Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) is the bestselling and most-cited book ever published in the history and philosophy of science. Yet very few scholars in those fields would now endorse the book’s main claims, and many are critical of its central premise: namely, that major changes in different disciplines and diverse historical contexts conform to a single “structure.” Key Kuhnian concepts such as “paradigm shift” have become part of everyday language but all but disappeared from specialist publications. Nonetheless, the book still galvanizes readers encountering it for the first time—or even scholars who haven’t reread it since their own student days. Kuhn’s description of allencompassing and incommensurable mental worlds inhabited by scientists who practice in different paradigms resonates with the experience of readers who have experienced seismic changes in moral and political intuitions.
Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)
Lorraine Daston is director emerita at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She has published widely on the history of probability, wonders, observation, objectivity, and scientific archives. Her latest book is Against Nature (2019).
Lorraine Daston; Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Public Culture 1 May 2020; 32 (2 (91)): 405–413. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-8090152
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