In Paradigms and Barriers Howard Margolis offers an innovative interpretation of Thomas S. Kuhn's landmark idea of "paradigm shifts," applying insights from cognitive psychology to the history and philosophy of science. Building upon the arguments in his acclaimed Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition, Margolis suggests that the breaking down of particular habits of mind—of critical "barriers"—is key to understanding the processes through which one model or concept is supplanted by another. Margolis focuses on those revolutionary paradigm shifts— such as the switch (...) from a Ptolemaic to a Copernican worldview—where challenges to entrenched habits of mind are marked by incomprehension or indifference to a new paradigm. Margolis argues that the critical problem for a revolutionary shift in thinking lies in the robustness of the habits of mind that reject the new ideas, relative to the habits of mind that accept the new ideas. Margolis applies his theory to famous cases in the history of science, offering detailed explanations for the transition from Ptolemaic to cosmological astronomy, the emergence of probability, the overthrow of phlogiston, and the emergence of the central role of experiment in the seventeenth century. He in turn uses these historical examples to address larger issues, especially the nature of belief formation and contemporary debates about the nature of science and the evolution of scientific ideas. Howard Margolis is a professor in the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and in the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Selfishness, Altruism, and Rationality and Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition, both published by the University of Chicago Press. (shrink)
In a forthcoming study I give an account of paradigm shifts as shifts in habits of mind. This paper summarizes the argument. Habits of mind, on this view, are what constitute a paradigm. Further, some particular habit of mind is ordinarily critical for a Kuhnian revolution. A contrast is drawn between this view and the "gap" view that is ordinarily implicit in analysis of the nature of of paradigm shifts.
Rachlin adds to the already long list of proposals for reducing what might be seen as social motivation to some roundabout form of self-interest. But his argument exhibits the usual limitations, and prompts questions about what drives this apparently unending quest.
Having for thirty years believed and taught the doctrine of phlogiston… I for a long time felt inimical to the new system, which represented as absurd that which I hitherto regarded as sound doctrine; but this enmity… springs only from force of habit… [Black to Lavoisier, 1791]This paper is abstracted from a forthcoming book which defends a particular answer to the question of just what it is that shifts when a paradigm shifts. The claim is that what shifts are habits (...) of mind. And in particular the claim is that the most striking cases of paradigm shift will characteristically turn on a shift in some single, uniquely critical, habit of mind: the barrier. An account of a radical discovery — discovery that prompts the Kuhnian symptoms of incommensurability, so that intuitions that seem irresistible to some seem perverse to their rivals — then characteristically turns on how some individual got past the barrier (escaped the critical habit of mind), while at least for a while others could not do so. (shrink)
The simple heuristics that may indeed usually make us smart–or at least smart enough–in contexts of individual choice will sometimes make us dumb, especially in contexts of social choice. Here each individual choice (or vote) has little impact on the overall choice, although the overall choice is compounded out of the individual choices. I use an example (risk aversion) to illustrate the point.