Paradigm Shifts in Religious Studies (Part 2)

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by Tim Widowfield

The previous post generated some interesting discussion. Eventually, I would like to take the time to address the comments in a deliberate, serious manner; however, at the moment I want to take us back around to some fundamental questions.

  1. What did Thomas Kuhn mean by paradigm?
  2. Did Kuhn think his paradigmatic structure applied to the social sciences, arts, and humanities?
  3. Can we legitimately apply the concept of Kuhnian paradigm shifts to theology and biblical studies?

A Definition Might Help

Margaret Masterman-Braithwaite

As you probably already know, Kuhn’s magnum opus, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, spawned a great deal of controversy. Undeniably, he unleashed a generation of self-absorbed loud-talkers at parties who used the word incessantly. His detractors almost immediately jumped upon the fact that Kuhn used the word “paradigm” in several different senses of the word. How do we know what he meant by the term paradigm shift if we can’t be certain, from one page to the next, what exactly he meant by paradigm?

In the preface to more recent editions of Structure, Ian Hacking cites “an often-cited but seldom-read essay” by Margaret Masterman — who may be the first person to have counted the 21 ways Kuhn used the word. Having recently read the paper, “The Nature of a Paradigm,” I think Masterman’s criticism came out of sincere respect and the desire to clarify Kuhn’s muddy waters. She rightly notes the sense in which a group of scientists latch onto a paradigm before they can articulate a theory. It starts with some achievement that draws like-minded people together into a social relationship.

[F]or Kuhn, something sociologically describable, and above all, concrete, already exists in actual science, at the early stages, when the theory is not there.

It is worth remarking also that, whatever synonym-patterns Kuhn may get trapped into establishing in the heat of his arguments, he never, in fact, equates ‘paradigm’, in any of its main senses, with ‘scientific theory’. For his metaparadigm* is something far wider than, and ideologically prior to, theory: i.e. a whole Weltanschauung. His sociological paradigm, as we have seen, is also prior to theory, and other than theory, since it is something concrete and observable: i.e. a set of habits. And his construct-paradigm is less than a theory, since it can be something as little theoretic as a single piece of apparatus: i.e. anything which can cause actual puzzle-solving to occur. (Masterman 1977, p. 66-67, emphasis mine)

[*By “metaparadigm,” Masterman is referring to the sense in which Kuhn refers to an all-encompassing way of thinking about the world and not merely to a localized pattern, set of habits, or framework for puzzle-solving.]

While many critics (especially followers of Popper) scoffed at Kuhn’s work and claimed he had simply reworked some well-known and understood ideas, Masterman realized he was onto something important. And she recognized that this new way of looking at scientific progress — not as an accumulation of facts and a slow upward march, but as a kind of punctuated equilibrium — was attracting readers and adherents.

Thus the widely-held popular views that Kuhn is not really saying anything new: or that in so far as he is a philosopher at all, his views are essentially the same as Feyerabend’s; or that he must be trying to say the same things as Popper (since Popper first said everything that is true about the philosophy of science), but that he does not say them very efficiently or with the right kind of emphasis; all these judgements can be shown, from actual examination of Kuhn’s text, to be false. It is, in fact, the very differences between Kuhn’s ‘new image’ of science (or, as I shall from now on call it, the ‘paradigm view’ of science) and all other philosophies of science which are known to me, which is causing Kuhn’s book to be so widely read, and which is prompting me to write the present paper. (Masterman 1977, p. 67, emphasis mine)

Kuhn himself realized he had unleashed the word and immediately lost control of it. In his essay, “Second Thoughts on Paradigms,” Kuhn contemplates the social nature of scientific communities. These communities have shared methods, mutual goals, and a common view of the world. What is it that binds them together?

