Finally, THE “New Paradigm”

Scott Virden Anderson Blog

I’ll outline here, and in one or more subsequent posts, how it’s now coming into greater focus, but first I should try to make clear what I mean by “paradigm.

The term was “given its contemporary meaning” by Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions first published by the University of Chicago Press in 1962.

Kuhn’s ideas generated a tremendous amount of scholarly discussion and criticism inside academia that continues to this day.

However, Kuhn’s work was also embraced by an audience that was totally unanticipated by its author – members of the consciousness revolution of the ‘60s and ’70s who loved how Kuhn’s ideas might validate their own.

A “New Paradigm Movement” was born in the counter culture in ‘70s that looked for a while might carry the standard for the “New Age.

Among its key players were neurosurgeon Karl Pribram and theoretical physicist David Bohm whose “holographic paradigm” (one that seems alive and well still, according to Wikipedia, which also references Pribram’s work using the term “holonomic paradigm”).

Since then, dozens of “new paradigm” initiatives have launched outside of academia within the counter culture and there was a period during the ‘80s and ’90s where the term was so overused as to become pretty much useless.

Thus, there are two quite distinct “universes of discourse” concerning Kuhn’s legacy.

When I re-read Kuhn in the late ‘80s, two points stood out to me: the academics had not noticed the self-referential nature of Kuhn’s definition, and his counter-cultural fans had not noticed that a “concrete experimental result” was required for any genuine “new scientific paradigm.”

Regarding the former, Kuhn’s proposal amounted to a theory of paradigms.

If we allow that the history of science provided Kuhn with numerous “concrete experimental results,” examples, or “exemplars,” then, what he proposed was, in effect a paradigm of paradigms – a classic self-referential structure.

Although I have not attempted to follow all the many complex twists and turns of the voluminous academic debate that now stretches back some 45+ years, I have yet to encounter any reference to this feature of Kuhn.

Self-reference can lead to mere paradox, or it can lead to profound depth – in this case, I feel there is a profound implication that leads, as I hope you’ll see in what follows, to what I propose is the SummaParadigm – a “paradigm to end all paradigms,” if you will.

Regarding what I think has been missed by most of his counter cultural fans (Ken Wilber excepted), Kuhn insisted that a scientific paradigm consists of a “concrete experimental result” (this point is not clear, in my view, in the various relevant Wikipedia entries, but is extremely clear if you actually read the book).

Instead, most CC fans have opted for the notion of paradigm as a notion, an idea, a theory, a concept, a point of view, a perspective.

I suspect this accounts for the gradual fade to vague on the part of the entire “New Paradigm Movement” – it didn’t really know what it was talking about and I’ve had the strong impression that most people talking “paradigm” in CC circles have never read Kuhn.

In my next entry, I’ll suggest how self-reference can lead to profundity – even esoteric spiritual realization – and how spiritual realization itself, in the case of numerous human exemplars throughout history, is the “concrete experimental result” for the SummaParadigm.