A paradigm is a fundamental image of the subject matter within a science. It serves to define what should be studied, what questions should be asked, how they should be asked, and what rules should be followed in interpreting the answers obtained. The paradigm is the broadest unit of consensus within a science and serves to differentiate one scientific community (or subcommunity) from another. It subsumes, defines, and interrelates the exemplars, theories, and methods and instruments that exist within it. (Ritzer 1975:7).
In 1962 Thomas Kuhn revealed his ideas about the nature and development of human knowledge in his seminal book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Essentially he maintains that knowledge accumulates quiet differently than a linear progressive view of science would lead one to believe. Rather, he contends, knowledge proceeds in revolutionary shifts. To explain why and how these shifts come about is the main goal of his book.
The task of any science is to make hypothesis and test those hypothesis by searching out facts. This he refers to as normal puzzle solving. Normal science proceeds from certain assumptions made about the reality in question and, by their very nature, those assumptions remain untested. Alvin Gouldner recognized these assumptions in sociology as background or domain assumptions (1979:29-37). Propositions and hypotheses derived from the dominate paradigm direct the fact gathering procedures at all levels. What questions get asked, where to look for facts, and what counts as facts, the development of tools, methodological techniques, etc., all depends on the assumptions concerning reality with which one starts.
In the process of normal science anomalies occur, that
is, bits of fact that cannot be explained or are only partially explained begin
to pile up. Some aspects of reality continue to defy explanation overtime. New
or novel approaches to the dominate paradigm arise attempting to answer not only
the previous problem questions but also give new insight to the facts that were
covered by the old paradigm. Normal science is again carried on, this time based
on new assumptions, directing us toward a different set of questions and
accepting as facts newly defined data.
For a futher discussion of paradigms and criminology check here.
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