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Thomas Samuel Khun’s contribution to philosophy remains a significant milestone in nursing (and by extension, the field of science). Khun introduced the concept of “paradigm shift” in mainstream science by suggesting that scientific models undergo paradigm shifts (periodically) and therefore, the notion that scientific models develop in a linear manner is untrue.
In this regard, Khun suggests that science cannot solely rely on objectivity but rather, by considering subjective aspects of the discipline as well (Klemke, Hollinger, & Rudge, 1998). This paper analyzes Khun’s philosophy by evaluating how it revolutionized the philosophy of science.
This paper also highlights how Khun’s philosophies helped the nursing practice, as opposed to hindering it. Finally, this paper evaluates if falsification or verifiability provides a stable criterion for science, and if it is possible to have a significant statement without either of the two processes.
How Khun Revolutionized the Philosophy of Science
Khun’s contribution to science stretches through his achievements in the field. As explained above, one such achievement was his introduction of the concept of “paradigm shift,” not as an absolute operative principle of science but rather, as an important principle of science (Klemke, et al., 1998). Khun developed his principles by conducting a critical analysis of different individuals at MIT and Harvard.
From these analyses, he opposed perverted science as “absolute as Baconian as over humanities idea” (Klemke, et al., 1998, p. 15). This was a good contribution of science. From these contributions, Khun remains a key figure of the dialectic in epistemology.
How Khun’s Contribution helped Nursing
Khun’s contribution to nursing stems from the revolutionary theory and its contribution to nursing. For many years, researchers held the opinion that nursing resembles revolutionary development models in other sciences (Dahnke & Dreher, 2011). However, Khun changed this philosophy by evaluating different perceptions of health events in nursing and proposing that the existence of a single paradigm is unacceptable in the field.
Many scholars accepted his view because nursing works by helping and caring for people who present different dynamics in care delivery. Therefore, Khun’s contribution has helped the nursing practice (as oppose to hindering it) because his views accommodated varying patient dynamics in nursing models (especially concerning the changing attitudes and different cultural dynamics influencing care delivery).
Falsification or Verification
Khun’s argument of the functions of a scientific test mainly compares with Popper’s view on the same. Karl Popper was a respected philosopher but he greatly differed with Khun because he proposed that only falsification ensures the validity and reliability of scientific tests. Khun however maintained that scientific tests are supposed to affirm verification (as opposed to falsification) (Klemke, et al., 1998).
Khun proposed that verification resembled “natural selection” in modern science because it established how the fitness of a theory is determined. Therefore, in a historical context, the process of verification identifies the most viable theory (among a pool of other similar theories). Khun meant that by verifying a theory, a scientist would easily establish the accuracy of a theory in defining reality.
Therefore, contrary to proponents of falsification, Khun advocated for verifiability as the main criterion for evaluating theories. However, his assertions bore significant flaws. Indeed, it is crucial to highlight why it is vital to eliminate the concept of verifiability because not all scientific evolutions gravitate towards an understandable goal of corresponding to reality.
In fact, Khun agreed with scientists who considered this view to be unwarranted (Klemke, et al., 1998). Therefore, for any scientist to comprehend the dependability of a theory, they have to evaluate how it compares with falsification. Scientists deliberately use falsification for evaluating scientific paradigms because it is the only logical possible test for scientific selection (Klemke, et al., 1998).
The criterion of falsification is therefore the missing link to Khun’s argument because a scientific theory differs from an ideological model because its hypotheses are amenable to falsification. From the intrigues surrounding the debate of falsification and verification, it is safe to acknowledge the possibility of having a significant statement without verifying it.
Measuring the falsification of a theory is therefore the main measure of understanding scientific paradigms. Therefore, based on the understanding of Khan’s flaw, falsification is a more suitable criterion of science. Consequently, scientists may make a significant scientific statement without verifying it.
After weighing the findings of this paper, it is crucial to acknowledge the contributions of Khun in science. His contribution to science also mirrors his contribution to nursing because his introduction of the concept of “paradigm shift” accommodates varying patient dynamics that occur in nursing. Patient dynamics manifest as a crucial factor in this analysis because nursing mainly focuses on caring for patients.
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In this regard, Khun’s contribution to nursing has helped the discipline, as opposed to hindering it. However, because not all scientific theories gravitate towards an understandable goal of corresponding with reality, falsification stands out as the more stable criterion for science. Therefore, it is possible to have a significant scientific paradigm without verifying it.
Dahnke, M. D & Dreher, H. M. (2011). Philosophy of science for nursing practice: concepts and application. New York: Springer.
Klemke, E.D., Hollinger, R. & Rudge. (1998). Introductory reading in the philosophy of science (3rd ed). New York: Prometheus Books.