International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Series | Book | Chapter


The incommensurability of experimental practices

an incommensurability of what? an incommensurability of a third type?

Léna Soler

pp. 299-339


In the 1990s, authors such as Andrew Pickering and Ian Hacking, who worked on experimental practices and stressed the need for philosophy of science to take into account material and performative aspects of laboratory life, claimed to have discovered a new kind of incommensurability. Pickering talks about a "machinic incommensurability" while Hacking speaks of "literal incommensurability", but their target is approximately the same: an incommensurability related to a disjunction between the sets of instrumental devices, and correlatively the sets of measures obtained by their means, of two scientific practices. The paper discusses this proposal of Pickering and Hacking. It examines the situations that could correspond to the "machinic-literal" incommensurability. It elicits the possible implications of such situations from an epistemological point of view. And it analyses some difficulties which arise from the idea of an experimental incommensurability.

Publication details

Published in:

Soler Léna, Sankey Howard, Hoyningen-Huene Paul (2008) Rethinking scientific change and theory comparison: stabilities, ruptures, incommensurabilities?. Dordrecht, Springer.

Pages: 299-339

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6279-7_22

Full citation:

Soler Léna (2008) „The incommensurability of experimental practices: an incommensurability of what? an incommensurability of a third type?“, In: L. Soler, H. Sankey & P. Hoyningen-Huene (eds.), Rethinking scientific change and theory comparison, Dordrecht, Springer, 299–339.