Natural Sciences – Thomas Kuhn and Normal Science

Thomas Kuhn – A physicist, historian but is probably known best as a philosopher of science through his publication of “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in 1962 and in it he first coined the term of ‘Normal Science’ and that is the subject of this post.

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Before Normal Science can be explained you must first understand that Kuhn believes science operates along paradigms. A paradigm is simply the framework under which science can operate, simply think of the big science facts you remember, the heliocentric model, gravity or germ theory. From there Kuhn believes that the next important step is that anomalies are found in these paradigms, just as happened to ones before them, but before that can happen most scientists will just work under the existing paradigm, solving problems, ‘doing busy-work’ as Kuhn puts it.

Image result for thomas kuhn normal science quote

This quote really sums up Kuhn’s view on normal science, he saw it as, at least in comparison to work on a new paradigm, useless. Despite the truth in what he says about the scientific framework being almost certainly flawed in some ways, Kuhn fails to see the use in the so called busy-work. However, in actuality, this busy-work is the whole point of science – Solving problems. Take Germ Theory as an example, a revolutionary idea, but the only reason we think that is because of the normal science it created. Without normal science being the focus, scientists would never use germ theory to create hand sanitiser and cures for diseases, they would be just trying to disprove the paradigm.

This gets to the cause of the disparity, Kuhn sees knowledge as inherently valuable, and while this may be a good motivator for scientists, but for an ordinary individual knowledge that tiny microscopic creatures are the cause of their disease is useless, they’d care far more about an access to a cure.

One thought on “Natural Sciences – Thomas Kuhn and Normal Science

  1. I really like this post, Lucas. It shows authoritative and articulate independent judgement and is a perhaps necessary corrective to Kuhn’s views about what science is for. You also raise a fundamental point about the value of knowledge itself- ie whether it is inherent or comes from its application. As you say, for most people, the practical uses of germ theory are probably what they care about most. I suppose one might argue, though, that there is a place for knowledge without any apparent application since as a species we seem to wish to pursue it for its own sake and without that motivation, we wouldn’t be able to do the- admittedly important- work of solving problems along the way.


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