Topoi

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 33–41 | Cite as

Methodological Incommensurability and Epistemic Relativism

Article

Abstract

This paper revisits one of the key ideas developed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In particular, it explores the methodological form of incommensurability which may be found in the original edition of Structure. It is argued that such methodological incommensurability leads to a form of epistemic relativism. In later work, Kuhn moved away from the original idea of methodological incommensurability with his idea of a set of epistemic values that provides a basis for rational theory choice, but do not constitute an algorithm for such choice. The paper also explores the sceptical basis for the epistemic relativism of the original view that Kuhn proposes in Structure. It suggests that the main sceptical rationale for such relativism may be avoided by a particularist and naturalist conception of epistemic normativity. When this approach is combined with the appeal to external methodological standards endorsed by the later Kuhn and his critics, the epistemic relativism of Structure may be completely repudiated.

Keywords

Methodological incommensurability Epistemic relativism Pyrrhonian scepticism Particularism 

References

  1. Carrier M (2008) The aim and structure of methodological theory. In: Soler L, Sankey H, Hoyningen-Huene P (eds) Rethinking scientific change and theory comparison. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  2. Doppelt G (1982) Kuhn’s epistemological relativism: an interpretation and defense. In: Krausz M, Meiland JW (eds) Relativism: cognitive and moral. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
  3. Feyerabend P (1993) Against method, 3rd edn. Verso, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Hoyningen-Huene P (1993) Reconstructing scientific revolutions: Thomas S. Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Hoyningen-Huene P, Sankey H (eds) (2001) Incommensurability and related matters. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  6. Kuhn TS (1970) Reflections on my critics. In: Lakatos I, Musgrave A (eds) Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Kuhn TS (1977) The essential tension. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  8. Kuhn TS (1996) The structure of scientific revolutions, 3rd edn. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kuhn TS (2000) Rationality and theory choice. The road since structure. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  10. Lakatos I (1978) Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes. In: Worrall J, Currie G (eds) The methodology of scientific research programmes: philosophical papers, vol I. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Laudan L (1977) Progress and its problems. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Laudan L (1996) Beyond positivism and relativism. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  13. Nola R, Sankey H (2007) Theories of scientific method: an introduction. Acumen Press, CheshamGoogle Scholar
  14. Sankey H (2010) Witchcraft, relativism and the problem of the criterion. Erkenntnis 72:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sankey H (2011) Epistemic relativism and the problem of the criterion. Stud Hist Philos Sci 42:562–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sankey H (2012) Scepticism, relativism and the argument from the criterion. Stud Hist Philos Sci 43:182–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Scheffler I (1967) Science and subjectivity. Bobbs-Merrill, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  18. Sextus Empiricus (PH [1933]) Outlines of Pyrrhonism (trans: Bury RG). Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Shapere D (1984) Reason and the search for knowledge. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  20. Siegel H (1987) Relativism refuted. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations