Incommensurability, relativism, scepticism: Reflections on acquiring a concept

Ratio 21 (2):147–167 (2008)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Some opponents of the incommensurability thesis, such as Davidson and Rorty, have argued that the very idea of incommensurability is incoherent and that the existence of alternative and incommensurable conceptual schemes is a conceptual impossibility. If true, this refutes Kuhnian relativism and Kantian scepticism in one fell swoop. For Kuhnian relativism depends on the possibility of alternative, humanly accessible conceptual schemes that are incommensurable with one another, and the Kantian notion of a realm of unknowable things-in-themselves gives rise to the possibility of humanly inaccessible schemes that are incommensurable with even our best current or future science. In what follows we argue that the possibility of incommensurability of either the Kuhnian or the Kantian variety is inescapable and that this conclusion is forced upon us by a simple consideration of what is involved in acquiring a concept. It turns out that the threats from relativism and scepticism are real, and that anyone, including Davidson himself, who has ever defended an account of concept acquisition is committed to one or the other of these two possibilities.1.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,140

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Scepticism, relativism and the argument from the criterion.Howard Sankey - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):182-190.
Incommensurability in cognitive guise.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 1998 - Philosophical Psychology 11 (1):29 – 43.
Kuhn's changing concept of incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):759-774.
Pragmatic Incommensurability.John Collier - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:146 - 153.
A consistent relativism.Steven D. Hales - 1997 - Mind 106 (421):33-52.
Epistemological relativism in its latest form.Harvey Siegel - 1980 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 23 (1):107 – 117.
A Davidsonian argument against incommensurability.Igor Douven & Henk W. De Regt - 2002 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 16 (2):157 – 169.
Practical incommensurability and the phenomenological basis of robust realism.Mark A. Wrathall - 1999 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 42 (1):79 – 88.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
78 (#157,145)

6 months
2 (#297,033)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Nathaniel Goldberg
Washington and Lee University
Matthew Rellihan
Seattle University

Citations of this work

Davidson, Dualism, and Truth.Nathaniel Goldberg - 2012 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 1 (7).
Response‐Dependence, Noumenalism, and Ontological Mystery.Nathaniel Goldberg - 2009 - European Journal of Philosophy 17 (4):469-488.

Add more citations