International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Series | Book | Chapter


Some reflections on experimental incommensurability

Howard Sankey

pp. 341-347


Lena Soler discusses a purportedly new form of incommensurability, which she refers to as "machinic literal incommensurability". She also employs the expression "experimental incommensurability" to refer to roughly the same thing. As the former is a bit of a mouthful, I will opt for the latter expression.Experimental incommensurability relates to variation in equipment and associated experimental practices across different laboratory contexts. It arises because no common measure exists between different instruments and practices associated with these different instruments. Such an absence of common measure between different instruments and practices is supposed to constitute a new and distinct form of incommensurability. It contrasts with the standard semantic form of incommensurability which arises due to semantic variation between the vocabulary utilized by theories. It also contrasts with methodological forms of incommensurability which arise due to variation in the methodological norms employed for the evaluation of alternative scientific theories. Experimental incommensurability arises due to variation of equipment and experimental practice between experimental settings. It has nothing to do with the meaning or reference of scientific terms, nor has it anything to do with the norms of scientific theory appraisal.

Publication details

Published in:

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

Pages: 341-347

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6279-7_23

Full citation:

Sankey Howard (2008) „Some reflections on experimental incommensurability“, In: L. Soler, H. Sankey & P. Hoyningen-Huene (eds.), Rethinking scientific change and theory comparison, Dordrecht, Springer, 341–347.