Kuhn, incommensurability, and cognitive science

Perspectives on Science 9 (4):433-462 (2001)
: This paper continues my application of theories of concepts developed in cognitive psychology to clarify issues in Kuhn's mature account of scientific change. I argue that incommensurability is typically neither global nor total, and that the corresponding form of scientific change occurs incrementally. Incommensurability can now be seen as a local phenomenon restricted to particular points in a conceptual framework represented by a set of nodes. The unaffected parts in the framework constitute the basis for continued communication between the communities supporting alternative structures. The importance of a node is a measure of the severity of incommensurability introduced by replacing it. Such replacements occur incrementally so that changes like that from the conceptual structure of Aristotelian celestial physics to the conceptual structure of Newtonian celestial physics occur in small stages over time, and for each change it is in principle possible to identify the arguments and evidence that led historical actors to make the revisions. Thus the process of scientific change is a rational one, even when its beginning and end points are incommensurable conceptual structures. It is also apparent, from a detailed examination of the conceptual structure of astronomy at the time of Copernicus, thatthe kind of conceptual difficulty identified as incommensurability may occur within a single scientific tradition as well as between two rival traditions.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1162/106361401760375820
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,173
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Two Cultures or One?: A Second Look at Kuhn's The Copernican Revolution.Robert Westman - 1994 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 85:79-115.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
A Similarity-Based Approach of Kuhn’s No-Overlap Principle and Anomalies.Dragoş Bîgu - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):330-338.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Incommensurability.Harold I. Brown - 1983 - Inquiry 26 (1):3 – 29.
Kuhn's Changing Concept of Incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):759-774.
Incommensurability in Cognitive Guise.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 1998 - Philosophical Psychology 11 (1):29 – 43.
Local Incommensurability and Communicability.Xiang Chen - 1990 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:67 - 76.
Implications of Incommensurability.Philip Kitcher - 1982 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:689 - 703.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

123 ( #38,015 of 2,152,644 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #225,818 of 2,152,644 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums