2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

Semantic Incommensurability After Donald Davidson

Joelle Axton
Dr. Chad Mohler, Faculty Mentor

In independent works published in 1962, Paul Feyerabend and Thomas Kuhn each introduced the idea of incommensurability into the philosophy of science. Though there are significant differences in their descriptions of incommensurability, they both argued that successive scientific theories are sometimes not directly comparable due to significant conceptual differences. Though both Kuhn and Feyerabend’s incommensurability arguments extend beyond semantic notions, some of the most compelling objections against their theories are aimed at their claims about meaning variance and untranslatability. One such objection was offered by Donald Davidson in “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme.” This essay will consist of a close reading of Davidson’s arguments and an evaluation of semantic incommensurability in light of them. I will argue that Davidson’s arguments against conceptual relativity do not undermine the claim that certain concepts are not immediately or directly available in a given language.


Keywords: incommensurability, untranslatability, Donald Davidson, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend

Topic(s):Philosophy & Religion

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 310-1
Location: VH 1224
Time: 1:00

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