The scientific revolution is a radical change in the process and content of scientific knowledge associated with the transition to new theoretical and methodological prerequisites, a new system of fundamental concepts and methods, a new scientific picture of the world, as well as qualitative transformations of material means of observation and experimentation, and interpretation of empirical data, with new ideals of explanation, validity and organization of knowledge. Historical examples of the scientific revolution include the transition from medieval views of the cosmos to the mechanistic picture of the world on the basis of mathematical physics of the 16th and 18th centuries, the transition to the evolutionary theory of the origin and development of biological species, the emergence of an electrodynamic picture of the world (19th century), the creation of quantum relativistic physics in beginning of the 20th century. Scientific revolutions differ in the depth and breadth of the coverage of the structural elements of science, in terms of the type of changes in its conceptual, methodological and cultural bases. The structure of the foundations of science includes the ideals and norms of research (evidence and validity of knowledge, the norms of explanation and description, the construction and organization of knowledge), the scientific picture of the world and the philosophical foundations of science. Corresponding to this structurization, the main types of scientific revolutions are distinguished:
- the restructuring of the world picture without a radical change in the ideals and norms of research and the philosophical foundations of science (for example, the introduction of atomism into concepts of chemical processes in the early 19th century, the transition of modern elementary particle physics to synthetic quark models etc.);
- a change in the scientific picture of the world, accompanied by a partial or radical replacement of the ideals and norms of scientific research, as well as its philosophical foundations (for example, the emergence of relativistic quantum physics or the synergetic model of cosmic evolution).
The scientific revolution is a complicated step-by-step process, having a wide range of internal and external, i.e. socio-cultural, historical, determinants, interacting with each other. Among the “internal” factors of the scientific revolution are: the accumulation of anomalies, facts that are not explained in the conceptual and methodological framework of a particular scientific discipline; antinomies that arise in solving problems that require the restructuring of the conceptual foundations of the theory (for example, the paradox of infinite values that arises when explaining the model of an absolutely “blackbody” within the framework of the classical theory of radiation); improvement of means and methods of research (new instrumentation, new mathematical models, etc.), expanding the range of objects under study; the emergence of alternative theoretical systems that compete with each other in terms of their ability to increase the “empirical content” of science, i.e. the field of facts explained and predicted by it.
The “external” determination of the scientific revolution includes a philosophical rethinking of the scientific picture of the world, a reassessment of the leading cognitive values and ideals of cognition and their place in culture, as well as the processes of changing scientific leaders, the interaction of science with other social institutions, changing the relationships in social production structures, scientific and technical processes, highlighting the fundamentally new needs of people (economic, political, spiritual). Thus, the revolutionary nature of the changes in science can be judged on the basis of a complex “multidimensional” analysis, the object of which is science in the unity of its various dimensions: object-logical, sociological, personal-psychological, institutional. The principles of such analysis are determined by the conceptual apparatus of the epistemological theory, within the framework of which the basic ideas about scientific rationality and its historical development are formulated. The ideas about the scientific revolution vary depending on the choice of such apparatus.
For example, within the framework of the neo-positivist philosophy of science, the concept of the scientific revolution only appears as a methodological metaphor, expressing the conditional division of the cumulative, in its basis, the growth of scientific knowledge for periods of domination of certain inductive generalizations that act as “laws of nature”. The transition to “laws” of a higher level and the replacement of previous generalizations take place according to the same methodological canons; the knowledge that has been certified by knowledge remains valid in any subsequent systematization, possibly as a limiting case (for example, the laws of classical mechanics are considered as extreme relativistic cases, etc.). The concept of the scientific revolution plays the same “metaphorical role” in “critical rationalism” (K.Popper): revolutions in science take place constantly, every refutation of the accepted and promotion of a new “bold” (i.e., even more susceptible to refutation) hypothesis can be made in principle to consider a scientific revolution. Therefore, the scientific revolution in a critical-rationalist interpretation is a fact of changing scientific (primarily fundamental) theories, viewed through the prism of its logical-methodological (rational) reconstruction, but not an event of a real history of science and culture. The same is the basis for understanding the scientific revolution of I.Lakatos. Historian only “retroactively”, applying the scheme of rational reconstruction to past events, can decide whether this shift was a transition to a more progressive program (increasing its empirical content due to the heuristic potential built-in) or the result of “irrational” decisions (for example, erroneous evaluation of the program by the scientific community). In science, various programs, methods constantly compete, which for the time come to the fore, but then are pushed out by more successful competitors or substantially reconstructed.
The concept of scientific revolution is metaphorical in historically oriented concepts of science (T. Kun, S. Toulmin), but the meaning of the metaphor here is different: it means a leap across the gulf between “incommensurable” paradigms, committed as a gestalt switching in the minds of members of scientific communities. In these concepts, the focus is on the psychological and sociological aspects of conceptual change, the possibility of a “rational reconstruction” of the scientific revolution is either denied or allowed at the expense of such an interpretation of scientific rationality, in which the latter is identified with a set of successful decisions of the scientific elite. In discussions on the problems of scientific revolutions in the late 20th century, a stable trend of interdisciplinary and complex research of scientific revolutions as an object not only of philosophical and methodological but also of historical, scientific, scientific and cultural analysis was determined.