INCOMMENSURABILITY 50

Taipei (Taiwan), 1-3 June, 2012

International conference organized by the

Department of Philosophy, NTU

under the auspicies of the

National Science Council

Organizing Committee

Chair

Jen-Jeuq Yuann

(National Taiwan University)

Paul Hoyningen-Huene

(Leibnitz-Universität Hannover)

Program and Schedule

Program
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
Short
Abstracts
Schedule
(PDF)
Book of Abstracts
(PDF)

Program

DAY 1
Friday, 1 June

8:00-8:40Registration
8:40-9:00Opening Ceremony
9:00-10:10Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Eric Oberheim
More than Fifty Years of Incommensurabilities – Rediscovering Einstein’s Philosophical Legacy
 
10:10-10:40Coffee Break
10:40-11:50Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Joseph Agassi
Incommensurability vs. Approximation or Duhem vs. Einstein
 
11:50-13:00Lunch Break
13:00-17:05Parallel Sessions
"East" Room"West" Room
13:00-13:45Jong-Tsun Huang
Between Freudian Dream Theory and the Modern Science of Mind: Incommensurability and Its Resolution
 
Shuchao Yang
The Comparability of Semantic Incommensurability
 
13:45-14:30Nicholas Best
Incommensurability at the Level of Theory of Reference: An Example from the History of Chemistry
 
Hyundeuk Cheon
Meta-incommensurability Revisited
 
14:30-15:15Yann Benétreau-Dupin
On the Incommensurability of Einsteinian and Newtonian Physics
 
Artur Koterski
Fleck and Bilikiewicz on Styles, Incommensurability, and Relativism
 
15:15-15:35Coffee Break
15:35-16:20Nimrod Bar-Am
Incommensurability within Our Ontology(ies): Communication, Emergence and the Unification of Science
 
Insok Ko
How to Forestall the Risk of Synchronic Incommensurability in Scientific Practice: A Way at Hand a la Ludwik Fleck
 
16:20-17:05Tzu-Keng Fu
On the Incommensurability in the Carnap-Goguen Style Logical Pluralism
 
Vincenzo Politi
Incommensurability, Sciences and "Science"
 
17:05-17:20Coffee Break
17:20-18:30Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Howard Sankey
Methodological Incommensurability and Epistemic Relativism
 
19:00Opening Conference Dinner

DAY 2
Saturday, 2 June

9:00-10:10Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Paul Hoyningen-Huene
On the Development of the Incommensurability Concept
 
10:10-10:40Coffee Break
10:40-11:50Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Fred D’Agostino
Verballed? Incommensurability Fifty Years On
 
11:50-13:00Lunch Break
13:10-17:05Parallel Sessions
"East" Room"West" Room
13:00-13:45Zhen Chen
Incommensurability Between Morality and Prudence
 
Daniel Kuby
Incommensurability -11: The Concept of Incommensurability in Feyerabend’s Dissertation of 1951
 
13:45-14:30Martijn Boot
Incommensurability and the Scales of Justice
 
Matteo Collodel
Between Logic and History: The Development of Feyerabend’s Idea of Incommensurability
 
14:30-15:15David Pickus
Polemical and Non-Polemical Incommensurability in the Memory of Genocide and Mass Death
 
Lisa Heller
The Notion of Incommensurability in Feyerabend's Later Work
 
15:15-15:35Coffee Break
15:35-16:20Friedrich von Petersdorff
Incommensurability within Historical Research
 
Helmut Heit
Feyerabend on Incommensurability and the Greek Origin of Western Thought
 
16:20-17:05Jeu-Jenq Yuann
Youlan Feng and Qian Hong on Two Incommensurable Systems of Anti-Metaphysics
 
17:05-17:20Coffee Break
17:20-18:30Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Roger Hart
Historicizing Incommensurability

DAY 3
Sunday, 3 June

9:00-10:10Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Randy Harris
(In)commensurability, Rhetoric, & the Curious Case of David Brewster
 
10:10-10:40Coffee Break
10:40-11:50Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Xinli Wang
The Challenges of Incommensurability to Comparative Philosophy
 
11:50-13:00Lunch Break
13:00-17:05Parallel Sessions
"East" Room"West" Room
13:00-13:45Vasso Kindi
Incommensurability, Irrationality and the Understanding of Concepts
 
Ching-Yuen Cheung
Tolerating incommensurability? - A Report on Knowledge in Research Based Universities
 
