Specialisation, Interdisciplinarity, and Incommensurability

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (3):301-317 (2017)
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Incommensurability may be regarded as driving specialisation, on the one hand, and as posing some problems to interdisciplinarity, on the other hand. It may be argued, however, that incommensurability plays no role in either specialisation or interdisciplinarity. Scientific specialties could be defined as simply 'different' (that is, about different things), rather than 'incommensurable' (that is, competing for the explanation of the same phenomena). Interdisciplinarity could be viewed as the co- ordinated effort of scientists possessing complemetary and interlocking skills, and not as the overcoming of some sort of incommensurable divide. This article provides a comprehensive evaluative examination of the relations between specialisation, interdisciplinarity, and incommensurability. Its aim is to defend the relevance of incommensurability to both specialisation and interdisciplinarity. At the same time, it aims at correcting the tendency, common among many philosophers, to regard incommensurability in a restrictive manner - such as, for example, as an almost purely semantic issue

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Vincenzo Politi
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


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