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Theoria. Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia

Volume 12, Issue 3, Septiembre 1997

Howard Sankey
Pages 425-445

Incommensurability
The Current State of Play

The incommensurability thesis is the thesis that the content of some alternative scientific theories is incomparable due to translation failure between the vocabulary the theories employ. This paper presents an overview of the main issues which have arisen in the debate about incommensurability. It also briefly outlines a response to the thesis based on a modified causal theory of reference which allows change of reference subsequent to initial baptism, as well as a role to description in the determination of reference. On such a view. the content of theories may be compared on the basis of shared reference, despite failure of translation. Two recent developments involving the incomnensurability thesis are also examined: (i) the taxonomic version of the incomensurability thesis found in Kuhn’s later writings. (ii) Hoyningen-Huenc’s neo-Kantian interpretation of Kuhn’s metaphysics.

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