13:45-14:30Alex Levine
Incommensurability and Translation
 
Itay Shani
Incommensurability in Contemporary Philosophy: An Outsider’s Inside Report
 
14:30-15:15Yumin Chang
Incommensurability in Comparative Religious Study: The case of Christianity and Daoism
 
Curtis Forbes
Appealing to Kuhn: Forced Incommensurability as a Method of Career Advancement
 
15:15-15:35Coffee Break
15:35-16:20Dan Wan
The Third Way to Cross-cultural Communication: From Kuhn’s Perspective
 
16:20-17:05Paul Healy
Overcoming Incommensurability through Intercultural Dialogue
 
17:05-17:20Coffee Break
17:20-18:30Plenary Session ("East" Room)

Xianglong Zhang
Paradigm, Family-Resemblance and Inter-Culturality – Comparing Kuhn with Wittgenstein and Confucianism
 
19:00Closing Conference Dinner


Short Abstracts

Keynote Papers

(Plenary sessions)

Joseph Agassi
(Tel Aviv University, Israel
York University, Canada)

Day 1, "East" Room, 10:40

Incommensurability vs. Approximations or Duhem vs. Einstein

What Laplace, Duhem and Kuhn shared is the view of falsehood as repulsive. It was agreed since antiquity that a scientific theory is either properly proven and hence true, or else meaningless (neither true nor false) or relatively true. Laplace took science as proven and so he recognized only one system, yet he had two versions of Kepler’s law — with and without perturbations. He therefore distinguished between the upward and the downward move on the ladder of axioms and insisted on keeping them separate. Duhem said, giving a scientific theory truth value will make it probably false so it is better to avoid this. He therefore allowed viewing theories as a priori true, or relatively true, or no truth value. Kuhn declared himself anti-relativist. It is not clear that he was an absolutist. What he wished to achieve by declaring Newton’s theory a paradigm is to allow that even after Einstein it is not to view as false. What all these thinkers share is the idea that declaring a theory false is condemnation.
Rational politics is democratic in the sense that it demands that political disagreements are debatable and political conflicts are given to compromise. The idea that one political view is scientifically proven condemns all alternatives and precludes debates. Relativism allows disagreement but not debates. If we wish to increase democracy at home and abroad we have to return to the defense of the right to be mistaken without being condemned. In democratic societies this is practiced even though error is still condemned. This inconsistency costs not too much in countries where democracy is traditional. In other countries and in the international community this inconsistency is very expensive. Those who recognize that the future of humanity depends on international cooperation, then, have to take seriously the task of explaining to all the difference between condemnable error and reasonable error, between rational and irrational disputes.

Fred D’Agostino
(University of Queensland, Australia)

Day 2, "East" Room, 10:40

Verballed? Incommensurability Fifty Years OnJoseph Agassi

Someone is "verballed" in the Anglo-Australian idiom if they have attributed to them statements they did not actually make and indeed have explicitly denied. We will examine the evidence that Kuhn and Feyerabend were verballed in this sense by their critics and that the role of the idea of incommensurability in their argumentation has been systematically misunderstood and misrepresented.
In particular, we will see that neither Kuhn nor Feyerabend, despite what their critics often say about them, held that incommensurability of theories implies the rational incomparability of theories.
This is especially clear in the case of Feyerabend, whose argument is NOT that theories in a scientific tradition are on occasion incommensurable, but, rather, that, when the relations of theories in a tradition are represented in a particular way, they may on occasion be incommensurable according to that representation and hence incomparable if that representation is taken as providing the mechanisms of comparison.
And the point of this claim is not to establish something about science, but, rather, to establish something about the representations of science which yield this result (i.e. that two theories might be incommensurable).
Feyerabend in other words invokes incommensurability (according to the standards of a particular representation) as a reductio of that mode of representation. And this argument in fact depends precisely on the comparability of theories which are, according to the representation, incommensurable.
Feyerabend's argument is about the ways in which we should understand progress in science and he is concerned, in particular, to establish that a historically informed approach is superior to an approach which, if applicable, is applicable only to what he calls "abstract traditions".
Kuhn's work, especially in the Postscript — 1969, provides complementary materials, especially in relation to a collectivised and non-"algorithmic" account of theory choice across formally incommensurable paradigms.

Randy Harris
(University of Waterloo, Canada)

Day 3, "East" Room, 9:00

(In)commensurability, Rhetoric, & the Curious Case of David Brewster

[T]he claim that two theories are incommensurable is more modest than many of its critics have supposed.
—Thomas Kuhn (2000, 36)
Incommensurability, strictly construed, does not obtain of scientific theories. They are not numbers. The implied metaphor is bad. Weakly construed, on the other hand, incommensurability obtains, but carries little more force than misunderstanding. It just sounds more imposing. The material question, then, is whether incommensurability is meaningful in the middle ground. And that is a question rhetoric can help to answer.
We will look at the curious case of David Brewster, a nineteenth century Scottish physicist whose work, in attempting to bridge corpuscular and undulatory conceptions of light, occupied that middle ground.

Roger Hart
(University of Texas, USA)

Day 2, "East" Room, 17:20

Historicizing Incommensurability

[To Be Announced]

Paul Hoyningen-Huene
(Leibniz Universitaet Hannover,
Germany)

Day 2, "East" Room, 9:00

On the Development of the Incommensurability Concept

The paper traces the development of the incommensurability concept, mainly Kuhn’s, from its inception in 1962 until Kuhn’s yet unpublished last book (fragment) entitled The Plurality of Worlds: An Evolutionary Theory of Scientific Development. In particular, I shall emphasize Kuhn’s struggling to come to terms with his world change talk that he introduced in Structure. As the title of his last book indicated, this topic held a center place also in his late development.

Eric Oberheim
(Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin,
Germany)

Day 1, "East" Room, 9:00

More than Fifty Years of Incommensurabilities - Rediscovering Einstein’s philosophical legacy

Terms like ‘incommensurable’ and ‘incommensurability’ are used in many different ways in many different discussions in history and philosophy of science. This lecture develops the idea in four parts. Part one offers a schematic overview of some of the main roles that these terms have come to play in the last half-century. Part two situates incommensurability as the central component of Kuhn’s historical philosophy in its dual roles as a systematic thesis about scientific change and as a historiographical tool used to support that thesis; and then argues that in several central respects, Kuhn’s evolutionary account of scientific advance generalizes Einstein and Insfeld account of The Evolution of Physics (1946). Part three presents Feyerabend’s ‘incommensurable’, as he initially delineated the idea fifty years ago in ‘Explanation, Reduction and Empiricism’ (1962), and then compares that to some of Einstein’s earlier remarks on theory comparison and the nature of empirical science. Part four attempts to draw some tentative conclusions about the histories of ‘incommensurable’ and ‘incommensurability’ and their potential relevances for studying the sciences.

Howard Sankey
(University of Melbourne, Australia)

Day 1, "East" Room, 17:20

Methodological Incommensurability and Epistemic Relativism

To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this paper revisits one of the key ideas developed in that classic text. The paper 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 provide 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 is suggested 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.

Xinli Wang
(Juniata College, USA)

Day 3, "East" Room, 10:40

The Challenges of Incommensurability to Comparative Philosophy

Comparative study between Western and Chinese philosophy has become a new trend of philosophical fashion of 21st century. The recent success of many fruitful comparative studies between Western Philosophy and Chinese philosophy seems, for many comparative philosophers, has put the threat of cultural relativism to the viability of comparative philosophy to rest. Does cultural relativist conviction--that is, there are incommensurable conceptual and cultural schemes through which distinct cultures construct their own worlds and which inevitably lead to the cross-cultural communication breakdown between them--no longer pose a mortal threat to the viability of comparative philosophy? I tend to believe otherwise and intend to show here that the incommensurability between the two cultural/intellectual traditions continues to impede the effort of comparative philosophy.
My suspension with the viability of comparative philosophy between two radically distinct cultural/intellectual traditions, like Western and Chinese philosophy, starts with the unavailability of two semantic foundations of comparative philosophy: one is effective cross-cultural communication between two cultural-languages communities, the other the semantic comparability of two cultural-languages. Based on my presuppositional interpretation of the thesis of incommensurability as cross-language communication breakdown, effective cross-language communication between Chinese and Western cultural-language communities is inevitably partial due to substantially distinct cultural schemes embedded within both cultural traditions. More precisely, there are two special forms of incommensurability faced by those comparative philosophers, namely, the failure of mutual understanding and effective communication breakdown. Consequently, comparative philosophy between two radically distinct cultural-language communities is severely compromised. Rational comparison between them is problematic, difficult, and even seems in some measure unattainable. To illustrate, I discuss the recent debate over the notions of transcendence between ancient Chinese and Western cultural-languages. It is still quite common for our well-trained comparative philosophers to fall into the trap of incommensurability.
Does this mean that rational comparison between the two radically distinct cultural-languages is impossible? In contrast with semantic comparison between commensurable languages, I have argued elsewhere that the dominant semantic relation between two incommensurable cultural-languages is the truth-value functional. When the cultural schemes of two competing cultural-languages are incompatible, the two languages are incommensurable. Nevertheless, it is exactly this incompatibility between the cultural-schemes of two cultural-languages that sets a foundation for presuppositional comparison needed for comparative philosophy.

