Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Nothing I’ve read to date on the the subject of diversity in human perspective comes near to being as eye-opening as this work has been for me. It is probably still one of the brightest lights on the subject, and continues to cause waves in our time as it did in the 60’s when it was severely controversial. It danced on the graves and sacred places of logical positivism (the idea that we can approach absolute reality by pure reason), surpassed post-positivist epistemologies like Karl Popper’s theory of falsification which posited that human ideas only change when we find something wrong with them, and caused bedlam among those who opposed Nietzschean relativism and postmodernism in general. In fact, this work and its ideas are still wreaking havoc among those who attempt to brace the door against the tsunami of an already entrenched postmodernism. The judgment for those who don’t adapt and/or capitulate to a more virile paradigm is severe in any system, but in Kuhn’s it is phrased as an inevitable path towards isolation, imitation, and parasitism. Even if late-adopters finally acquiesce to the novelty of a new paradigm, it may be too late to ‘go native’ with it. An unwilling imitator “may use the new [paradigm] nonetheless, but he will do so as a foreigner in a foreign environment, an alternative available to him only because there are natives already there. His work is parasitic on theirs, for he lacks the constellation of mental sets which future members of the community will acquire through education.” Of course, I’m thinking of latest wave of materialistic scientists, who I love and revere for their genius in their own fields, but who refuse to acknowledge the debt they owe to great thinkers like Wittgenstein and Sartre whom they imitate but don’t thank.  

Regardless of who is who in season 5 of “Paradigm Wars”, the work concerned with in this review—The Structure of Scientific Revolutions—explicates the reality of paradigm competition, paradigm incommensurability, and the process of paradigm succession. As I said, no one comes close to Kuhn in explaining why different people commit to different ideas, and why they seldom change without life-altering circumstances or crises, and sometimes, not even then.

This may be nicely illustrated by a conversation I had with my daughter recently. We were driving along, talking about the belief system I was raised with, and I was explaining how my worldview changed drastically. I felt strangely honored when she said, “Dad, I’m proud of you.” I asked why. She said, “Because you made it out of a religion. Most people grow old with what they believe, and sometimes never make it out.” Wow. Now, to be honest—and my wife made me admit this—I most certainly planted that idea in her head since this wasn’t an isolated conversation; but for her to put those words together for that moment tells me she understands what powerful things worldviews and paradigms are! The chance of coming to terms with the power of paradigms makes this book is so important for people who can understand it, and for those who can help translate the message to the many who will never read it.


To begin, Kuhn begins by defining what a paradigm is, and how it works. A paradigm is a word rescued by Kuhn from the Greek word paradeigma meaning ‘pattern’ or ‘example’. The contemporary use of the word along with the phrase ‘paradigm shift’ owes the shirt off its back to Kuhn. In Kuhn’s usage, a paradigm is essentially a communal worldview that saves people the task of reinventing the ideological wheel. Paradigms are full of rules, definitions, expectations, values, feelings, and views of the world that are heavily inculcated and therefore deeply ingrained in the mind of each member. Paradigm-imprinting is often unconscious, with implicit thinking patters which are ultimately accepted by the member as ‘the way the world is.’ Kuhn brought to the world’s attention how even academic textbooks are assiduously designed to give the impression that they are unbiased and have arrived at a final convergence of all past paths of knowledge and discovery. But even textbooks are subject to paradigmatic bias. Kuhn points out that there is no cumulative ‘one right way’ to think about the world (a point which he revisits later), but rather there are many different simultaneous paradigms that compete with each other and offer different benefits to members of their community.

Normal Science

Are paradigms, then, merely symptoms of human bias and communal narrow-mindedness? Yes and no. Paradigms offer what Kuhn dubs ‘normal science’—the foundation and compliment for all ‘revolutionary science’ which ushers in new, contending paradigms—and it is this normal science which assists paradigms in functioning unimpaired by every stray doubt or question that plagues the human mind. Within an accepted paradigm an individual can rest on certain principles that they believe are true, and science can begin to test those principles in all their nuances and further articulate the theories present in the paradigm without fear of being rushed or waylaid at every corner.

