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

Volume 12, Issue 3, Septiembre 1997

Brigitte Falkenburg
Pages 467-491

Incommensurability and Measurement

Does incommensurability threaten the realist’s claim that physical magnitudes express properties of natural kinds? Some clarification comes from measurement theory and scientific practice. The standard (empiricist) theory of measurement is metaphysically neutral. But its representational operational and axiomatic aspects give rise to several kinds of a one-sided metaphysics. In scientific practice. the scales of physical quantities (e.g. the mass or length scale) are indeed constructed from measuring methods which have incompatible axiomatic foundations. They cover concepts which belong to incomensurable theories. I argue, however, that the construction of such scales conmmits us to a modest version of scientific realism.

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