Xianglong Zhang
(Peking University)

Day 3, "East" Room, 17:20

Paradigm, Family-Resemblance and Inter-Culturality – Comparing Kuhn with Wittgenstein and Confucianism

The philosophical footing of the Kuhnian “paradigm” lies in what Wittgenstein means by “family resemblance” and “language-game”. In light of it, we find the continuity between Kuhn’s earlier and later works. Family resemblance comes from the family form of life which in turn is a kind of paradigm. But this is a soft or original one that, while maintaining the strong consensus of the family community, can interpret and communicate with the other paradigms with which it is incommensurable. Confucianism is an advanced family paradigm. It carries forward the inter-paradigmaticy and inter-culturality implied in family paradigm, and thus endows Chinese ancient culture with distinctive features. Kuhn and later Wittgenstein’s doctrines of (kin-)resemblances (Ähn-lichkeiten) provide the philosophical clues for understanding the soft paradigm.

Contributing Papers

(Parallel sessions)

Nimrod Bar-Am
(Sapir College, Israel)

Day 1, "East" Room, 15:35

Incommensurability within Our Ontology(ies): Communication, Emergence and the Unification of Science

Communication theory embraces phenomena that range between the physical and the sociological. Is there an ontology that could cradle such an interdisciplinary theory? This question invites discussion of the limits to our standard reductionist world-view. Such limits point at the most fundamental cases of incommensurability that seem to exist: incommensurability between various parts of our scientific ontology(ies). Any ontology that admits genuine cases of emergence, thereby admits incommensurability gaps in its midst. A general analysis of this challenge is presented and a partial solution is offered.

Yann Benétreau-Dupin
(University of Western Ontario,
Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Canada)

Day 1, "East" Room, 14:30

On the Incommensurability of Einsteinian and Newtonian Physics

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn takes the transition from Newtonian to Einsteinian mechanics as "illustrat[ing] with particular clarity the scientific revolution as a displacement of conceptual network (...)." I wish to examine what such a conceptual change entails for Kuhn, and assess to what extent it applies to that particular case. I discuss the scope of the ontological change in the concepts of space and time and show that Kuhn's assertions rest on a contentious interpretation of Newton's methodology and ontological commitment. Moreover, it can be shown that the claim that there cannot be a rational, neutral way to compare the two theories does not apply here. It is then the relevance of choosing Newtonian and Einsteinian mechanics as a particularly good example of paradigm shift that I reconsider.

Nicholas Best
(Indiana University, US)

Day 1, "East" Room, 13:45

Incommensurability at the Level of Theory of Reference: An Example from the History of Chemistry

In order to overcome the threat of incommensurability between scientific theories, philosophers of science look to theories of reference to assure them that there can always be a privileged language through which scientists can communicate. What they fail to take into account is that practising scientists have used different theories of reference at different times. These theories are themselves incommensurable and thus, in cases like the Chemical Revolution, a meta-incommensurability at this level means that the incommensurability at the level of scientific theory can never be overcome.

Martijn Boot
(Waseda University, Japan)

Day 2, "East" Room, 13:45

Incommensurability and the Scales of Justice

In A Theory of Justice John Rawls emphasizes the importance of a conception of justice that enables a proper balance and a complete ranking of principles. This paper investigates possible implications of standard- and semantic incommensurability for theories of justice and for weighing conflicting principles and claims. I will conclude that incommensurability prevents 'complete rankings of justice' and consensus on (domestic and global) justice. This entails that the justification of decisions between incommensurable claims of justice can only be partial in the double sense of 'incomplete' and 'biased'.

