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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  24,984 ratings  ·  1,388 reviews
A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were—and still are. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is that kind of book. When it was first published in 19 ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 226 pages
Published 1996 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1962)
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Lucas I'd say you need more of a background in basic physics than philosophy. The ideas presented are pretty easy to grasp conceptually speaking. Most every…moreI'd say you need more of a background in basic physics than philosophy. The ideas presented are pretty easy to grasp conceptually speaking. Most everything is backed up with historical examples (e.g., experiments) that are usually part of the high school (or early university) physics education canon, so it is helpful to have background in that regard. (less)
Gal gilboa Scientific discourse is meaningless to true or false. Field of science discourse refers to confirmation or refutation only.

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Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone seriously interested in the history of science
Scientists are so passionate about their work, and even if you're a scientist yourself it can sometimes take you by surprise to see just how passionate they are. A few years ago, when I was working at NASA, we made up a game called If Research Were Romance. Here, let me show you how to play.

In real life, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book about paradigm changes in science. But if research were romance, he might have written a book about relationships instead. It might have been quite similar in many ways.
Stephen M
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, textbook
With the publication of this landmark work, Kuhn gave an entirely new way to think about science and the process of scientific discovery; it completely contradicted what was previously believed about the functioning of scientific discovery and how we came to discoveries about the natural world. The philosophy of science before Kuhn began writing was most influenced by Karl Popper. He put forth the popular notion of falsifiability, whereby all scientific theories are tenable only if they are fals ...more
Roy Lotz
To listen to this review as a podcast, click below:

Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given
Aug 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Remember your 10th grade Geometry class? It was a 55 minute class just before lunch. Picture yourself, 15 years old, Friday, ensconced in Geometry on a beautiful late September day. If you’re a girl, you’re much more interested in whether the new boy is going to sit with Amber during lunch for a third day in a row, and what he’s going to say to her this time; he’s so confident and handsome. If you’re a guy, you’re much more interested in the 17 year old Varsity cheerleader at the front of your c ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Let’s start elsewhere. Watch this and then we can talk paradigms:


Now, I don’t normally do that – nor do I like to talk about optical illusions. I generally think illusions mean quite other things to what most people like to say they mean. I find that people tend to say the most boringly predictable things about optical illusions. That is a large part of the source of my aversion to them, like Pavlov’s dogs, I have been taught to cringe at the first sight o
Mar 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Science Professionals, Possibly
Recommended to Tyler by: GR Group Read List
Shelves: philosophy
Within this book, a 15-page essay somehow gets crammed into 174 tedious pages and crowned by a lengthy 35-page postscript. In its chapters Kuhn, father of the expression “paradigm shift,” shows us how science advances in spasmodic fractures that shatter previous models of nature. But at 210 pages, mission creep sinks in.

The book does more than propose a new model of scientific progress. It also tells us why other models are mistaken. Kuhn refutes the correspondence theory of truth, logical posit
Jamie Smith
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
When this book came out fifty years ago it changed the terms of the debate about what scientific progress meant. Using multiple historical examples, and drawing on his own extensive research into the history of science, Thomas Kuhn developed an intellectual framework for how science develops, progresses, and changes in response to new paradigms. At the time of his writing the word paradigm was obscure and unknown to most readers, but it has since entered our common vocabulary, and this book is w ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, science

I can understand why the author thanked his family for their consideration of the author's efforts towards this book, as it must have demanded a lot of painstaking effort not to mention time. I would have given it 3 stars for its complicated way of delivering its points; the language is highly complex that it tends at many certain points throughout, that the arguments contradict each other. Five stars, however for its complexity and taken as a whole it is actually coherent.