Let me now suppose that we have, by whatever techniques, identified one such community. What shared elements account for the relatively unproblematic character of professional communication and for the relative unanimity of professional judgment? To this question The Structure of Scientific Revolutions licences the answer “a paradigm” or “a set of paradigms.” That is one of the two main senses in which the term occurs in the book. For it I might now adopt the notation “paradigm,” but less confusion will result if I instead replace it with the phrase “disciplinary matrix”—“disciplinary” because it is the common possession of the practitioners of a professional discipline and “matrix” because it is composed of ordered elements of various sorts, each requiring further specification. Constituents of the disciplinary matrix include most or all of the objects of group commitment described in the book as paradigms, parts of paradigms, or paradigmatic. (Kuhn 1977, p. 297, emphasis mine)

The term “disciplinary matrix” didn’t catch on; however, it gives us some insight into Kuhn’s thought process. A paradigm requires a community, and vice versa.

Not Applicable

For Kuhn, people engage in “normal science” only within a mature paradigm. Before that, no coherent, agreed-upon framework for understanding exists. Practitioners use a variety of tools, examine disparate data points, argue from multiple viewpoints, etc. But no meaningful consensus exists. In fact, people expend enormous amounts of energy rehashing the same fundamental issues, with no real progress. Here, Kuhn would note that the arts, humanities, and social sciences do not progress in the same way as the natural sciences for this very reason. They remain mired in a pre-paradigm world.

The preceding pages have carried my schematic description of scientific development as far as it can go in this essay. Nevertheless, they cannot quite provide a conclusion. If this description has at all caught the essential structure of a science’s continuing evolution, it will simultaneously have posed a special problem: Why should the enterprise sketched above move steadily ahead in ways that, say, art, political theory, or philosophy does not? Why is progress a perquisite reserved almost exclusively for the activities we call science? (Kuhn 2012, p. 202)

Kuhn mentions economics as a possible candidate for a social science that is moving or has moved out of the pre-paradigm state. However, such examples are rare. Keith Percival explained Kuhn’s views about the demarcation point between mature and immature sciences quite succinctly in an essay published in 1979:

Kuhn was . . . deeply convinced that the developed sciences differ radically from other disciplines in being characterized by what he referred to as uniform research-consensus. In effect, therefore, Kuhn merely replaced the older view of science as characterized by gradual cumulative progress, with an alternative view, which postulated that the essence of science consists in community-wide commitment to one single all-embracing Weltanschauung. According to this perspective, the reason that fields such as psychology and sociology are not mature sciences is that the practitioners of these disciplines disagree among themselves about the nature of legitimate scientific problems and methods. (Percival 1979, p. 29)

None of the foregoing should lead us to conclude that Kuhn considered revolutions to be occurrences unique to the mature physical sciences. Quite the contrary — in fact, his novel contribution to the history of science was the notion that revolutions were observed within the sciences as well. That is, things didn’t flow neatly in a straight line via the gradual accumulation of data, the way science was (and often still is) presented in works concerning the history of science.

In the 1969 postscript to Structure, Kuhn wrote:

A number of those who have taken pleasure from it have done so less because it illuminates science than because they read its main theses as applicable to many other fields as well. I see what they mean and would not like to discourage their attempts to extend the position, but their reaction has nevertheless puzzled me. To the extent that the book portrays scientific development as a succession of tradition-bound periods punctuated by non-cumulative breaks, its theses are undoubtedly of wide applicability. But they should be, for they are borrowed from other fields. Historians of literature, of music, of the arts, of political development, and of many other human activities have long described their subjects in the same way. Periodization in terms of revolutionary breaks in style, taste, and institutional structure have been among their standard tools. If I have been original with respect to concepts like these, it has mainly been by applying them to the sciences, fields which had been widely thought to develop in a different way. (Kuhn 2012, p. 207, emphasis mine)

Trouble in Paradigms

Let’s summarize what we’ve found so far.

  • A Kuhnian paradigm emerges in a mature science.
  • The arts and humanities don’t have paradigms.
  • You can’t have a paradigm shift without a paradigm.
  • Revolutions can and do occur without paradigm shifts.

Please don’t misunderstand: For the purposes of the discussion at hand, it doesn’t matter whether you think Kuhn is correct, nor does it matter whether he was describing or prescribing what scientists actually do or what they ought to do. Notice that I’m not criticizing anyone for using the generic term “paradigm shift” as a loose synonym for a revolution in thought. However, if someone cites Kuhn’s work while invoking the term paradigm (as Kuhn understood it) with respect to history, the arts, biblical studies, or theology, then I have to wonder if that person understands Kuhn at all.