Alex Levine
(University of South Florida, US)

Day 3, "East" Room, 13:45

Incommensurability and Translation

Intimations that incommensurability turned on the languages in which incommensurable theories (or paradigms) were expressed may be found as far back as Structure (1962). By 1983 Kuhn was prepared to assert, "If two theories are incommensurable, they must be stated in mutually untranslatable languages." Such claims imply assumptions not only about incommensurability, but also about language, translation and translatability. I examine these assumptions, with emphasis on the presupposition that what is translated, meaning, exists prior to the process of translation itself. Its incoherence has the potential to vitiate the very notion of incommensurability, along with related concepts.

Yumin Chang
(Leiden University, The Netherlands)

Day 3, "East" Room, 14:30

Incommensurability in Comparative Religious Study: The case of Christianity and Daoism

The Bible and Daodejing seem similar in some teaching, but by studying metaphors in the Bible and Daodejing, we will see their different concerns. The parallel sayings therefore bear different meaning in two contexts. First, the bible focus on the world after death, so its teaching concerning this world aims to glorify the one God beyond the world. However, a similar teaching functions very differently in Daodejing. Daodejing focuses on political prosperity in this world, so its teachings serve as to help a sage-ruler successfully reign over his country. Based upon different contexts, a saying in Bible is incommensurable in Daodejing.

Zhen Chen
(Nanjing Normal University, China)

Day 2, "East" Room, 13:00

Incommensurability Between Morality and Prudence

In this paper, I want to argue that when morality and prudence conflict, there is no objectively commensurate basis for comparing the powers of moral and prudential reasons or the values of their ends to determine what the agent has most reason to do. If we still want to find some guidelines for our action, what we can do at most is to appeal to reflective public opinion or to vote.

Hyundeuk Cheon
(Seoul National University, Korea)

Day 1, "West" Room, 13:45

Meta-incommensurability Revisited

For realists, a popular rejoinder to the incommensurability thesis has been the referential approach, which secures the referential stability in spite of meaning change. This referential response, however, has been charged with meta-incommensurability, according to which it begs the question. In this paper, I make two points. First, contra Sankey, who disregard meta-incommensurability as an unproductive rhetoric, I demonstrate that meta-incommensurability remains in the interpretation of historical episodes, the meaning of 'content comparison', and reference relation. Second, even if we are skeptical about any substantial theory of reference as experimental philosophers recommend, meta-incommensurability occurs around the nature’s real joints.

Ching-Yuen Cheung
(Chinese University of Hong Kong, HG)

Day 3, "West" Room, 13:00

Tolerating incommensurability? - A Report on Knowledge in Research Based Universities

Jean-François Lyotard defines postmodernity as an incredulity towards metanarratives. He observes that performance becomes the keyword to scientific truth. Lyotard exclaims, "be operational (that is, commensurable) or disappear." It could be a choice between all or nothing, yet Lyotard suggests a third position: "Postmodern knowledge is not simply a tool of the authorities; it refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable." However, the situation is rather different in research based universities nowadays. In this paper, I shall examine the possibility of tolerating incommensurability in current situations.

Matteo Collodel
(Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin,
Germany)

Day 2, "West" Room, 13:45

Between Logic and History: The Development of Feyerabend's Idea of Incommensurbaility

The main aim of this paper is to offer a detailed reconstruction of the development of Feyerabend’s idea of incommensurability which can shed new light on the general import of this five-decade-old notion. In particular, a careful attention to the way in which Feyerabend modified his idea in the course of the lively debate sparked by its proposal in the 1960s and 1970s shows that, confronted with radical, unremitting and inescapable criticism, Feyerabend abandoned his early idea of incommensurability intended as a logico-linguistic notion and adopted a hermeneutic-ontological conception of incommensurability which is ultimately and essentially anti-relativistic.

Curtis Forbes
(University of Toronto, Canada)

Day 3, "West" Room, 14:30

Appealing to Kuhn: Forced Incommensurability as a Method of Career Advancement

The fame of Kuhn’s Structure, I argue, is primarily accounted for, not through its historiographical or philosophical virtues, but through its providing language which scientists can use to advocate for their own ideas against established orthodoxy. In the same way that most post-Marxist political revolutions propagandized through the language of Marxist class struggle, many post-Kuhnian scientists have advocated for their theories, models, and hypotheses through the language of "paradigms." To make sense of how this is accomplished, I elaborate Biagioli's idea of "forced incommensurability," where a scientist purposefully crafts his ideas in contrast to existing orthodoxy.

