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distinct concepts or thought patterns

In science and philosophy, a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.


  • The shared idea in the mind of society, the great big unstated assumptions, constitute that society's paradigm, or deepest beliefs about how the world works. [...] people who have managed to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm have hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems.
  • T. S. Kuhn's notion of a paradigm has replaced the positivist account of theories in many discussions, particularly in the social sciences. Most generally, a paradigm is a conceptual scheme representing a group's shared commitments and providing them with a way of looking at phenomena (Kuhn, 1970b). This notion is flexible enough to have much practical and historical applicability, but it is too vague to help with philosophical problems about explanation, justification, and meaning. Despite a professed desire to avoid total subjectivity, Kuhn has not succeeded in describing how paradigms can be rationally evaluated, or how different paradigms can relate to the same world, or even what it is for a paradigm to be used in solving a problem.
    • Paul Thagard, Computational Philosophy of Science (1988), Chapter 3. Theories and Explanations
  • Though one can question the extent to which Kuhn's cyclic theory of scientific revolution fits what we know of the history of science, in itself this theory would not be very disturbing, nor would it have made Kuhn's book famous. For many people, it is Kuhn's reinvention of the word "paradigm" that has been either most useful or most objectionable. … But the quarrel over the word "paradigm" seems to me unimportant. Kuhn was right that there is more to a scientific consensus than just a set of explicit theories. We need a word for the complex of attitudes and traditions that go along with our theories in a period of normal science, and "paradigm" will do as well as any other.

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