What could be a good reason for substituting a scientific paradigm (as Kuhn defined it) with a new one? For example why copernican astronomy was substituted by newtonian's?

  • "When enough significant anomalies have accrued against a current paradigm, the scientific discipline is thrown into a state of crisis, according to Kuhn. During this crisis, new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried. Eventually a new paradigm is formed [...]" ("Kuhnian paradigm shifts")
    – user3164
    Dec 5, 2013 at 19:42
  • I've put my question in an ambiguous way. I meant a good reason out of kuhn's work Dec 5, 2013 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


Good reasons include if the new theory is simpler, has a wider explanatory scope, is more accurate, and/or produces a new set of testable predictions that are subsequently confirmed.

  • These are certainly good reasons for preferring one theory to another, but not for preferring one paradigm to another "as Kuhn defined it." Dec 6, 2013 at 4:22
  • The way I read the querent's comment, he wanted an explanation "outside of Kuhn's work". Granted, he could have also meant "from Kuhn's work", but since the comment he responded to was basically a paraphrase of Kuhn, I didn't think that made sense. Dec 6, 2013 at 17:10

The way you've framed the question, there are no such reasons!

In Chapters 6–9 of Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn lays out the process by which one paradigm replaces another as a sociological process. The process is typically promoted by increased attention to anomalies in the existing paradigm, which is itself promoted by the sociological phenomenon of younger generations looking for new research projects, and by the development of technology aimed at investigating anomalies, which in turn creates new anomalies and amplifies the visibility of existing ones. Other factors contribute.

Within a particular paradigm, the emergence of anomalies will seem like a good reason to abandon the current paradigm, but these can never be real reasons, in the sense of ideas that one ought to accept. That is because there are, for Kuhn, no paradigm-independent truths, and because shifting from one paradigm to another is a matter of Gestalt-shift, or change in one's way of looking at things. It is not a rational, or reason-driven process. It is produced by crisis in an existing paradigm that makes scientists want to flee it for something else, rather than rational or reason-driven evaluation of two paradigms.

  • All Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend debate turn around the issue of "rational" paradigm-shift. If "scientific reason" is available only inside a paradigm (because the paradigm "set the rules") it is impossible to rationally assess two competing paradigms. So, the ultimate reason for paradigm shift is the "extinction" of the scientific school supporting the "older one". Of course, this view is strongly contrasting with "common sense" view (I think supported also by Kuhn) that history of science oulines a path of real scientific progress in term of increasing level of knowledge). Dec 19, 2013 at 13:46

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