Commensurability (philosophy of science)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Commensurability is a concept, in philosophy of science, whereby scientific theories are commensurable if scientists can discuss them in terms permitting direct comparison of theories to determine which theory is truer. On the other hand, theories are incommensurable if they are embedded in starkly contrasting conceptual frameworks whose languages lack sufficiently overlapping meanings to permit scientists to directly compare the theories or to cite empirical evidence favoring one theory over the other. Discussed by Ludwik Fleck in the 1930s, and popularized by Thomas Kuhn in the 1960s, the problem of incommensurability results in scientists talking past each other, as it were, while comparison of theories is muddled by confusions about terms' contexts and consequences.




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