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Paradigm and paradigm shift: How do we see the world?

Paradigm and paradigm shift: How do we see the world?

Our beliefs are shaped by our surroundings. Those beliefs are profoundly rooted in our culture and tradition. Beliefs become paradigms, which are philosophical and theoretical frameworks for life. We all know the story of the glass-- whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. This mainly performs rapid and convenient psychological tests. Psychologists use the test to determine an optimist or pessimist person. However, the attitude towards the glass is a paradigm, how people see the glass, not only through their eyes but mental and attitudinal perspective.

The word paradigm comes from the Greek paradigma. The present term is widely used in the sense of theory, idea, belief or model. Paradigm in the broadest sense is the belief, meditation or established theory or theory under which our brain analyses a situation or condition, created by observing the activities of our daily lives and worldly affairs. Observation can be through one's eyes, deep perception, research etc. This can be called the main basis of thinking. In one word, a set of beliefs and values guide our actions that govern our thoughts and the way we see things.

Suppose you wear blue shaded glasses all the time except for a few hours of sleep. This will make everything around you look blue. Seeing the white sky will make you feel like the blue sky of autumn. If you wear green glasses instead of blue, the old leaves of the tree will also look like new leaves. And after a few days, all this will seem normal to you.

Paradigm is a bit like this lens of spectacles, which filters the events around us and submits them to the brain and that's how we see the events. To the frog that lives in the water of the canal, the canal is the largest body of water, beyond which it cannot imagine. If a big fish tries to explain the vastness of the sea to that frog, the frog will not be able to understand. This is the game of paradigm. Each of us has a myriad of paradigms from which we direct our thoughts and statements.

Paradigm is widespread in all of our thought work. With the help of this, our movements, attitudes, actions and reactions are managed. That is why our success or failure also depends on the paradigm. It can be compared to a map. You will never be able to reach your desired destination with the help of a wrong map.

A radical change in attitude for any reason is called a paradigm shift. American philosopher Thomas Samuel Kuhn was the first to mention paradigm shift in his book, The Structure of the Scientific Revolution. According to him, most of the creations of science have changed their old way of thinking. Such was the truth established in ancient Greece on the basis of Ptolemy's theory -- the earth is the centre of the universe. Nicholas Copernicus then established the theory that all the planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun. This is the paradigm shift.

This can be easily illustrated by an example from the book by the author 'Stephen Covey'. The writer was sitting at the metro station one day while another man was sitting close by with his baby. The baby started crying so loudly that another person waiting at the station got very angry, and uttered bitter words to the aby's father. In response, he said that the child's mother had died a while ago. We are returning from the hospital. Instantly, the man's attitude changed. He even bought the kid chips and chocolate. Such a change in attitude or paradigm is the paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts are often needed everywhere from social systems, science, state management. For example, in the middle of the 20th century, Einstein's theory of relativity became acceptable. This relativity is initiated by the paradigm that mass and energy are interchangeable. Based on this, various branches of modern science were created.

In the social paradigm, it is the way we look at the problems, ask questions, interpret information gathered. If you ask a Marxist, why is this happening?  He will say, this is exploitation, everything in this world is exploitation. In a capitalist society, the state exploits the poor or labour class. The Marxist will see the world through an exploitation paradigm. Furthermore, if you ask a feminist, he will make you understand that the world is not a safe place for women. Patriarchy is everywhere, and owing to this, women are exploited always even in their homes.

Paradigm has always existed, however, it has been modified, constructed and reconstructed. If we take the case of the criminal justice system, punishment or correction, we will find that some believe that punishment is necessary to reduce the crime rate, on the contrary, many people think that correction measures are preferable to punishment.

In our life, paradigm changes through education and experiences. Knowingly or unknowingly, it changes. Change is inevitable in our social life.


Md. Obaidullah, works as a Research Assistant, Centre for Advanced Social Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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