When we think, talk, act we need a frame of reference that gives it a sense. This is one of the insights so clearly formulated by Wittgenstein’s idea of language games. However, these frames are not fixed and unchangeable and we must be glad that this is so. It is true, fixed frames give stability and they make it easier to see the consequences of what we say and do. But on the other hand, this can become problematic when we discover new facts, encounter new experiences or new circumstances. What to do with them, how to deal with them, when they do not fit our frame of interpretation? Then two things are open to us: either to reinterpret the facts etc. or to change the frame. Both choices seem weird, for aren’t facts facts, and aren’t frames actually also a kind of facts? Nevertheless either happens and can have sense. As for changing the facts, we can come to the conclusion that we were wrong and that from a different point of view, things look different: just as we can mistake a marsh tit for a willow tit, or even think, as was done till not so long ago that it is one species. This is the usual thing: Facts are reinterpreted within a frame, sometimes even so that they are forced to fit within that frame of interpretation. Then the facts are distorted. This happens more often than one might think, and often people do not realize it, when they do it.
However, we can change a frame as well. Then we fit it to the facts instead of the facts to the frame. Happily we do not have to do that often, for it can bring much uncertainty leading to much turmoil in our mind if not in society. It is a kind of revolution, a minor one or a big one, but a revolution it is. It was not without reason that Thomas Kuhn, who described the changes of frames in science, called his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
But is it really so that old frames are changed, if there is something basically wrong with them? If Kuhn is to be believed, often it does not happen that way, at least not in science. And I see no reason why what he describes is limited to science. According to Kuhn, it is not so that people change their own frames. New frames and new interpretations are developed, it is true, but they are developed by a new generation of thinkers. Only rarely they are proposed by those few “old thinkers” who have flexible, creative minds. New frames lead always to much opposition, in science as well in society, but gradually the opposition decreases. No, not because of what one might think: that the new ones are better and that those who opposed a new one first, are convinced of its value. That happens, too, but the most important reason that fundamentally new ideas become dominant is simply that the old ones die out, not only in science, as Kuhn pointed out, but in society in general. It is as with the old soldiers in the famous song: Old ideas never die, they just fade away.