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Paradigm And Paradigm Shifts

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1302 words Published: 16th May 2017

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The word paradigm first appeared in English in the 15th century. It comes from Greek, meaning “an example or pattern,” and it still holds this meaning today. For nearly 400 years it has also been applied in varieties of grammatical properties including verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech of a language. In linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure used it to refer to a class of elements with similarities.

According to 1900 Merriam-Webster dictionary it is defined as “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly: a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.”

From the 1960s onward, the word has been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework, as when Nobel Laureate David Baltimore cited the work of two colleagues that “really established a new paradigm for the causation of cancer.” Thereafter, researchers in many different fields tried to explore this concept.


The historian of science, Thomas Kuhn was the first to use the term for science, and referred to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline at certain point in time. He meant something like a framework, a dominant way of thinking and doing things, shared expectations and rules. Further he termed ‘something’ as ‘disciplinary matrix’. He also suggested that paradigms are discrete (separate) and culturally based. For example, a Chinese medical researcher, with an in-depth knowledge of eastern medicine, will live in a different paradigm than a purely western researcher.

Alternatively, the Oxford English Dictionary defines paradigm as “a pattern or model, an exemple.” Thus an additional component of Kuhn’s definition of paradigm is that how is an experiment to be carried, and what equipment is available to carry the experiment.


A scientific paradigm, in the most basic sense of the word, is a framework containing all of the commonly accepted views about a subject, a structure of what direction research should take and how it should be performed (Shuttleworth, 2008).

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions defined scientific paradigm as what is to be discovered and inspected, the type of questions that are supposed to be asked and examined for answers in relation to this subject, how these questions are to be organized and how the results of scientific investigations should be analysed.


The philosopher, Thomas Kuhn suggested that scientific research does not progress towards truths, but is subject to belief and remaining emotionally attached to old theories. He gave four basic ways in which a paradigm indirectly influences the scientific process as mentioned above. A paradigm includes what is studied and researched, the kind of questions that are asked, the structure and nature of the questions and how the results of any research are interpreted.

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Kuhn believed that science required periods of patiently gathering data, in a paradigm, and then revolution occurred as the paradigm turn to maturity. A paradigm can include some errors but they eventually become impossible, like Ptolemy’s epicycles, and result in a paradigm shift. The new paradigm is not necessarily better than the old one but it is just different. For example, most psychologists weep at the mention of the Freudian paradigm.


Paradigm shifts are mostly used in sciences that appear to be stable and mature, at the end of the 19th century. A paradigm shift (or revolutionary science) is the term used but not named by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962. Paradigm shift is a “successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution is the usual developmental pattern of mature science.” Paradigm shift questions the paradigm itself. It is a change from one way of thinking to another. It’s a revolution, a transformation. . It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change.

It is when the model for a process or application or method changes significantly, typically because there has been a leap. Kuhn believes that a paradigm would make an unexpected leap from one to the next, called a shift, and the new paradigm could not be built upon the foundations of the old. The indirect meaning is that one has ‘stepped off the road’ that the prior paradigm followed onto an intersecting and better road.

The term paradigm shift has found uses in ‘other contexts,’ representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern; a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the previous way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing.

The Paradigm is closely related to the Platonic and Aristotelian views of knowledge. Aristotle believed that knowledge could only be based upon what is already known, the basis of the scientific method. Plato believed that knowledge should be judged by what something could become, the end result, or final purpose. Plato’s philosophy is more like the intuitive leaps that cause scientific revolution; Aristotle’s the patient gathering of data.

For example, in physics Newton’s Laws were an example of a paradigm, and scientists worked upon his principles for centuries. The discovery of the internal structure of the atom started to find problems in the theory, and Einstein provided the ‘out of the box thinking’ that drew the paradigm in another direction.


A successful paradigm shift requires four main elements. First is pressure for change, second is a clear shared vision, then capacity for change and actionable first step (Kurkela, 2009). If any of these elements is missing the result would be failure of paradigm. Paradigms affect that what kind of learning resources are required and these learning resources further influence what kind of paradigms can be used or developed.


Paradigm shifting can start with your ‘trying-on’ of different existing paradigms. For example, a person has the attitude of being an actor taking on a new role for a season on the stage, or for the duration of a movie. He or she goes into it, knowing that it is for a limited time, and that they will emerge from it the other side. During the play or filming period he/she will adopt that character as it is real. Then again actor will put it down again afterwards. However, while in the play or during filming, the actor tries to become that character, and fulfill the requirement of the role to make it natural.


The transition in cosmology from a Ptolemaic cosmology to a Copernican one.

The transition in optics from geometrical optics to physical optics.

The transition in mechanics from Aristotelian mechanics to classical mechanics.

The acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection replaced Lamarckism as the mechanism for evolution.


The movement, known as the Cognitive revolution, away from Behaviourist approaches to psychological study and the acceptance of cognition as central to studying human behaviour.

The Keynesian Revolution is typically viewed as a major shift in macroeconomics.


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