Consider, for example, Robert Price’s essay “Paradigm Shifting and the Apologetics Debate.” At the outset he claims that “the relevance of [Kuhn’s] work for other fields such as theology has become apparent.” In particular, he thinks the concept of “paradigm shifting” will prove useful in a debate over two varieties of apologetics. Unfortunately, Price does not begin his essay by defining what Kuhn meant by paradigm. If he had, he might have saved himself a long and pointless trip over very rough road.

His first mistake is not understanding what a paradigm is, at least in the Kuhnian sense. But even if we could bend Kuhn’s logic into a pretzel and apply Structure to theology, Price’s second mistake takes us completely off the road, down the embankment, and into the thicket.

In his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn takes issue with the common conception that scientific advancement has proceeded mainly by way of “new discoveries.” In fact, really new data is relatively seldom discovered. Scientific progress has more to do with scientists coming to formulate new ways of construing the same old information, new keys to solve the puzzles presented by the data. One such paradigm will be accepted by scientists as long as it seems to make plausible sense of most of the evidence. (Price 2008)

Here, and throughout the essay, Price shows that he does not understand the critical importance of anomalies, which lead to a crisis. It becomes painfully clear when he invents a new, entirely unnecessary term: super-paradigm.

Price asks whether a paradigm can disprove itself, or as he puts it: “do they carry their own criteria of plausibility of explanation?” Because he misunderstands a paradigm shift as simply the seemingly arbitrary conversion from one gestalt to another, he concludes that some external all-encompassing worldview must be required — some superset of ideals by which we judge the fitness of competing paradigms.

Mustn’t they, if they are truly comprehensive systems for understanding data (so that only in light of them are the data “data for” anything)? But if they do, then how is any shift from one paradigm to another ever possible? In terms of our example, why should Ptolemaists have felt ashamed of all those epicycles? (Price 2008)

Wrong on Every Point

As we noted in the previous post in this series, the problem with the Ptolemaic system was not a supposed embarrassment over epicycles. In fact, the mathematical/geometric construct of the epicycle neatly explains the observed (i.e., apparent) motion of the planets — not merely their retrograde motion, but their apparent increase in brightness as they move backward across the ecliptic. No, what embarrassed astronomers was the inability of the Ptolemaic system to make accurate predictions.

He continues:

But of course, the shift did occur. This implies that paradigms do not contain within themselves their own criteria of plausibility. And if they do not, they must be seen as sub-paradigms, or subsets of a larger, all­ comprehensive paradigm. This super-paradigm will be the field of presuppositions in which scientific thought occurs. It will include criteria by which given sub-paradigms (geocentricity or heliocentricity, Einsteinian or Newtonian physics, Big Bang or steady-state cosmologies) can be preferred to one another. Included among these criteria would probably be something like “economy and inductivemess [sic] of explicability of the data.” Such criteria will be the arbiters of which paradigm makes “better sense” of the evidence. They will tell which sense is the “better” sense. (Price 2008)

Unfortunately, Price is wrong here on every point. Paradigms contain within themselves a way of thinking about the world, a set of problems to solve, and a array of tools to solve those problems. Crucially, they contain within themselves a set of expectations. In periods of “normal science,” we should be able to fit any new observed phenomenon within the current paradigm, even if we have to go back and make adjustments.

However, when new results violate expectations, and the paradigm can’t be tweaked to make sense of the perceived violations, the paradigm is in crisis. For example, the Steady-State theory could not satisfactorily explain background radiation or the red shift in light received from distant stars. The Big Bang theory did. The presuppositions that Price believes exist somewhere outside the paradigm are, in fact, built into all paradigms. Specifically, a paradigm purports to be able to explain existing phenomena and reasonably predict new observations.