Like the choice be
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, 1900-1969
a response to some of the reviews here:

From those giving the book a negative rating, we inevitably get the standard accusation of relativism, which is bullshit and Kuhn and his followers have responded appropriately. A positive three-star review says Kuhn's major thesis is that scientific progress is largely illusory, when Kuhn says nothing of the sort and has also defended himself against such objections in the past by explaining, very simply, what a careful reader would have already gleaned fr
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I first read Kuhn's book during my first year as a Ph.D. student, and found it rather interesting. It challenges notions of scientific progress as liner by suggesting instead a process of "paradigm shift." Essentially, Kuhn argues that researchers in a branch of science accept as normal a set of "received beliefs" that guide and bound their investigations into new phenomena. Because of this set of accepted beliefs and assumptions, new ways of looking at the world are often suppressed or ignored. ...more
Sep 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black
There are some people in the history of thought, great thinkers in most cases, who nonetheless become known primarily for one book, or even just one idea. It's no great disgrace; Copernicus had only one significant publication. Being a "one-hit wonder" still makes you a wonder. In the case of Thomas Kuhn, his magnum opus is probably a two word phrase:

"paradigm shift"

If you have never heard it, well, what are you doing on Goodreads? But in the off chance that you're just new to the English langua
Sep 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: insomniacs
Bit of a preface: I hated this book. It contains some really good ideas, which are totally worth discussing, but the whole thing is so much wordier and denser than it needs to be (this, coming from me!); seriously, the ideas put forth in this 200-page monstrosity would have been better shared in a 5-10 page article. Still, we were assigned to read it for LIS 2000, Understanding Information, and asked to write a 400-word review, describing "how the content of this book relates to the information ...more
Erik Graff
May 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: John Bannon
Shelves: philosophy
Kuhn, a physicist and philosopher and historian of science, wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, producing other editions until his death in 1996. The book was very influential (see description), serving as a starting point for reappraisals within several disciplines. One, psychology, was specifically covered by John Bannon's Philosophy of Psychology class held during the second semester of 1982/83 at Loyola University Chicago.

I found the book profoundly stimulating, challengin
David M
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
5-30-21 Reread this for the first time in about 11 years. I remain extremely impressed.

Truth is not a criterion of scientific progress.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the greatest books of the last century. More than fifty years later it retains its ability to shock. Despite ubiquitous talk of "paradigm shifts," our culture has yet to fully absorb and appreciate it.

Fun fact (well, to me anyway): Hans-Georg Gadamer and Thomas Kuhn were mutual admirers. Gadamer cites this book
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, philosophy
Thomas Kuhn, through the concept of paradigm shift, has demythologized science as an accumulation of knowledge through smooth progress. That, for Kuhn, is just normal science, the incremental progress within the limits, biases and assumptions of a paradigm. For him, a paradigm is a set of accepted practices within the scientific community, the scientific traditions the scientists have grown up with. For him, “The success of a paradigm… is at the start largely a promise of success discoverable in ...more
Vagabond of Letters, DLitt
10/10. Sixth ever perfect nonfiction rating: 'Structure' is not overrated at all.

This is the scientific counterpart to the invaluable work of Alisdair MacIntyre in philosophy. Those works ('After Virtue', 'Whose Justice?', 'Three Rival Versions') are some of the most important for understanding the practice of philosophy and the seemingly-insurmountable aporiae in philosophy and ethics.

Kuhn's work does the same for science, is extensible to many other disciplines, and is the only work I'm aware
Mar 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
I understand this is a fairly famous book, but I don't understand why. There is enough material for a short essay, and here it is. As scientific instruments and measurements improve, discrepancies appear between what is observed and what the current theory, or paradigm, predicts. As a result, the theory or paradigm must change, but some people resist it. The change from the geocentric model of Ptolemy to the helio-centric model of Copernicus is an example, as it the change from Aristotle to Newt ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating book about how science changes--how old theories (paradigms) fall apart and new ones develop. I think this theory also applies to political theories and other cultural ideas. This book is old, but it's a classic and I learned a lot ...more
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics, science
The premise of the book is that science doesn't progress by the cumulative addition of knowledge, but instead advances by major shifts in paradigms that replace, rather than increment, large parts of previous paradigms.

