Thomas Kuhn and Painting


Today Thomas Kuhn came up in my painting crit group. One of the members said that our teacher could see beyond the current paradigm.

Who is Thomas Kuhn and what is a paradigm shift?

Thomas Kuhn was a 20th century philosopher of science. His seminal work was the structure of scientific revolutions. It presents the notion of the paradigm shift. A paradigm is the context within which science happens, like newtonian laws of physics. Within the newtonian universe many things dont make sense. We need to shift to a new paradigm – a quantum universe in order to create new laws. This sort of rupture is how science happens, not in continuous developments. How does our conception of the world frame our experiments and theories etc. This is the paradigm.

There is a relationship to painting. Paradigm shifts can perhaps be used to understand different cultural moments and painting eras, the cubists, the color field painters etc.

But there is something deeper!


The paradigm shift is about a world. The paradigm is really a world. I do think there is a relationship between phenomenology and post-phenomenology in particular and the notion of paradigm. Phenomenology has the notion of the life world, that we participate in the activity of creating a world by living in the world. But there are perhaps other worlds. The tools we construct create a framing for us to view the world, if we create a ruler with inches, objects have height and width in inches. The tools we have create our description of the world. Ok so with

Before Thomas Kuhn the idea was that science progressed continuously, or that there was a scientific revolution before which was no science and after which there was science. But now we have normal science, and normal science is science that exists within a particular paradigm. But there are other sciences better sciences larger sciences…. there are different color worlds different planar wolds … different representational worlds.