Taxonomic incommensurability

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (1):7 – 16 (1998)
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Abstract

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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Howard Sankey
University of Melbourne

Citations of this work

Indigenous and Scientific Kinds.David Ludwig - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1).
Kuhn’s wrong turning.Alexander Bird - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):443-463.
An Intuitive Solution to the Problem of Induction.Andrew Bassford - 2022 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 26 (2):205-232.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.David Bohm - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (57):377-379.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Kuhn - 2009 - In Michael Ruse (ed.), Philosophy After Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Princeton University Press. pp. 176-177.
What Are Scientific Revolutions?Thomas S. Kuhn - 1981 - Center for Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The road since structure.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1991 - In A. Fine, M. Forbes & L. Wessels (eds.), PSA 1990: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. University of Chicago Press. pp. 3-13.

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