Shift Happens

David Weinberger, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Apr 27, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Sheri Oberman recommended this article on the 50th anniversary of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I'd read it a few days ago buy passed on the link, but maybe it's worth a moment's thought. Kuhn's work wasn't seen as so incendiary at first - it was published as a monograph in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, intended to be the defining text of the logical positivist view of the world. This is where I read it, and it stood as a bridge between my classical positivist education and my radical post-modernist education (I like to think I've preserved the best aspects of both). I prefer the earlier uncompromising Kuhn, with its inherent relativism and thesis of incommensurability between paradigms (the idea that words mean different things depending on which side of the paradigm shift you're on). As Weinberger summarizes, "All understanding is historical, and no human project escapes the characteristics of history-based humanity: fallible, limited, impure of motive, social, and always situated in a culture, a language, and a time."

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