Thomas Kuhn's Incommensurability Theory

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In this essay I will give an account of Thomas Kuhn’s incommensurability thesis. I begin by clarifying what Kuhn meant by a paradigm and then proceed to give a clarification of two interpretations of Kuhn’s thesis of incommensurability that will be addressed separately in this essay. I then provide an objection to the first interpretation of the incommensurability thesis, which I believe it fails to overcome. I proceed to describe Kuhn’s understanding of the incommensurability of meaning of paradigm dependent terms. I address an objection to this view as raised by Donald Davidson regarding shared agreement and argue that this poses a problem for Kuhn’s earlier incommensurability thesis and include some concerns regarding Kuhn’s use of the …show more content…
He claims that scientists holding differing theories work within opposing paradigms. A paradigm provides a framework that allows its adherents to engage in the puzzle solving practices of that discipline. This puzzle solving practice is what he referred to as ‘normal science’, where the adherents of the paradigm do not take anomalous data as refutation but rather a problem to be solved using the tools of the paradigm. Kuhn disambiguates the two distinct ways in which he uses the word paradigm with regard to science. The broader first sense of the word as used by Kuhn is the ‘disciplinary matrix’ consisting of several components one of which is the exemplar, which he considers to be the more specific use of the …show more content…
At times he has been slightly ambiguous. His writings in the Structures of Scientific Revolutions have been understood to be very radical in their implications, especially his claim that proponents of opposing paradigms “live in different worlds” (Kuhn, 2012). This view met with very strong resistance within the scientific community, since at the time it was commonly held that one paradigm could be determined to be superior to another by a simple assessment of the evidence for each. In his 1969 postscript to the Structure of Scientific Revolutions Kuhn, proposed what appears to be a much milder version of his incommensurability thesis. He did however, say regarding the paradigm shifts, “I can see in their succession no coherent direction of ontological development” (Kuhn, 2012). This idea remains an uncomfortable one for many in the contemporary scientific community, who prefer to see their theories progressing toward some

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