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Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn in his book 'The structure of scientific revolution' emphasizes the way the overthrow of a whole system is involved in the change from one theory to another. A mature science is dominated by a single shared frame of reference- its scientists agree on fundamentals. The frame of reference that Kuhn initially called a paradigm and later termed the disciplinary matrix provides an accepted setting within which research is done. He terms this research as normal science that is a kind of puzzle solving. A researcher doing normal science has a problem but knows roughly what the answer to it will look like. The research will be done within the boundaries of the paradigm that tells what the solution ought to be and what methods will find it.

However as work under a given paradigm proceeds, anomalies accumulate. Some anomalies do not fit the basic framework and will be taken to suggest that there is something wrong with the framework and that a whole new one is required. The bringing in of the new paradigm is the scientific revolution transforming the way in which the discipline looks at things reorganizing the way scientists go about their business, introducing new research technologies and techniques. The notion of revolution is used by Kuhn to suggest that there are some close parallels with political overturnings than might be imagined. The scientific revolution tends to involve a struggle between generations. Those who have been brought up on the old paradigm tend to adhere to it and whilst the young scientists who take up the new one only finally triumph throughout the discipline when the older generation retire or die off.

The pivotal importance of Kuhn's work is in his ideas about the relations between different paradigms. The conflict between generations shows something that the members of the older generation do not accept that their paradigm has been refuted. They do not accept that evidence has shown that their framework is wrong and that a new framework is better. There is no evidence that unequivocally shows that a framework is wrong. Adjustments can be made to the framework to accommodate things that on the first sight do not fit.

The importance of Kuhn lies in the fact that the things that we believe about the world are shaped also by social matters and not by evidence alone. His interpretation of ideas has had considerable influence on sociological thinking.