Paradigm shift – What is it, definition and concept | 2022

The paradigm shift concept emerged from the hand of the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn. A paradigm shift involves the acceptance of a new theory to explain the world around us and can occur in various areas of knowledge such as education, society, politics, economics, natural sciences and science. philosophy.

According to Thomas Kuhn, there are times when scientific theories, with their laws and statements, are insufficient to shed light on a given phenomenon.

Thus, questionable aspects of a paradigm may arise, situations that the theory is unable to explain, or new ways of understanding science.

Therefore, a paradigm shift represents a great revolution in the way of perceiving reality. Changes in the terms used to describe the phenomena are also considered paradigm shifts.

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Let’s take an example of what is considered a paradigm shift. The English physicist Isaac Newton postulated that time and space were exactly the same for all observers, while Albert Einstein, through the theory of relativity, argued that time and space varied depending on the observer.

How does a paradigm shift occur?

A paradigm is an explanatory model of reality, a global theory that also has significant scientific support. However, science, as an instrument of human progress, can also undergo changes.

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For a new theory to be considered a paradigm, it is necessary for the experts in the area of ​​knowledge in question to reach a broad consensus. With the paradigm accepted by experts, it is possible to continue deepening scientific activity.

It is true that unexpected situations can occur in paradigms or situations that are out of the model. However, a few anomalies are not enough to question a paradigm. Now, if the anomalous results start to accumulate, the paradigm will have to be questioned and, as Kuhn pointed out, a “crisis” situation will ensue.

What does it mean?

According to Thomas Kuhn, the paradigm shift does not only refer to the great changes that occur in the great scientific theories. According to Kuhn, reality is not reduced to a set of explanations or scientific schemes. Thus, a paradigm shift implies a change in the world, in the way of understanding it and in our reality.

Those most critical of Kuhn argue that paradigm shifts can lead to relativism. This would suppose a reality in which there is no absolute certainty and, therefore, would leave science as an instrument incapable of accurately describing the world around us.

Despite everything, Kuhn defends science and its advances, since he considers that the new theories prevail over the old ones as they are more accurate and are based on a more productive research methodology.

Also, within the framework of Kuhn’s theses, the idea that science does not follow a uniform or staggered advance is framed. Thus, according to Kuhn, there will be stages in which science operates under a paradigm considered dominant and there will be stages of crisis in which new paradigms emerge.

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Therefore, according to Kuhn, we must distinguish between two scenarios:

  • Normal science: working with an established paradigm.
  • Crisis: new revolutionary paradigms appear.

Precisely, the revolutionary paradigms are those that break with classical theories and those that make us reflect on traditional schemes. It is here that Kuhn is in favor of reflexively analyzing the paradigms in society, in history and in philosophy.

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