**RELATED TERMS: Paradigm; Method and Methodology **

The term science has come to refer to a set of practices whereby knowledge is obtained through observation and experiment, critically tested and brought under general principles.

Scientific method in the natural or physical sciences is a three-step process: careful observation of some aspect of nature; speculation about how to explain it, if not already well understood; and finding a way or ways to test those speculations.

There are many debates in the history and philosophy of science, such as the disagreement between Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn, by means of which understanding of science changes.

Like Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn rejects the idea that science grows by accumulation of eternal truths, takes his main inspiration from Einstein’s overthrow of Newtonian physics and his main problem is scientific revolution. However, according to Popper, science is permanently in a state of revolution and criticism is the heart of the scientific enterprise. For Kuhn, on the contrary, revolution is exceptional, and in fact extra-scientific, and criticism, in ‘normal times’, is anathema. For Kuhn, the transition from criticism to commitment marks the point where progress, and ‘normal’ science, begins.

Lakatos argues that Kuhn fails to understand that aspect of Popper’s programme in which he replaces the central problem of classical rationality, the old problem of foundations, with the new problem of growth, and begins to elaborate objective and critical standards of growth.

Note: Kuhn introduced the phrase ‘paradigm shift’ into academic discourse.


Lakatos, I. (1968) ‘Criticism and the methodology of scientific research programmes’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, 69, pp. 149–186. Available at: (Accessed: 18 March 2021).