A “mature” science, according to Thomas Kuhn, can afford to be uncritical. It has finally answered to its practitioners' satisfaction the fundamental, foundational questions of their field. It finally rests (“for a time,” at least) on an established scientific achievement that epitomizes the accomplished, collective wisdom of an age and defines the terms, conditions, directions, and limits of further refining research. With this “paradigm” in place, researchers are spared the incessant and distracting reexamination of first principles, the extravagant costs of intellectual retooling; they can proceed with confidence, effectiveness, and efficiency to do what they do best: articulating and specifying the received paradigm in more depth and detail, extending and applying it to new areas of interest. Because a paradigm “provides rules that tell the practitioner of a mature specialty what both the world and his science are like,” the practitioner “can concentrate with assurance upon the esoteric problems that these rules and existing knowledge define for him.”
Postmodern legal theory appropriates and assimilates Kuhn's insights in ways and to an extent that have not, I think, yet been fully recognized. In describing the development of legal scholarship in Kuhnian terms, I am thus merely elaborating assumptions integral to contemporary intellectual discourse. In particular, interdisciplinary legal scholarship regularly proceeds on the assumption that it possesses a stable, accepted, and uncontroversial paradigm for further research-in other words, that it constitutes a “mature science.” But beneath the institutional trappings of interdisciplinary legal scholarship I detect not a scholarly tradition that has finally resolved to general acclaim all its basic, foundational, methodological problems, but rather one that has never really confronted them. As a result, the attempt to apply the supposed paradigm of interdisciplinary legal scholarship to its subject matter reveals significant “anomalies” in the application. In what follows I shall first analyze and discuss these anomalies and then consider in some detail a specific example of contemporary interdisciplinary legal scholarship.
Charles W. Collier, Interdisciplinary Legal Scholarship in Search of a Paradigm, 42 Duke L.J. 840 (1993), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/662