“The restrictions [of normal science’s range of research], born from confidence in a paradigm, turn out to be essential to the development of science. By focusing attention upon a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable…[and solve] problems that its members could scarcely have imagined and would never have undertaken without commitment to the paradigm.”

Kuhn cites three things that normal science provides which would be untenable in revolutionary science:
1) Theory fact-finding that is undisturbed, unimpeded, and supported by consensus and advanced technology.
2) Theory fact-matching that is a concentrated and sophisticated form of puzzle-solving within a given paradigm.
3) Theory articulation of the paradigm that provides refined language, rules, tools, and minor revision of paradigmatic theories to keep the paradigm afloat.

Normal science is not designed to produce paradigmatic changes, novelties, or facts that aren’t ultimately assimilable into the paradigm. All findings of normal science are either forced into categories to support a paradigm, or they are dismissed as the errors or as limits of the scientist. The reason for this is that the puzzle-solving urge of scientists, and human beings in general, is irresistible and provides rewards in the form of solution-gratification and recognition. This puzzle-solving urge is enough in itself to busy most people for most of their lives, because in it answers are predictable and achievable. This is in direct contrast to the work of revolutionary science in which problems are reconstituted with no ready formulas for attaining solutions or even a guarantee that a solution will be attainable or recognizable in one’s lifetime. In some sense, normal science is much more productive in research and articulation, but it folds in on itself and stymies the process of actual discovery that so many mistake to be its central purpose.

“The scientific enterprise as a whole does from time to time prove useful, open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief. Nevertheless, the individual engaged on a normal research problem is almost never doing any one of these things. Once engaged, his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilful enough, he will succeed in solving a puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well. Many of the greatest scientific minds have devoted all of their professional attention to demanding puzzles of this sort. On most occasions any particular field of specialization offers nothing else to do, a fact that makes it no less fascinating to the proper sort of addict.”

Augmenting the apparent triviality of puzzle-solving that normal science is obsessed with, basic educational models are designed to condition students to learn ideas by plugging theorems and formulas into applied science—learning by rote and practice—which further solidifies the puzzle-solving mentality. This distances the eventual specialist from any contact with problems or values not originally defined by their community’s paradigm, which definitions are often accepted at face value and remain largely unquestioned.  “Though many scientists talk easily and well about the particular individual hypotheses that underlie a concrete piece of current research, they are little better than laymen at characterizing the established bases of their field, its legitimate problems and methods.”

It is a frightening notion that so-called ‘detached’ scientists aren’t so detached after-all—even the tools and rules used to approach problems are only after all a ‘strong network of commitments’—but we have to remember that this is in accordance with the very nature of humanity which is, ipso facto, anything but detached to its desires and goals. We are irremediably invested in goals and aims, many of which we aren’t even completely aware of, and yet what little awareness of our prejudice we can develop will help us to switch our allegiances in as intelligent ways as we can manage when it comes time.


Kuhn, points out again and again that the discovery of new facts which inform new paradigms is not a simple process of accumulating knowledge. Discovery is not merely something that happens when people experience something new. Indeed, discovery happens far later than a first new experience. With new experiences, people are only conscious of a phenomenon which defies established categories as ‘something that has gone wrong’, or an anomaly. Kuhn gives the example of the discovery X-rays. In a normal investigation of cathode rays by the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895, a piece of lab equipment seemed to arbitrarily glow on the other side of the room. Further investigation of the phenomena, and many experiments later, Rontgen was able to isolate, duplicate, and describe the effect which was caused by X-rays. This discovery was piecemeal, and could not be properly called a ‘discovery’ at those early stages when Rontgen had no idea what had caused the anomaly. With enough research, anomaly gives way to novelty—or repeated anomaly—and novelty gives way to expectation, completing the process of discovery.

The point here is extremely significant: there is no authentic discovery in normal science, because there is no room for anomaly or novelty! “Discoveries [which are] predicted in advance are parts of normal science and result in no new sort of fact [no authentic discovery]… Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.” Normal science supports, puzzle-solves, and articulates theories within a paradigm, but it doesn’t go off hunting for new paradigms; therefore data that doesn’t fit into an existing paradigm is anomalous until it is either mashed into the paradigm, or it becomes a crisis to usher in a competing paradigm in which to assimilate. Therefore, paradigms—ways of thinking about the world that are bolstered by normal science—are designed to resist discovery! Welcome to the glories of the human brain. This is right-brain, left-brain wars if I’ve ever seen them! Read Ramachandran’s Phantoms In the Brain for a neurological explanation of why and how the brain creates fiction (confabulates) to compose a consistent picture of reality. You can’t make this stuff up! Wait. Yes. Yes you can.

But the pitfalls of paradigms are worth the trouble.

“In the development of any science, the first received paradigm is usually felt to account quite successfully for most of the observations and experiments easily accessible to that science’s practitioners. Further development, therefore, ordinarily calls for the construction of elaborate equipment, the development of an esoteric vocabulary and skills, and a refinement of concepts that increasingly lessens their resemblance to their usual common-sense prototypes. That professionalization leads, on the one hand, to an immense restriction of the scientist’s vision and to a considerable resistance to paradigm change. The science has become increasingly rigid. On the other hand, within those areas to which the paradigm directs the attention of the group, normal science leads to a detail of information and to a precision of the observation-theory match that could be achieved in no other way.”

What Kuhn is pointing out here is that we would not be aware of the need for new constructs if we didn’t have some construct in place, however limited or inadequate, to start sorting through the profusion of data that is present to our senses. How would we know that something has gone wrong, or that we need a new or more accurate metric if we had no standard by which to measure and notice something is awry in the first place? Paradigms are grids of the cosmos which allow scientists to concentrate on specific sections to study at close-range without being bothered about the rest of the universe. By doing this, novelty and anomaly take on real texture and appear in stark contrast against a background of a very well-studied context.

“And even when the apparatus exists, novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong. Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm.”

Paradigms, then, are temporary structures—rigid, limited, and ultimately abortive—but without them, humanity could not advance ideologically or scientifically. Every successive generation leaves the old ones behind, but also creates new ones which will, in their turn, be left behind some day. It is the circle of paradigm-life:

The mobs of birth
Avoid our stale perfections, seeking out
Their own, waiting until we go
To picnic in the ruins that we leave. –Wallace Stevens

Crises and Competition

The specific way in which old paradigms gives way to new paradigms is fascinating. Even in the case of complete discoveries—from anomaly, to novelty, to expectation—new data is merely contorted to fit old categories unless a competing paradigm is offered which reframes all data, old and new, to form a new map of the world. Crisis is the harbinger of change. Without crises, no new idea would ever take root because there would be no perceived need for it, and therefore no motivation to do all the hard work required to establish it. Humanity has a strong tradition of staying in bed until the sheets are soiled. For all people, including scientists, “retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it,” i.e., ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ And when one considers how deeply paradigms are woven into the fabric of society and scientific methodology, one can understand why ‘retooling’—or completely reimagining the wheel—is so costly.

But crises do finally come in their dark robes and scythes for every paradigm’s soul, in one of many ways. The first symptom of a crisis is often a general sense of inefficiency in areas that once demonstrated the paradigm’s superiority. Here scientific paradigms show their consanguinity with political paradigms in exhibiting breakdown when they have “ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created.” Beyond an intuition that something is awry, there are other more obvious signals. “The proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research [which research works to inaugurate a new paradigm].” What’s further, taste and aesthetic preference can cause people to look up and out. Sometimes the subjective impression that an existing paradigm has become somehow become clunky and unattractively complicated might signal the need for another paradigm that is nice, neat, and simple.

When a crisis is acknowledged in a community, new paradigms are proposed by brave souls who aim to create a system that better incorporates and explains new and old information. This paradigm-rush sees a proliferation of multiple, un-tested versions of traditional paradigms, rules, and all-new iterations altogether,  introduced which might initially seem to complicate things, but actually help to free people from the fear that the rigors of an old paradigm is their only option. “All crises begin with the blurring of a paradigm and the consequent loosening of the rules for normal research.” And the bearers of these gospels of change? Young people with fresh eyes. This works partly because new eyes see clearly the problems that communities become inured to over time, but it also works because new people have not sunk resources, time, and energy so deeply into the old paradigm, nor have they staked a political reputation on defending and reinforcing the old views. And although introducing a new paradigm is difficult and meets with much opposition, it is often still worth the risk because the sense of loss isn’t as poignant if things don’t work out. Loss aversion, a very real behavioral phenomenon which refers to the tendency of people to strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains, may be a large part of the underlying tenacity of old paradigms, especially when afflicted by crises and faced by alternative paradigms.

