Incommensurability Explained in the Terms of Presuppositions. A Comment to Kuhn’s Thesis on Radical Meaning Variance




incommensurability, (non)-factivity of knowledge, paradigm, presupposition, scientific change, radical meaning variance thesis


Kuhn’s radical meaning variance thesis implies that scientists, who work in different paradigms cannot understand each other. This, however, seems incredible. The air of paradox can be dispersed once the role of presuppositions in constituting a paradigm is acknowledged. Presuppositions function in the way of the Wittgensteinian ungrounded hinges and often are only implicitly assumed. In the face of recalcitrant puzzles some presuppositions can be made explicit and revised. The mechanism of possible revisions of presuppositions can be accounted for in terms of Hintikka’s interrogative model of scientific inquiry with some amendments.

The model includes three possible reactions to an anomaly: (i) a conservative offer of an auxiliary hypothesis within the current paradigm, (ii) a reinterpretation of puzzling experimental results and non-revolutionary enrichment of the current paradigm with a novel hypothesis, and (iii) a revision of presuppositions that amounts to a full-fledged scientific revolution. The choice depends on the success or failure of more conservative alternatives and the scope of application of the theory under investigation. In the proposed approach, incommensurability does not hinder communication between the proponents of different paradigms. In addition, some other controversial points in Kuhn’s views are explained, like Kuhn’s losses, reproaching conservative attitudes towards anomalies, or the admissibility or inadmissibility of the coexistence of rival paradigms. Last but not least, a link between a paradigm shift and the strive for truth is established.

Author Biography

Adam Grobler, Opole University



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How to Cite

Grobler, A. (2023). Incommensurability Explained in the Terms of Presuppositions. A Comment to Kuhn’s Thesis on Radical Meaning Variance. Studia Historiae Scientiarum, 22, 239–258.




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