To begin with, scientific research in a specific subject is carried out within the bounds of a generally accepted framework that defines what scientists already know about the field, as well as the questions that remain unanswered. This is what Kuhn calls a paradigm. A paradigm i
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Original, 2-star review:

I think the common criticisms that have been popping up here - Kuhn's conclusions are very relativistic, and he's not always clear or concise in the way he conveys them - are fair. Kuhn puts forth a very interesting theory, and I think at least a few sections are very helpful when approaching the history of science. But it's certainly not a fun read, and much of the argument's density could have been fairly easily avoided. If you're a scientist, or have an interest in the
Liam O'Leary
Aug 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Thomas Kuhn raises some interesting points about how textbook science education is misleading.

He also suggests that revolutions occur when non-specialists make revolutionary observations that conflict with established observations (paradigm), leading to a crisis that inspires work that makes the paradigm 'shift' to a new one.

Ultimately this book is not getting a 4* because though it raised interesting ideas, they were not as complex, practical, up-to-date or concisely written as I'd have liked
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Lists of books I'm supposed to have read
I’ve seen citations to this book for decades, and it’s been on my shelf, unread-by-me, nearly as long. Finally read it. Kuhn contends that the then-accepted description of scientific process as a largely smooth increase in human knowledge isn’t accurate. Instead, it’s Hegelian-esque: an accepted model less and less satisfactory as more and more things are observed that do not fit; new models emerge and are resisted for reasons rational and not; and one fine day, the paradigm shifts. For reasons ...more
Jan 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isn't it ironic that a book about paradigm shifts caused a paradigm shift in itself? And isn't it even more ironic that I'm studying this book from a humanities perspective, a science Kuhn himself might not even call a science?

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a fascinating book because it works out, detail after tiny detail, how a scientific revolution takes place. One of the most interesting ideas Kuhn posits is that we can't compare two paradigms with each other (say, Newtonian physi
I have made an update to my review in response to comments.

Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great and classic work that gives a thorough and eruditious account of the evolution of science throughout history. Very much a humbling work for the sciences that allows a more guided approach.
Sometimes dry but an absolutely essential read for understanding how certain scientific paradigms remain stuck in place, despite new evidence that suggest a new paradigm should be adopted.

Throughout history society and scientific communities themselves refused to allow the advancement of various new ideas that were supported by myriad evidence. Even Einstein, one of the biggest progressives in scientific history, could not accept the implications of his own theory. Other scientists were too inv
Semi-Academic Eric
Referred to by the authors of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Future Edge: Discovering the New Paradigms of Success, this may help one see truths to bring forth new technologies, business models and other re-organizational necessities. ...more
Mar 13, 2020 marked it as to-read
Of course, Khun didn't foresee the coronavirus.

Nov 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a terrible book! This is not my usual way to begin a review with, and certainly each author deserves a nuanced review of his or her works. But I simply can't believe that the author of The Copernican Revolutions (one of the best science books ever written!) is the same author that wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Maybe the comparison is unfair, since the Copernican Revolution is a book - in which Kuhn gives an exposition of astronomical developments, from ancient Greek astrono
Oliver Bateman
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Yet another "important" book, one that advances a theory of "paradigm shift" to explain the transition between scientific worldviews (or transitions from pre-paradigm to paradigm worldviews, in the case of a coalescing field). Although written in an easy-to-understand way, Kuhn's presentation of this material--as evidenced by the somewhat defensive tone he adopts when responding to criticisms about his slipshod use of the term "paradigm" and his tendency to pass between descriptive and normative ...more
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American historian and philosopher of science, a leading contributor to the change of focus in the philosophy and sociology of science in the 1960s. Thomas Samuel Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Harvard University in 1949. But he later shifted his interest to the history and philosophy of science, which he taught at Harvard, the University of ...more

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