Incommensurability of Paradigms

History has illustrated again and again that the introduction of a new paradigm doesn’t bring world peace. The problem is that all new paradigms are only accepted by those who recognize failures within old paradigms. If a failure is not recognized by those who adhere to a paradigm, then it will continue to be bolstered and perpetuated until its adherents have moved on, or are dead. And as long as communities hold together within a paradigm, failures of a view will be compensated for and speciously ‘solved’ by the puzzle-solvers and articulators who find benefit in solidarity itself. It quickly becomes obvious that paradigms are ways of life, and not solely ways to think about life. It is here we see how closely scientific paradigms resemble paradigms within other human studies and endeavors.

“Like the choice between competing political institutions, that between competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life.”

A paradigm ultimately reveals itself to be glued together by personal taste and interest, and not merely by claims to ‘truer truths’. This is why Kuhn states that all groups argue in circularities when coming to the defense of why they chose their paradigms. Proofs don’t convince, because proofs are a posteriori explanations of what works and what doesn’t. The best a proof can do is demonstrate that a paradigm works, or provide “a clear exhibit of what scientific practice will be like for those who adopt the new view of nature,” and may not win much merit for logical explanations which every paradigm ultimately develops. Mostly those who find that a paradigm community works or is compelling on some level are those who ‘step inside the circle’ and ‘go native’ with a paradigm. They are those who understand the values, terms, and rules, and who value similar goals and processes. Within every paradigm are defined problems, and proposed solutions, but what happens when people differ with each other about what the real problems are and what a solution would look like? Problems and solutions are essentially human in nature. Nature in itself has no problems or solutions. Problems and solutions depend on the significance human beings place on them, and there never has been nor ever will never be problems or solutions that nature defines for us. And if paradigms, as Kuhn maintains, function to define and solve problems, then it is evident that world views are strictly human constructions and depend as much on our frame of mind as anything empirical and external to us. Normal science, therefore, is about human interest, and not mere detached observation and reportage.

This most personal value and interest that gives a paradigm its existence and imbues it with significance is what makes paradigms ultimately incommensurable with each other. They fundamentally aim at different goals, define success and failure in different ways, and structure their communities to follow specific rules to achieve specific goals. Especially important is how language is customized and everyday terms are defined by a community’s nuanced goals, rules, understandings and expectations. Paradigms are different worlds! This is why Kuhn says that members of different scientific schools “will inevitably talk through each other when debating the relative merits of their respective paradigms.”

And because every paradigm necessarily involves incomplete and therefore partially inaccurate explanations of the universe, the incommensurability only increases. “Since no paradigm ever solves all the problems it defines and since no two paradigms leave all the same problems unsolved, paradigm debates always involve the question: Which problems is it more significant to have solved?” I can’t imagine a question more important or more divisive than that one, and yet hardly a person recognizes that this exact question is even at stake.

Kuhn believed that people of different paradigms essentially inhabit different worlds. Often people’s views of the world are so completely at odds with each other that it’s hard not to believe that they are viewing the same thing at all. It is as if a gestalt switch has been flipped, and where before one saw ducks, now they see rabbits; or where before the one “saw the exterior of the box from above,” they now see “the interior of the box from below.” For example, in very simple, literal terms, a contour map may at first look to a student like mere lines on a paper, but to a cartographer, it’s a picture of terrain. Kuhn uses the history of incommensurable views in Copernicus’ time to further illustrate gestalt.

“Consider, for another example, the men who called Copernicus mad because he proclaimed that the earth moved. They were not either just wrong or quite wrong. Part of what they meant by ‘earth’ was fixed position. Their earth, at least, could not be moved. Correspondingly, Copernicus’ innovation was not simply to move the earth. Rather, it was a whole new way of regarding the problems of physics and astronomy, one that necessarily changed the meaning of both ‘earth’ and ‘motion’. Without those changes the concept of a moving earth was mad.”