Nor is it correct in any sense to think of, for example, Newtonian or Einsteinian mechanics as “sub-paradigms.” They are complete paradigms unto themselves with incommensurable terms and concepts. For example, as Kuhn points out the term “mass” in both paradigms might superficially seem to refer to the same thing, but we must recall that Newton said mass is always conserved while Einstein showed we can convert mass into energy.

Newton described gravity as the natural attraction between objects with mass. Hence his system cannot explain gravitational lensing, since photons have no mass. On the other hand, Einstein described gravitation as a distortion in the fabric of spacetime; hence, the general theory of relativity both predicts and explains phenomena the Newtonian paradigm cannot even imagine.

We don’t have theological scientists experimenting in their basements or scribbling on their chalkboards trying to make it all fit.

He continues in his essay, invoking a Kuhn who exists only in Price’s mind:

The evidentialist approach is unsatisfactory at least partially because it makes the Christ-Logos posterior rather than anterior to the reasoning process. In Kuhn’s terms, evidential apologetics makes the evangelical Christian sub­paradigm subordinate to the larger paradigm of neutral, common criteria. And if it does this, then the same bridge from one sub-paradigm to the evangelical one, could as easily one day be the bridge to still a third sub­paradigm. (Price 2008, emphasis mine)

We have now left the thicket, slid off the cliff, and tumbled into the ravine. First of all, theological conjecture masquerading as a philosophical theory cannot be considered a paradigm. A group of clergymen and theologians does not equate to a community of scientific practitioners operating with the same worldview, performing experiments, observing results, solving puzzles, and doing normal science. There is no science here.

Second, there can be no paradigm shift here, not merely because there is no paradigm, but because we could never agree as to what would constitute an anomaly. Christian apologists are trained to ignore inconsistencies, aberrations, and contradictions. For them, any contradiction becomes a “supposed” contradiction. Any inconsistency becomes an “apparent” inconsistency. Apologetics rewards harmonization and the continuous denial of anomaly. Without anomalies, we cannot reach a state of crisis. And without a crisis, we can have no paradigm shift.

Finally, it is vitally important to understand that theology is not even in a pre-paradigm state (as described above). We do not have competing groups looking for a scientific world view that will win out and become the first paradigm. We don’t have theological scientists experimenting in their basements or scribbling on their chalkboards trying to make it all fit. No, Kuhn’s Structure will never apply here, and any attempt to do so will result in meaningless blather, Q.E.D.


When writing about the response to Structure, especially by philosophers who didn’t understand him, Kuhn would sometimes refer to a pesky alter-ego who continually contradicted him.

. . . I am tempted to posit the existence of two Thomas Kuhns. Kuhn1 is the author of this essay and of an earlier piece in this volume. He also published in 1962 a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the one which he and Miss Masterman discuss above. Kuhn2 is the author of another book with the same title. It is the one here cited repeatedly by Sir Karl Popper as well as by Professors Feyerabend, Lakatos, Toulmin, and Watkins. That both books bear the same title cannot be altogether accidental, for the views they present often overlap and are, in any case, expressed in the same words. But their central concerns are, I conclude, usually very different. As reported by his critics (his original has unfortunately been unavailable to me), Kuhn2 seems on occasion to make points that subvert essential aspects of the position outlined by his namesake. (Kuhn 1970, p. 231)

To be honest, the trope gets annoying pretty quickly. But whenever I read Price and he starts talking about Kuhn and his paradigms, I can’t help but think, “Which Kuhn is he talking about?”

In the next post, we’ll return to the real Kuhn and try to wrap up some loose ends, including unanswered questions about the Copernican Revolution — why it prevailed, why it took so long for it to do so, and what changed in its wake.

Kuhn, Thomas S., “Second Thoughts on Paradigms” in The Essential Tension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Kuhn, Thomas S. and Hacking, Ian, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2012, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Kuhn, Thomas S., “Reflections on My Critics” (1970), in Lakatos, Imre, and Alan Musgrave, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, 2014

Percival, W. KeithThe American Sociologist, Vol. 14, Issue 1, “The Applicability of Kuhn’s Paradigms to the Social Sciences,” 1979

Price, Robert M., “Paradigm Shifting and the Apologetics Debate,” 2008

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Tim Widowfield

Tim is a retired vagabond who lives with his wife and multiple cats in a 20-year-old motor home. To read more about Tim, see our About page.