Tzu-Keng Fu and Oliver Kutz
(University of Bremen, Germany)

Day 1, "East" Room, 16:20

On the Incommensurability in the Carnap-Goguen Style Logical Pluralism

In the modern logic investigations, we have seen two positions about pluralism in logic, both reasonable, Carnap's principle of tolerance and Beall and Restall's logical pluralism (BRLP). The institution theory that was introduced by Goguen and Burstall in the late 1970, has endorsed the Carnap's logical pluralism, moreover widely admitted in various computer scientific application domains. On the contrary, BRLP is the philosophical perspective to claim that logical structure has plural instantiations of the General Tarski Thesis (GTT) without appealing to pragmatic applications. It does not endorse the principle of tolerance. In this paper, first of all, we will argue that in the former case, it should moreover imply a sense of relativism. Yet we will argue that the incommensurability should be the underlying principle to be followed as well. Secondly, following up the principle of tolerance, we will answer one of the questions that have been raised in the theme of the journal Logica Universalis, Special Issue "Is logic universal?" Does reasoning evolve? Did human beings reason in the same way two centuries ago? In the future will human beings reason in the same way? Do we reason in different ways depending on the situation? To support our answer in a principled way, we will firstly endorse the psychologism in logic studies. Secondly, we endorse a revision of principle of tolerance. Thirdly, we endorse the modification of cognition, resting on two empirical studies: one is pertaining to cultural-psychological viewpoint and the other is to the psychobiological viewpoint. By the combination of the three endorsements, we show how a sense of the principle of tolerance can be used to formulate a new sense of pluralism in logic as well as the new direction to the Universal Logic project.

Paul Healy
(Swinburne University of Techonology,
Australia)

Day 3, "East" Room, 16:20

Overcoming Incommensurability through Intercultural Dialogue

This paper seeks to demonstrate the merits of a dialogical approach in overcoming the impasses generated by the original Winchean debate about cultural rationality and to elucidate the regulative commitments (or conditions) that need to be in place so as promote mutual understanding and learning along the lines envisaged by Winch himself. It is contended that a dialogical approach has the potential to open up a 'middle way' which can transcend the polarised alternatives of ethnocentric universalism and self-sealing relativism that characterised the original debate and to overcome the spectre of incommensurability that has haunted the debate from the outset.

Helmut Heit
(Technische Universitaet Berlin,
Germany)

Day 2, "West" Room, 15:35

Feyerabend on Incommensurability and the Greek Origin of Western Thought

Feyerabend is engaged with early Greek thought throughout his career, not the last because he finds the historical foundations of Western rationalism and culture there. Besides other examples he discusses “the transition from the aggregate universe of Homer to the substance universe of the pre-Socratics. […] The explanation of incommensurability which follows, exactly fits transitions, such as the transition“ more recent case-studies (Feyerabend 1980, 33). This paper reconstructs three phases in Feyerabend's views on early Greek thought and on incommensurability in order to evaluate his intercultural pluralist project.

Lisa Heller
(Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin /
Technische Universität Berlin,
Germany)

Day 2, "West" Room, 14:30

The Notion of Incommensurability in Feyerabend's Later Work

The notion of incommensurability loses importance in the later work of Paul Feyerabend – it is no longer subject of explicit investigations. Nevertheless, the concept of incommensurability is neither revoked nor considered as wrong by Feyerabend. Moreover, the present paper argues, that the idea of incommensurability even provides the theoretical foundation for his later philosophy. Especially the conception of three of his later key terms, tradition, pluralism and progress, can be partially traced back to the idea of incommensurability and will be analyzed in detail in this paper.

Jong-Tsun Huang
(China Medical University, Taiwan)

Day 1, "East" Room, 13:00

Between Freudian Dream Theory and the Modern Science of Mind: Incommensurability and Its Resolution

Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" (IOD) proposed that the dream is driven by the unconscious force of wish-fulfillment so as to generate meaningful contents under disguise. The theory was criticized as unfalsifiable and might be considered as unscientific due to its incommensurability with the modern science of mind. The present study argues that recent neuroscientific progress may provide a basis to verify Freudian assumptions in the preparation of IOD. The scientific status of IOD is better conceived as incompatible, or even complementary, rather than incommensurable with the modern science of mind.

Vasso Kindi
(University of Athens, Greece)

Day 3, "East" Room, 13:00

Incommensurability, Irrationality and the Understanding of Concepts

In the debates that followed the historical turn in philosophy of science, incommensurability was taken to imply irrationality in the development of science since the incommensurable concepts of consecutive paradigms could not underwrite judgments of scientific progress. In the paper I will argue that irrationality follows from semantic incommensurability if we have a particular understanding of concepts namely, as well-determined and ring-fenced. If concepts are understood as consisting of particular uses of words, incommensurability is hard to apply and irrationality hard to be inferred. Kuhn and Feyerabend used ‘incommensurability’ dialectically, i.e., in response to those they criticized.

