Kuhn on Incommensurability and Theory Choice


Authors
Alex Davies
University of Tartu
Abstract
The incommensurability of two theories seems to problematize theory comparisons, which allow for the selection of the better of the two theories. If so, it becomes puzzling how the quality of theories can improve with time, i.e. how science can progress across changes in incommensurable theories. I argue that in papers published in the 1990s, Kuhn provided a novel way to resolve this apparent tension between incommensurability and scientific progress. He put forward an account of their compatibility which worked not by downplaying the negative consequences of incommensurability but instead by allowing them to reach their natural end: a process of specialisation. This development in Kuhn’s thought has yet to be properly recorded but it is also interesting in its own right. It shows how a robust version of incommensurability—one which really does have severe negative consequences for scientists’ capacity to perform comparative evaluations of incommensurable theories—need make no puzzle of the progress of science.
Keywords Kuhn  incommensurability  theory choice  Wray  semantic holism  comparison  progress
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2013.10.010
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 44,340
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

Kuhn's Evolutionary Social Epistemology.K. Brad Wray - 2011 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
The Causal Theory of Names.Gareth Evans - 1973 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 47 (1):187–208.

View all 17 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Multisemiosis and Incommensurability.S. K. Arun Murthi & Sundar Sarukkai - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):297-311.
Thomas Kuhn's Latest Notion of Incommensurability.Xiang Chen - 1997 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 28 (2):257-273.
Pragmatic Incommensurability.John Collier - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:146 - 153.
Kuhn's Changing Concept of Incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):759-774.
Did Tom Kuhn Actually Meet Tom Bayes?Lefteris Farmakis - 2008 - Erkenntnis 68 (1):41 - 53.
Incommensurability.Harold I. Brown - 1983 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 26 (1):3 – 29.
Taxonomic Incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1998 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (1):7 – 16.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2014-01-16

Total views
121 ( #65,698 of 2,271,600 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #208,575 of 2,271,600 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature