Taxonomic incommensurability

In a shift of position that has gone largely unnoticed by the great majority of commentators, Thomas Kuhn's version of the incommensurability thesis underwent a major transformation over the last decade and a half of his life. In his later work, Kuhn argued that incommensurability is a relation of translation failure between local subsets of interdefined theoretical terms, which encapsulate the taxonomic structure of a theory. Incommensurability arises because it is impossible to transfer the natural categories employed within one taxonomic structure into the categorial system of another such structure. Apparently on the basis of such taxonomic incommensurability, Kuhn asserted a number of antirealist theses about truth, reference and reality. In this paper, it will be argued, however, that, far from leading to antirealist consequences about the relationship between theory and reality, the taxonomic incommensurability thesis may be incorporated unproblematically within a reasonably robust scientific realist framework.
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DOI 10.1080/02698599808573578
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References found in this work BETA
Thomas S. Kuhn (1970). A Response to My Critics. In Imre Lakatos & Alan Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge University Press
Thomas S. Kuhn (1979). Metaphor in Science. In A. Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge University Press 409-19.
Howard Sankey (1993). Kuhn's Changing Concept of Incommensurability. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):759-774.

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Citations of this work BETA
Alexander Bird (2002). Kuhn's Wrong Turning. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):443-463.
David Ludwig (forthcoming). Indigenous and Scientific Kinds. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv031.
Nathaniel Goldberg (2011). Interpreting Thomas Kuhn as a Response-Dependence Theorist. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 19 (5):729 - 752.

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