

It is surprising that some philosophers have claimed that the terms paradigm and paradigm shifts provide arguments for that scientific results should not be based on experience. Such claims neglect the fact that both paradigms and the possible changes of them are ultimately based on our experiences.

Becoming older, Kuhn expressed that events that may be seen as paradigm shifts are not the most important development mechanism within science.  

... two types of scientific development, normal and revolutionary. Most successful scientific research results in change of the first sort, and its nature is well captured by a standard image: normal science is what produces the bricks that scientific research is forever adding to the growing stockpile of scientific knowledge..


The Road Since Structure, Univ. Chicago Press (2000) p.13



Paradigm shifts in practice

It is not easy exactly to define what may be called a paradigms shift within science, and it is even harder to really express that such a shift actually occurred.

An well known example of paradigm shift, the "scientific revolution" or the "Copernican revolution", developed gradually from something that is acknowledged that some kind of starting point, during more than hundred years, until it was generally accepted.

Sports have a great advantage for studies of paradigm shifts: Results within sports are possible to measured precisely. Also within this field analogies to paradigm shifts are discussed.

Are paradigm shifts important?

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