Paradigm Shifts

It is interesting to see a phrase by a philosopher of science extensively marketed in the modern day language, especially in leadership, management and motivational talks. Paradigm shift was a phrase used by the Thomas Kuhn. He popularized the word paradigm and the development of science could be explained in terms of paradigms. I will give a little bit on that for interested readers.

There are 3 phases in the development of science. The first is a period of normal science when a paradigm (world view / set of theories) is getting established; people try to solve problems, derives laws etc. Then there can be a period of crises, where they find that the existing paradigm is inadequate. There are many anomalies. Many competing theories attempt to take the place of old paradigm. In the revolutionary science phase, a new paradigm replaces the old one. So effectively there is a paradigm shift. Earlier everybody thought that earth was stationary and sun went around the earth (geocentrism was the paradigm). This was changed and the new paradigm called heliocentrism emerged in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Now there are various opinions whether the old paradigm is completely thrown out or not. In the example given above, it was… but it needn’t be always.

2333505In our life too, we see similar type of structures (I am not making any sweeping generalizations). The life might be going very smoothly. Some crisis situation occurs. Sometimes you adjust, adapt and move ahead. But occasionally, to emerge from that crisis, you need a shift in your paradigm. Probably a new way of looking at things. Sometimes you need to try many paradigms before you find an appropriate one. The lives of people born with physical defects who have achieved a lot overcoming those struggles are a fitting example of this.

People who moved through sufferings and found meaning in that suffering is anotherimages fitting example. We have the famous Victor Frankl who stayed in the concentration camps of World War II. When many of his fellow prisoners died, he came out and became a very successful personality later. The freedom to change his paradigm and find life meaningful was his last and greatest freedom. What a beautiful and liberative understanding of freedom!!

Major political ideologies of 20th century were capitalism and communism. Some may include socialism too. Dictatorship  and democracy are some forms in which they find their expressions.  I think capitalism and communism have failed to create a holistic development for all. We might need to think of newer paradigms, newer understandings for an inclusive development.

fc2b875aa8b097e0b6365629ffbc350bAs a personal opinion, another area which is in struggle is faith and religiosity. When we are children, we can eat children’s food, but can’t continue with it. So our spiritualities should be able to help people to have experience of God. It should also be this-worldly spirituality and it should help us to live life meaningfully. At different junctions in life, we need paradigm shifts in our understandings of God (it should evolve and grow) and religions should encourage that if they need to stay relevant.

Physics or chemistry may have common paradigms at one point of time. For example Quantum physics-relativity is the paradigm in physics today. But individuals, communities, groups, countries should find out their own unique paradigms (not copy-paste from others, proper adaptation is workable) to find meaning, to have overall development.


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