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17 thoughts on “Paradigm Shifts in Religious Studies (Part 2)”

  1. Hi Tim,

    I must take issue somewhat with your statement:

    “However, if someone cites Kuhn’s work while invoking the term paradigm (as Kuhn understood it) with respect to history, the arts, biblical studies, or theology, then I have to wonder if that person understands Kuhn at all.”

    I think that changes in the field of Old Testament studies very clearly illustrate Kuhn’s central observations about paradigms and paradigm shifts, despite this being in the “soft” sciences. As I note in the introduction to my forthcoming book on Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts (Routledge 2022):

    “One may define an academic paradigm as an implicit or explicit theoretical and factual framework that is agreed upon by consensus by a body of professionals within a discipline. Paradigms are typically perpetuated within academic institutions of learning in preparation for professional life within that field. As an axiomatic intellectual framework enforced by revered teachers and respected peers, paradigms tend to be conservatively preserved and are difficult to change except in the face of both deconstruction by new facts that run counter to the accepted paradigm and the construction of a competing paradigm with greater explanatory power (Kuhn 1996).”

    My introduction details two distinct paradigm shifts that the field of biblical studies has undergone. The first was the pre-critical (or “fundamentalist”) research paradigm that accepted biblical claims of authorship and date. The second was classical Higher Criticism that evolved into a (“Maximalist” or “pre-Hellenistic”) theoretical framework that saw the biblical text (notably Genesis-Kings) as having been authored in pre-Hellenistic times with predominantly Ancient Near Eastern literary and cultural influences. The third (“Minimalist”) paradigm was what I term the Hellenistic research paradigm that allows for the possibility of the Pentateuch and other biblical texts having been authored after the time of Alexander the Great, subject to influences from Greek culture and literature present in the east under Greek rule.

    In my book on Timaeus and other articles I have noted that the main crowning achievement of the “Minimalist” or Copenhagen School of biblical criticism in the 1990s under Lemche, Thompson, Davies and others was the theoretical deconstruction of Maximalism. However, exactly as Kuhn posited, their identification of fundamental methodological defects of Maximalist history and biblical criticism had very little immediate effect on contemporary scholarship. The new paradigm was largely either ignored or strenuously opposed. Anomalous data (such as the Elephantine papyri) played virtually no role, since cognitive biases papered over such difficulties with superficial ad hoc explanations.

    More recent research has entered a new phase of positive construction, in which I have enjoyed a modest role, wherein the Hellenistic Era composition of the Pentateuch and Hebrew Bible is thoroughly argued and I believe shown to possess much greater explanatory power than the older paradigm. Anomalous data is now fully weaponized, since the new theories highlight and fully explain these former anomalies and others which old school scholarship is hard pressed to explain. I believe that as a result a gradual paradigm shift is currently underway in a new generation of scholars, although the older conservative scholars are predictably reluctant to fully engage with the new theories (much as Kuhn discussed).

    My point is that Kuhn’s theories of scientific revolution through paradigm shifts are IMHO well illustrated in Old Testament biblical criticism since the 1990s. I would say that NT studies are still in the preliminary deconstruction phase, but that no vibrant new proposal has yet emerged with sufficiently compelling explanatory power to effect a paradigm change in the immediately foreseeable future.

      1. Something that also may be of interest are recent scholarly studies that synthesize Kuhn’s theories of paradigm shifts with psychological theories of cognitive dissonance. Humans have various sets of beliefs (or schemata) about the world, and when confronted by information inconsistent with their beliefs undergo cognitive dissonance. Most people resolve the tension by discounting the new and contradictory information through filtering out new information (cognitive biases), by ad hoc explanations, or in various other ways, viewing “success” as preserving their original beliefs. A few undertake the more cognitively challenging approach of questioning and revising their beliefs in light of the new information, viewing “success” as an improved world view.

