An explanation of all the other explanations

In 1996 I retired from university life to elaborate a theory of paradigms. The subject has fascinated me ever since I read Thomas Kuhn’s ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ which popularised the idea of a paradigm shift. If science is a paradigm then what about all the other academic subjects such as religion, law, political science and medicine? And if they are paradigms what about all the other kinds of knowledge we acquire through life such as how to cook, play tennis, sell things and tie shoe laces?

Paradigms are what we know the world with: they explain it so that we can deal with it. Without paradigms we would be unable to communicate. They are what we think with, the traffic on our brains that we share with others. Without them any form of social organisation or civilisation would not be possible. Yet they may prove our nemesis. Paradigms we humans have invented such as banking, transport and computing are beginning to evolve faster than we do, to the extent that they are becoming uncoupled from the natural world they first evolved to cope with.

In the last analysis such global problems as climatic change, terrorism and war have their causes in the paradigms that we humans have evolved to solve our problems. This is the paradigm paradox we need to resolve. To do this we need to understand what paradigms are, how they evolve, how they are transmitted and how they come to hold such threat and promise.


This eText is only available in English at the moment, but Alex Romiszowski is co-authoring a Portuguese version and I welcome interest from anyone who might be moved to co-author a version in another language.

Languages are paradigms and the act of translation involves a paradigm shift which means that a version in one language can never be the same as in another. Many of the examples I cite are peculiar to the English-speaking world, but it would be a fascinating endeavour to look for the essence of a paradigm no matter the language. Anybody?

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