Semantic incommensurability and empirical comparability : the case of Lorentz and Einstein
Philosophia Scientiae, Volume 8 (2004) no. 1, pp. 73-94.

Semantic incommensurability is understood as non-translatability of concepts taken from different theories. My aim is to give a rational reconstruction of the notion of incommensurability underlying the writings of Feyerabend and the later Kuhn. I claim that incommensurability can be reconstructed on this basis as a coherent conception and that relevant instances can be identified. The translation failure between incommensurable concepts arises from the impossibility to jointly fulfil two conditions of adequacy that the context theory of meaning places on translations. Potential conceptual analogues either fail to preserve the conditions of application or to reproduce the relevant inferential relations. Incommensurability is thus construed as the result of a particular type of conceptual relations which is produced by the incompatibility of the pertinent theories. These conceptual relations are sufficiently tight to make an empirical comparison of the relevant theoretical assertions possible. I try to make these claims plausible by elaborating examples from classical electrodynamics and special relativity.

L'incommensurabilité sémantique est comprise comme la non-traduisibilité de concepts appartenant à différentes théories. L'objectif de l'article est de proposer une reconstruction rationnelle de la notion d'incommensurabilité qui sous-tend les écrits de Feyerabend et du dernier Kuhn. L'incommensurabilité, prétend-on, peut être reconstruite sur cette base en tant que notion cohérente, et des exemples pertinents peuvent en être donnés. L'impossibilité de la traduction entre concepts incommensurables provient de l'impossibilité de satisfaire conjointement deux conditions d'adéquation que la théorie contextuelle de la signification impose aux traductions. Les analogues conceptuels potentiels s'avèrent, soit ne pas préserver les conditions d'application, soit ne pas reproduire les relations inférentielles pertinentes. L'incommensurabilité est ainsi construite comme le résultat d'un type particulier de relations conceptuelles produit par l'incompatibilité des théories correspondantes. Ces relations conceptuelles sont suffisamment étroites pour rendre possible une comparaison empirique des assertions théoriques pertinentes. L'article s'efforce de rendre ces thèses plausibles en développant des exemples tirés de l'électrodynamique classique et de la relativité spéciale.

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Carrier, Martin. Semantic incommensurability and empirical comparability : the case of Lorentz and Einstein. Philosophia Scientiae, Volume 8 (2004) no. 1, pp. 73-94.

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