Taxonomy, truth-value gaps and incommensurability: a reconstruction of Kuhn's taxonomic interpretation of incommensurability

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):465-485 (2002)
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Kuhn's alleged taxonomic interpretation of incommensurability is grounded on an ill defined notion of untranslatability and is hence radically incomplete. To supplement it, I reconstruct Kuhn's taxonomic interpretation on the basis of a logical-semantic theory of taxonomy, a semantic theory of truth-value, and a truth-value conditional theory of cross-language communication. According to the reconstruction, two scientific languages are incommensurable when core sentences of one language, which have truth values when considered within its own context, lack truth values when considered within the context of the other due to the unmatchable taxonomic structures underlying them. So constructed, Kuhn's mature interpretation of incommensurability does not depend upon the notion of truth-preserving translatability, but rather depends on the notion of truth-value-status-preserving cross-language communication. The reconstruction makes Kuhn's notion of incommensurability a well grounded, tenable and integrated notion.Author Keywords: Incommensurability; Thomas Kuhn; Taxonomic structures; Lexicons; Truth-value; Untranslatability; Cross-language communication.

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Xinli Wang
Juniata College


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