LUMINA Volume 24 No. 2

Scientific Lexicon, Incommensurability, and Inter-Theoretic Communication in Thomas Kuhn's Philosophy of Science

by Dr. Douglas I.O. Anele

This paper focuses on some controversial aspects of Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science. It aims to elucidate the thematic thrust of his historicized model of scientific development, particularly the thesis that replacement of existing paradigms or theories in science lead to incommensurability. This paper asks how the concepts of a scientific lexicon acquire their meaning and if it is correct to claim, as Kuhn does, that changes in the meanings of established concepts in science after a scientific revolution necessarily lead to incommensurability. The paper also discusses whether incommensurability is a genuine problem in scientific practice or it is largely a by-product of Kuhn's theory-dominated philosophy of science. The methodology employed in this paper is the analytical, expository and critical approach native to philosophy. The paper confirms that Kuhn is essentially correct in his criticism of logical positivist theory of the meaning of scientific terms. Secondly, this paper asserts that the notion of incommensurability exaggerates the problems of inter-theoretic evaluation and communication among scientists after a revolution. Thirdly, a more experiment-oriented philosophy of science eliminates the excesses of theory-dominated philosophies of science. Finally, the analysis by Kuhn of how scientists internalize the lexicon and vocabulary of their specialities, especially through pattern recognition mechanisms encoded in their epistemic repertoire, throws some light on the nature and potentials of systematic teaching and learning in a knowledge-driven world.

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