Verballed? Incommensurability 50 years on

D'Agostino, Fred (2013) Verballed? Incommensurability 50 years on. Synthese, 191 3: 517-538. doi:10.1007/s11229-013-0288-y

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Author D'Agostino, Fred
Title Verballed? Incommensurability 50 years on
Journal name Synthese   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0039-7857
Publication date 2013-01-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0288-y
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 191
Issue 3
Start page 517
End page 538
Total pages 22
Place of publication Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Publisher Springer Netherlands
Language eng
Subject 3300 Social Sciences
1211 Philosophy
Abstract Someone is "verballed" in the Anglo-Australian idiom if they have attributed to them statements they did not actually make and indeed have explicitly denied. We will examine the evidence that Kuhn and Feyerabend were verballed in this sense by their critics and that the role of the idea of incommensurability in their argumentation has been systematically misunderstood and -represented. In particular, we will see that neither Kuhn nor Feyerabend, despite what their critics often say about them, held that incommensurability of theories implies the rational incomparability of theories. This is especially clear in the case of Feyerabend, whose argument is NOT that theories in a scientific tradition are on occasion incommensurable, but, rather, that, when the relations of theories in a tradition are represented in a particular way, they may on occasion be incommensurable according to that representation and hence incomparable if that representation is taken as providing the mechanisms of comparison. And the point of this claim is not to establish something about science, but, rather, to establish something about the representations of science which yield this result (i.e. that two theories might be incommensurable). Feyerabend in other words invokes incommensurability (according to the standards of a particular representation) as a reductio of that mode of representation. And this argument in fact depends precisely on the comparability of theories which are, according to the representation, incommensurable. Feyerabend's argument is about the ways in which we should understand progress in science and he is concerned, in particular, to establish that a historically informed approach is superior to an approach which, if applicable, is applicable only to what he calls "abstract traditions". Kuhn's work, especially in the Postscript-1969, provides complementary materials, especially in relation to a collectivised and non-"algorithmic" account of theory choice across formally incommensurable paradigms.
Keyword Feyerabend
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Publications
Official 2014 Collection
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