New information and different frameworks ‘create’ different vision to view different worlds. “What a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see.” This goes so far as to affect not only the ideological framework for data, but the supposedly straightforward data itself. Even “the operations and measurements that a scientist undertakes in the laboratory are not ‘the given’ of experience but rather ‘the collected with difficulty’,” which means that facts don’t fall into anyone’s laps, they are sought after and only recognized when they are squeezed into the mold of a prefabricated pattern or idea.

The force of polarization in paradigms naturally increases and reinforces the incommensurability of paradigms, almost irrevocably. Is it any wonder it seems nearly impossible for some people to change their mind on any given subject? The secret about facts is that no fact stands alone. Each is inextricably woven into a vast web of meanings, implications, underpinnings, and cover-ups; and the knots cannot be untied without leaving the whole in tatters. This is why the webs of paradigms are simply abandoned when they fail to work, and quickly replaced by a paradigm that promises better solutions.


So how can people change their minds and switch paradigms if their self-reinforcing psychology and genetic protocol to propagate one’s own ideas at the expense of reality keeps confirming the paradigms that they accepted at an early age? What happens when a paradigm is taking water, and it’s time to bail? Well, it’s either adaptation or extinction, and most would rather die before their dreams do. Scientists of the ilk of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and many others never witnessed a conversion of the masses to their ideology immediately, and countless others were murdered before later generations pardoned them, sainted them, and adopted their discoveries. Quantum theorist Max Planck summed up this tragic truth best in his Scientific Autobiography,

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Cynics would dismiss the whole mess as a modality of one of the useless extremes of either relativism or bigotry, but a closer look reveals the value of the hard-to-kill nature of human paradigms. Commitment to paradigms, along with the obstinate delusions about their absolute nature, is exactly what makes normal science—puzzle-solving—possible! Without this resolve to stick to the paradigm, no work would ever get done, and the meticulous scrutiny and recording of experimental findings—brute data—that makes the scientific process what it is would be abandoned at the first sign of discrepancy. Imagine a world of fickle, bohemian, flip-flop scientists! Pun most definitely intended!

Science help us. Science help us all.

But for those who do recognize crises in a paradigm and are still young and supple enough to convert to a new paradigm that can solve the old crises, ‘there is a mansion prepared for them, so that where the Solution is, there they may be also.’ But we have to keep in mind that a more accurate and helpful paradigm may introduce new problems, and may not solve enough problems satisfactorily, at least immediately, for all people. In fact, some historical revolutions with proposed solutions initially “created many more problems than they solved…Copernicus’ theory was not more accurate than Ptolemy’s and did not lead directly to any improvement in the calendar.” It is often true that a person who wakes from a worldview must do so “in defiance of the evidence provided by the problem-solving” all around her, and this is done by “faith” in a new way that as of yet hasn’t been established. She then become the pioneer that everyone else watches to see how she fairs, and to witness how her new paradigm serves her. If things go well, they may have a new winner.

Textbook Paradigms and Invisible Revolutions

As a very practical example of the failure to understand competing paradigms, Kuhn strings up textbooks. The best of our science—for all of the scientific community’s claims of detachment, objectivity, and systematic process—is just as subject to paradigmatic provincialism and confirmation bias as any other human pursuit. Kuhn deals very candidly and directly with the fact that school textbooks—which stand as a tool purely intended to convey information and not feelings—are just as prone to prejudice and manipulation of the facts as any other human instrument.

“For reasons that are both obvious and highly functional, science textbooks…refer only to that part of the work of past scientists that can easily be viewed as contributions to the statement and solution of the texts’ paradigm problems…[this] depreciation of historical fact is deeply, and probably functionally, ingrained in the ideology of the scientific profession, the same profession that places the highest of all values upon factual details of other sorts.”

