A Reconsideration of the Relation Between Kuhnian Incommensurability and Translation

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):397-414 (2017)
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Up to the introduction of the term and concept of incommensurability by T. S. Kuhn and P. K. Feyerabend in the early 1960s, scientific texts were supposed to pose no problem as regards their translation, unlike literature, which was thought very difficult to translate. After the introduction of the term, translation of scientific language became equally problematic because, due to conceptual and perceptual incommensurability, there was no common observation basis to ground linguistic equivalences between languages of incommensurable paradigms. This article highlights the presuppositions that link incommensurability to dramatic consequences (impossibility of communication, translation, and comparative evaluation of paradigms) and tries to sketch an alternative way of understanding incommensurability and translation drawing on Kuhn’s work. From this perspective, translation is not an all-or-nothing affair for either science or literature and becomes a problem to be solved for each particular set of circumstances.



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Vasso Kindi
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
Ontological relativity and other essays.Willard Van Orman Quine (ed.) - 1969 - New York: Columbia University Press.
Reason, truth, and history.Hilary Putnam - 1981 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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