The Interdisciplinary Approaches to Learning essay

It is once again the election season in the United States. Candidates are proclaiming that they are the best person to lead America in the coming years. But how do observers evaluate these claims? A useful intellectual tool for understanding the dynamics of this discourse is the concept of a paradigm. According to Kuhn (1962 as cited in Pajares), a paradigm represents a specific way of viewing reality. A paradigm advances certain ontological positions about reality.

It also prescribes the acceptable procedures that can be employed in order to generate knowledge of a phenomenon under scrutiny. This view also implies that there are ways to evaluate the type of knowledge that is presented to the world. Kuhn’s idea of a paradigm is very much applicable in what he himself termed as sciences that have reached a “matured” level such as physics. One can argue that in the study of physics, inquiry is dominated by communities of scientists who are often based in major research institutions.

They often use established procedures for mutual evaluation and discussion. Physics has reached a level where there is consensus about the boundaries of principal problems, the standards for dealing with them, and the values that must inform the recommendations. The established procedures of physics permits scientific inquiry within the scope of what is recognized in the community of scientists even to the extent that supposed anomalies might be unearthed. There is however a noticeable screening mechanism that limits the frequency of this type of undertaking.

If one is to embark on research that is viewed as beyond the scope of the recognized scope then support for it especially in financial terms is bound to be difficult to come by. To put it in perspective, one can likely be supported financially if one would do research in improving engine efficiency of rockets to make space travel easier but if one is to proposed to experiment on the likelihood of using quantum theory for time travel one is likely to be rejected by funding institutions like the government.

According to Kuhn, paradigms that were dominant before but were replaced by newer ones are very much different from each other that comparing them is a rather useless exercise. Kuhn considered the newer paradigms to be radical departures from previous ones. They are not as he had asserted slight modifications of the previously dominant paradigm. This has resulted in the ushering of an entirely different way of thinking particularly in areas concerning the ontology of the phenomenon being studied as well as the acceptable methodology for deriving knowledge from it.

This likewise makes predictions in the new paradigm regarding the relationships of concepts incompatible with the old paradigm (Forster, 1998) Due to these reasons, Kuhn claimed that the formulation of an unbiased contrast between the two paradigms is simply unworkable. This is primarily due to the different meanings given to terms in the context of the paradigms being examined (Pajares, 16, April 2008 from http://www. des. emory. edu/mfp/Kuhn. html) Kuhn also argued that it is impossible to develop a paradigm in the social sciences.

There is evidence to suggest that his book the Structure of Scientific Revolutions was written in order to highlight the distinction between the natural and social sciences Kuhn. This view was seconded by Dogan who extended Kuhn original ideas by pointing to the factors that prevent the emergence of social scientific paradigm. For example, concepts in the social sciences have different meanings. Let us take the case of concept of democracy. This term has different meanings for different people. This is made more evident when people make claims about empirical referents for the concept of democracy.

Some social scientists would claim that one country can be classified as a democracy while some would say that it should not be classified as such. The differences in perspective can ultimately be traced to their respective understanding of the concept itself. Dogan also asserted that there exists among scholars in the social sciences a condition of mutual ignorance. Even social scientists who are contemporaries with each other barely make references to the work of each other. It is rare for them to collaborate on intellectual enterprises much less subscribe to a single unified core of knowledge (Dogan, 2000).

This essay argues that there are no universal criteria for evaluating areas of leadership. This paper asserts that leadership is a social concept and as such the possibility of creating a paradigm on this particular concept is limited by two factors that Dogan had identified namely, contextual diversity and social change (Dogan, 2000, 7). Contextual diversity is exemplified in the notion that dictatorial forms of leadership might be acceptable for certain countries while this might not be applicable to western countries that give emphasis on the importance of individual rights.

Social change also limits the ability to make generalizations in the social sciences. Whereas before ideas about concept of sovereignty during the enactment of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 were acceptable to the community of social scientists; that concept has undergone rapid changes in the past several years due to the ideas espoused by proponents of globalization. Before it was acceptable, to respect the decision of a leader of a country to do whatever he wishes with those under his jurisdiction.

Now, that notion is being challenged in light of human suffering that can be seen in other countries that had been arguably caused by the leader in power. While the earlier notion of sovereignty may have been valid during the first 400 years after Westphalia, contemporary trends have undermined that notion and this requires the formulation of a newer theory that best describes this generation’s social reality (Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, p. 91).


Dogan, Mattei. 2000 Are there Paradigms in the Social Sciences in Revista Cercetari SocialVol. 1 No. 2, 2000. Retrieved April 16, 2008, from www. ceeol. com/aspx/getdocument. aspx Forster, Malcolm. 1998. Guide to Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Retrieved April 12, 2008, from http://philosophy. wisc. edu/Forster/220/kuhn. htm Pajares, Frank Retrieved. The Structure of Social Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. April 16, 2008 http://www. des. emory. edu/mfp/Kuhn. html . Dougherty , James and Pfaltzgraff, Robert. Contending Theories in International Relations. Longman, New York. 1997.