        This broad meta-theory serves to explain much of Kuhn’s theories about the conservative tendency to preserve existing paradigms. The application of cognitive dissonance theory regards science as a belief system, which it is. What sets science apart from other belief systems is a methodological commitment to testing those beliefs against the facts of reality. But there is still a natural psychological tendency, even among scientists, to conserve the “tried-and-true” explanations and paradigms of the past.

        There is some question whether pure theology is conservatively auto-immunized and insulated against paradigm shifts by valuing beliefs and alternate realities over the facts of the real world. But among those who attempt to maintain both a theological and a scientific outlook on life (including a commitment to the historical), believing the two can be reconciled, I would argue that a personal paradigm shift is possible in many individual cases via the inevitable tension created by cognitive dissonance.

        But this is a separate discussion, perhaps more pertinent to other comments in this thread that claim a rigid divide between science and theology than your series of postings on Kuhn.

  2. Aside from Kuhn’s ideas there is a big difference between the natural sciences and the arts and humanities. the natural sciences have a final arbiter, nature, which settles all disputes eventually. The arts and humanities do not. But I see shifts in the arts and humanities, specifically over interpretations more than anything else all of the time. They are not led by nature however, but by humans getting bored with the old way of looking at things, or wanting to stand out from the crowd, or . . . or. . . .

    Mother Nature will bitch slap anyone who gets too far out of line and so scientists don’t have to duke it out amongst themselves, as much as their egos goad them to do so. Scientific kerfuffles often are focused on people who do not make the breakthrough discoveries that settle the matter. Consider the gentleman who came up with the Big Bang theory, which changed in a major way how we looked at the cosmos. It wasn’t Einstein or any of the other major thinkers who were on the battlefield at the time.

    1. “[T]here is a big difference between the natural sciences and the arts and humanities.”

      And between Theologians and Historians.


      I would say that most biblical scholars in fact are not historians. But some are. [Ehrman (13 January 2017). “Can Biblical Scholars Be Historians?”. The Bart Ehrman Blog.]



    2. “[T]here is a big difference between the natural sciences and the arts and humanities.”

      And between Theologians and Historians.

      I would say that most biblical scholars in fact are not historians. But some are. [Ehrman (13 January 2017). “Can Biblical Scholars Be Historians?”. The Bart Ehrman Blog.]

  3. I’m confused about Tim’s position. In part 1 he wrote:

    “In the beginning, there may be no particular reason to pick one paradigm over the other. And in the end, as Kuhn notes, only the most obstinate men and women will refuse to change their minds.”

    I may be misreading him, but here Tim seems to be applying Kuhn’s idea of paradigm revolution to religious history. Yet in part 2 he says:

    “However, if someone cites Kuhn’s work while invoking the term paradigm (as Kuhn understood it) with respect to history, the arts, biblical studies, or theology, then I have to wonder if that person understands Kuhn at all.”

    Has his understanding of the issues changed since part 1?

    1. In part 1, when I wrote what you quoted above, I was referring to scientific paradigms — specifically the heliocentric paradigm initiated by Copernicus.

      In my original plan for the series, I had hoped to peel back the onion in stages. First, I’d show that biblical scholarship is immune to paradigm shifts. Then, I’d explain why that is by showing that scholars are blind to anomalies. Without an anomaly, there could be no crisis.

      And as we peel the onion back further, we see there is actually no prevailing paradigm in biblical studies — just an assortment of competing theories that come and go. What does this mean? Are we in some pre-paradigm state?

      And finally, we discover the answer is a resounding “no.” We come to understand that a Kuhnian paradigm:

      1. Exists only in mature science.
      2. Is more than just a theory, but encompasses a worldview, a set of problems to solve, tools with which to work on those problems, etc.
      3. Constitutes the prevailing world view wherein the majority of people practice “normal science.”

      Kuhn accepted that the arts and humanities had revolutions from time to time. In fact, that’s where he borrowed the idea. The difference in the sciences (e.g., physics and chemistry) is that revolutions don’t occur because a new philosophy becomes popular or because social tastes and norms have evolved, but because the prevailing paradigm fails to account for anomalies, which leads to crisis, and then to a paradigm shift.

      Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep to my original plan for the series. I understand now that I should have started from the ground up, with a better explanation of what Kuhn was really up to.

      1. “In part 1, when I wrote what you quoted above, I was referring to scientific paradigms — specifically the heliocentric paradigm initiated by Copernicus.”

        Well the full quote was:

        ‘Price is incorrect in saying that “in the end there may be no objective basis for one’s choice among competing paradigms.” It’s exactly the opposite. In the beginning, there may be no particular reason to pick one paradigm over the other. And in the end, as Kuhn notes, only the most obstinate men and women will refuse to change their minds.’

        So I took you to be responding to Price’s point about religious studies.

        So perhaps you meant to criticize Price for applying an incorrect version of Kuhn’s idea – but that’s unfair of you, since both you and Price recognize that Kuhn’s original formulation doesn’t apply to religious studies.

        Looking at the outline of your ideas you just sketched, I don’t think that you and Price really disagree all that much, your differences are more in terminology. Your animus towards him is getting in the way of the ideas you want to get across.

        1. The reason I say “only the most obstinate men and women will refuse to change their minds” is that tangible, measurable scientific evidence points to the new paradigm, but they refuse to budge. And that doesn’t mean they weren’t intelligent; they just couldn’t imagine a different paradigm. They couldn’t change their worldview. Kuhn quoting Planck:

          And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

          In religious studies people are free to believe any number of differing theories and be certain that no new observational data will “disprove” them.

  4. As another possible example of paradigms in the humanities, consider musical genres:
    renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, serialist, jazz, broadway, pop, rock, various ethnic traditions. I think these satisfy most if not all of criteria of “paradigms”. The difference is that in music a new paradigm doesn’t necessarily replace an old one, multiple paradigms can coexist inside of a, uh, super-paradigm.

      1. “Exists only in mature science.”

        Music is a mature art.

        "Is more than just a theory, but encompasses a worldview, a set of problems to solve, tools with which to work on those problems, etc."

        Absolutely true about musical genres.

        'Constitutes the prevailing world view wherein the majority of people practice “normal science.”'

        The condition must be relaxed for the humanities, for as I said paradigms there can coexist. But there are definitely communities of musicians in which one genre is dominant.

        Now you could argue that relaxing the third criterion means the concept is no longer “Kuhnian”, but I think that’s quibbling – everyone recognizes some changes must be made to the definition if it is to be extended to the humanities.

  5. I think many philosophers would consider that Kuhnian paradigms may indeed exist in the field of philosophy. For example, I believe it is quite widely accepted that Descartes, and his fellow Early Moderns, put an end to the paradigm represented by medieval scholasticism. All Western philosophy conducted in their wake has been fundamentally different than what went before it – or at least, to continue thereafter on the scholastic path is possible only by a deliberate act of refusal, since the framework inaugurated by Modernism proved so useful and influential that it rather quickly came to seem like common sense. (Texts like Descartes’ Meditations or Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature remain readable and understandable to any intelligent modern person – they can even be read with pleasure – while the thought of an Aquinas, despite exemplifying the scholastic paradigm at its most comprehensive, has become alien and inaccessible to the modern mind.)

    Those who commit such an act of refusal are, virtually without exception, motivated by explicit religious fundamentalism, little different from adherents of so-called “creation science”. They begin by assuming the validity of the One True Faith, find that they cannot reconcile it with modern thought, and are thus led to reason backwards to the conclusion that Descartes corrupted philosophy and that we should have stuck to Aquinas or whoever. These people remain outside the mainstream. Even in the contemporary scene, where anomalous results of classical modernism are widely recognized (the Enlightenment didn’t turn out like we thought it would), the response has not been a stampede back to a pre-modern paradigm – i.e. philosophers have not converted to Catholicism en masse; the condition of the field remains “postmodern”.

  6. Let me try a different tack. Kuhn says
    “Periodization in terms of revolutionary breaks in style, taste, and institutional structure have been among their standard tools. ”
    So what are these revolutions against if not paradigms? Kuhn’s project was to apply the insights from the humanities to the sciences.

    And I ask again: whence your animus towards Price?

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