Insok Ko
(Inha University, Korea)

Day 1, "West" Room, 15:35

How to Forestall the Risk of Synchronic Incommensurability in Scientific Practice: A Way at Hand a la Ludwik Fleck

Incommensurability in a diachronic relation between successive scientific theories, or paradigms, makes at most trouble for philosophers. It is seldom a substantial problem for working scientists to worry about. In contrast, synchronic incommensurability which was not Kuhnian topic in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would be a nontrivial obstacle for scientific communication and cooperation across the boundaries of paradigm-like unit of specialties. The threat of such incommunicativeness among disciplinary partitions due especially to lexical incommensurability is a reality today and can be growing tomorrow. Ludwik Fleck’s Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache (1935) which preempts some essential portions of Kuhnian analysis of scientific practice in Structure and deserves higher appreciation in the history of 20th century philosophy of science than it has hitherto got, suggests a general but effective way for prevention from such threat.

Artur Koterski
(Maria Curie-Sklodowska University,
Poland)

Day 1, "West" Room, 14:30

Fleck and Bilikiewicz on Styles, Incommensurability, and Relativism

Bilikiewicz (1932) describes science as a process guided by the epoch-specific Zeitgeist. It sets the ideals that influence the choice and content of theories, inter-pretation of data, scientific aims, and scope of problems. This was criticized by Fleck who in turn - mainly due to incommensurability of his thought-styles (1935) - faced a charge of relativism and irrationalism (1939). This paper attempts to reconstruct Bilikiewicz’s views in order to understand and outline the Fleck-Bilikiewicz argument. With such a background it tackles the claim of Fleck’s relativism and questions its validity so far as it ascribes more than a form of descriptive relativism to him.

Daniel Kuby
(University of Vienna, Austria)

Day 2, "West" Room, 13:00

Incommensurability -11: The Concept of Incommensurability in Feyerabend’s Dissertation of 1951

The aim of my talk is to give an account of the idea of incommensurability as it can be found in Feyerabend’s unpublished dissertation "Zur Theorie der Basissätze" from 1951. I will defend three claims: 1) Feyerabend’s early notion of incommensurability was a product of his belated engagement in the Vienna Circle’s protocol sentence debate. 2) The early Feyerabend didn’t consider incommensurability to be a prima facie factual phenomenon, but a consequence of certain set of stipulated premises, which he firstly developed in his dissertation. 3) While diachronic incommensurability was conceived as a real consequence, the possibility of synchronic incommensurability was only considered as a thought experiment.

David Pickus
(Arizona State University, US)

Day 2, "East" Room, 14:30

Polemical and Non-Polemical Incommensurability in the Memory of Genocide and Mass Death

The memory of genocide and honest acknowledgment of the harm inflicted has done much to advance moral sensibilities and relations between nations linked by legacies of oppression. Yet, the more humanity is aware of the record of "mass death," the more virulent conflicts become over whether one historical instance is like another. This paper aims to address this problem by drawing a distinction between polemical and non-polemical incommensurability in the memory of genocide. The goal is to allow for legitimate differences and claims of uniqueness without impeding the practice of responsible historical inquiry.

Vincenzo Politi
(University of Bristol, UK)

Day 1, "West" Room, 16:20

Incommensurability, Sciences and "Science"

I introduce what I call "Science-incommensurability", which I distinguish from other types of incommensurability within Kuhn’s work. While the latter describe the lack of common measure between "specific" scientific theories, Science-incommensurability describes how the idea of "science-in-general" (the very conception of what has to be counted as "scientific") changes through time. The specialties emerging from new methods (probability) or new discoveries (x-rays) illustrate this type of "high level" change, which is related to the problem of demarcation. Finally, I suggest that Science-incommensurability survives at the recent proposals for a "post-Kuhnian" philosophy of science.

