The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

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Because each paradigm shift marks such a fundamental change in the way scientists experience the world, it can be very difficult for scientists working in one paradigm to talk to experts in another. Moreover, each paradigm draws on a different set of data and poses different problems—so, one group might deem that the evidence another group is using to prove their idea is irrelevant. Kuhn terms this gap between paradigms “incommensurability,” and he argues that this is why each new paradigm is so controversial when it is first introduced.

Incommensurability Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quotes below are all either spoken by Incommensurability or refer to Incommensurability. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions published in 2012.
Chapter 2 Quotes

No natural history can be interpreted in the absence of at least some implicit body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief that permits selection, evaluation, and criticism. If that body of belief is not already implicit in the collection of facts—in which case more than “mere facts” are at hand—it must be externally supplied, perhaps by a current metaphysic, by another science, or by personal and historical accident. No wonder, then, that in the early stages of the development of any science different men confronting the same range of phenomena, but not usually all the same particular phenomena, describe and interpret them in different ways.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

These examples point to the third and most fundamental aspect of the incommensurability of competing paradigms. In a sense that I am unable to explicate further, the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. One contains constrained bodies that fall slowly, the other pendulums that repeat their motions again and again. In one, solutions are compounds, in the other mixtures. One is embedded in a flat, the other in a curved, matrix of space.

Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
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Incommensurability Term Timeline in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The timeline below shows where the term Incommensurability appears in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9. The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
...likely not acceptable in another. Kuhn then argues that paradigms are not only incompatible but incommensurable with one another.  (full context)
Postscript - 1969
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
...the philosophers of science who criticized his original text, Kuhn clarifies his remarks about the incommensurability of paradigms. Rather than saying that believers of different paradigms can never understand each other,... (full context)