Monday, October 26, 2009

The Problem of paradigms . . .

Blogging has confirmed in my mind at least one particular idea; that one of the primary problems people have in understanding each other and finding creative solutions to our problems is that they think quite firmly within a particular paradigm. The inability to think outside the paradigm in which they are operating makes it very difficult for people to see that certain social interactions or even scientific problems have numerous, sometimes countless, solutions but they are prevented from seeing them because a paradigm, or worldview, is like a hard frame that forms around our thought preventing us from seeing beyond our thought to creative solutions. The philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn wrote extensively about this idea in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. But his conclusions are easily transferable to other areas of society. Ironically, academics are probably some of the people who are most vulnerable to paradigmatic blindness because they are steeped in a certain culture so deeply and because they are well educated they imagine that they are very open minded. It is doubly ironic that the process of peer review continually reinforces this process. Living as I did for many years on the margins of the academic community, I saw this process first hand and was continually shocked by it. But it happens everywhere in our society; in the arts, in politics, in religion, etc. Thus we often discuss things at cross purposes because people can seldom even identify the paradigm in which they are operating and if you don’t even understand that you are operating from a particular world view that is confining the ways and patterns in which you think, breaking out of this will be nearly impossible. Thus we often discuss issues at cross purposes with very little, if any hope, of coming to an understanding because we are operating from conflicting and unidentified world views. People are usually convinced that they are objective and can see all points of view but are only operating in an inter-objective manner, that is, within the confines of their own paradigm what they are arguing makes sense but looked at from another point of view the same argument might be entirely senseless.

I have no solutions for this problem. I just mention it because many of the comments I have received on my blog have been so completely beside the point that it has amazed me. But when I realize that the person is operating in a different paradigm it makes more sense. 

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