Itay Shani
(Kyung Hee University, Korea)

Day 3, "West" Room, 13:45

Incommensurability in Contemporary Philosophy: An Outsider’s Inside Report

My aim, in this lecture, is to report and explore a case study of incommensurability in present-day academic philosophy. While the case I relate is based on my own experience as an active researcher in contemporary philosophy of mind it is, I suspect, indicative of a broader conceptual divide which not only spans much of the entire philosophical spectrum but, perhaps more significantly, is characteristic of a deep intellectual ambivalence in contemporary culture.In taking upon this case study of incommensurability I have two major goals in mind: First, to highlight an interesting case of incommensurability within contemporary academic philosophy – one that does not involve the notorious schism and near-absolute communication breakdown between the divergent traditions of ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ philosophy but, rather, which emerges among researchers concerned with similar problems, using similar vocabularies and often similar methods. Second, to examine this philosophical incommensurability in the light of Thomas Kuhn’s familiar insights concerning incommensurability in the natural sciences, touching upon such questions as: Is it possible to project Kuhn’s image of scientific revolutions onto the development of philosophical thinking in any meaningful manner? Is incommensurability in philosophy of a similar nature to the incommensurability one encounters in the natural, or perhaps the social sciences? Are the mechanisms of convergence which gradually shift support from one philosophical paradigm to another comparable to those of the natural, or social sciences? Can we learn something unique about the nature and complex dynamics of rival conceptual schemes by studying cases of philosophical incommensurability?

Friedrich von Petersdorff
(Indipendent Scholar, Germany)

Day 2, "East" Room, 15:35

Incommensurability within Historical Research

It is a common aspect of historical research that previous findings are being reinterpreted and rewritten from time to time. This, however, leads to an incommensurability of the respective interpretations, despite the historians’ common claims to present truthful accounts. I argue that, in order to gain a better understanding of the incommensurabilities of these changing paradigms and the problems involved, it is worthwhile to compare the incommensurability of paradigms used to uncover human history with those used in natural science. It is, thereby, possible to gain a better understanding of both types of incommensurability and of the differences between historical and natural science.

Shuchao Yang
(Hunan Normal University, China)

Day 1, "West" Room, 13:00

The Comparability of Semantic Incommensurability

Some researchers argued the semantic incommensurability must lead to incomparability. Paul Hoyningen-Huene has refuted these criticisms convincingly. He argued that the incommensurable theories can be compared with each other because of the local incommensurability.I agree with Hoyningen-Huene, but I think we should pay more attention to learning- language process as it can remedy the defect of local incommensurability.

Jeu-Jenq Yuann
(Taiwan National University, Taiwan)

Day 2, "East" Room, 16:20

Youlan Feng and Qian Hong on Two Incommensurable Systems of Anti-Metaphysics

The paper contains historical and methodological purposes. In 1943, during the Sino-Japanese War, there occurred in China a philosophical debates between Qian Hong and Youlan Feng. The debate was actually a criticism launched by Hong, the only Chinese member of Vienna Circle, on "the new rational philosophy" (Hsin Li Hsuen) put forward by Feng, then one among the most prominent Chinese philosophers, Ph.D. from Columbia University. Hong severely criticized Fong's system which declared to be a metaphysical correction of traditional Chinese philosophy, remained metaphysical. This would not be unusual as members of Vienna Circle launched criticism of similar kind everywhere. However, the interesting point here was Fong's reason which claimed to be that the reconstruction of the Chinese philosophy was carried out also under the influence of Vienna Circle. Apparently this debate is about whose ideas represented genuinely the philosophy of Vienna Circle. Nevertheless, it implied a significant point: there were two incommensurable anti-metaphysical systems. It was mainly due to this fact and its unfortunate ignorance that the whole debate was not taken seriously enough. This paper tries to analyze the debate by taking into account the idea of incommensurability developed mainly by P. Feyerabend. From here, we will see that the debates between Hong and Fend raises an issue of incommensurability rooted in the shift of linguistic systems. It is also due to the unique difference between the Chinese and Western languages that the issue goes much deeper than what we usually think about the idea of incommensurability between scientific and philosophical theories.

Dan Wan
(Hunan Normal University, China)

Day 3, "East" Room, 15:45

The Third Way to Cross-cultural Communication: From Kuhn’s Perspective

Kuhn’s notion of incommensurability insisted that incommensurability is just local and a sort of untranslatability. Then, the communication among the different groups is possible. Kuhn considered two ways emphatically, which are suitable for scientific static picture. I found changing lexicon maybe suitable for scientific dynamic picture, such as revolutionary or extraordinary science. When the third way of communication is extended to cultural groups, we will find it effective in the history of Western culture spread into Chinese culture.