Kuhn spends a lot of time with the textbook problem because it is largely overlooked by many, and perhaps least acknowledged by scientists and the academy. The result is that scholars and laymen alike are wrongly persuaded that humanity’s knowledge of the world is steadily increasing, as opposed to the more likely scenario that science, like everything else, is a constant flux of paradigms slugging it out to the death in a battle royal where the strong, not necessarily the ‘more right’, survive. Essentially, these historical, textbook “misconstructions render [scientific] revolutions invisible” by pretending each revolutionary idea was finally saluted and crowned king upon its arrival by its epoch, rather than viciously attacked for being antithetical to the established. Kuhn argues that this isn’t honest, effective, or healthy. Science and history ought to give a more forthright account of itself, lest, in the words of William James, it “lose[s] truth by this pretension to possess it already wholly.” Not only that, but the creative and pioneering spirit of discoverers are substituted with an idea of gentle inevitability which downplay the role of courage and imagination which subverts and contends with the powers of paradigm. “Until the very last stages in the education of the scientist, textbooks are systematically substituted for the creative scientific literature that made them possible…it is a narrow and rigid education, probably more so than any other except perhaps in orthodox theology.”

But again, the reason for this is that textbooks teach by inculcation, by setting up problems and solutions which students learn formulas to apply, facts to remember, and patterns to recognize. In this way, an existing paradigm is passed on, and a gestalt is reinforced which causes members of the same group to see the same picture. These are the ‘examplars’ that Kuhn refers to, the faux problems that condition students to recognize and reproduce paradigms, and it is completely natural and universal. “One of the techniques by which members of a group…learn to see the same things when confronted with the same stimuli is by being shown examples of situations that their predecessors in the group have already learned to see as like each other and as different from other sorts of situations.” If it weren’t for crises, or, I would add, boredom, which catalyzes a revolution, perhaps nothing would break the cycle of a paradigm’s reiterations and redundancies.

Summary and Conclusions

So what did Kuhn really contribute to science and philosophy? Kuhn successfully contended with and soared above other popular ideas in his day about how to verify the accuracy of a theory or idea. Karl Popper’s “falsification” epistemology was still in vogue, and Kuhn’s competitive paradigms made it clear that an idea need not be perfect, or perfectly validated, for it to work. It was a much simpler test of accuracy than had ever been devised before, but it wasn’t without its consequences. If a paradigm wasn’t ‘right’ because it won in the contest, what’s to say an incorrect paradigm couldn’t pull out in front of the rest and be wrongly celebrated for its veracity simply because it received the largest number of votes? Kuhn saw where this was going, and beat it to the punch: Science and history has no goal, no higher truth towards which it is progressing. He admits that this is not a conventional view, and it can be very disturbing within many paradigms (especially in his day). Yet William James, among others, said as much in his Varieties of Religious Experience, “Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible to feel a sympathy. In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the scientific mind now follows them, she appears to cancel herself.” Kuhn points out that this was the essential findings of Darwin, “The Origin of Species recognized no goal set either by God or nature” (Kuhn). But the idea that the evolution of paradigms is moving away from “primitive beginnings,” revealing a pattern of an “increasingly detailed and refined understanding of nature,” and not necessarily towards anything doesn’t have to be disappointing. It’s all in the way you look at it (go figure). “If we can learn to substitute evolution-from-what-we-do-know for evolution-toward-what-we-wish-to-know, a number of vexing problems may vanish in the process.” In other words, one could say that we are progressing towards knowing more of what we want to know, and as tautological as it sounds, it certainly doesn’t interrupt our rhythms of getting everything we possibly can out of science and intellectual endeavors. If it works, who cares if it doesn’t work the way we thought it should, or it doesn’t reveal what we thought it would reveal? We find it meaningful and productive, and in the end, that may be enough.

But this work goes beyond science by elucidating the ways in which human beings think in art, politics, sociology, philosophy, and religion.  As a matter of fact, although Kuhn states in the Postscript that paradigms in science often operate in some ‘strikingly different’ ways than in fields like art and literature, he admits that he derived the concept of paradigm successions from other fields for the reason that he believed the sciences operated in many similar ways, if in different degrees. This is enough for any thoughtful reader to apply the concept of competing paradigms to all areas of human cognition and action, since it is impossible for humans to work and think—to live!—outside of paradigm or outside a community of other minds. This is precisely what The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is all about, and it is how the Postscript of the second ends.

“Scientific knowledge, like language, is intrinsically the common property of a group or else nothing at all. To understand it we shall need to know the special characteristics of the groups that create and use it.”

It was Kuhn’s way of saying that no idea exists outside of human community—that paradigms ARE human community— and it was his hope that future generations would use this to better understand themselves and each other.