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Incommensurability: non-comparability. Expression by Thomas Kuhn (Th. Kuhn, The structure of scientific revolutions, 1962). Kuhn argues that scientific theories which are replaced in the course of time use terms which are altered in their meaning, and therefore make a comparison of, e.g. measurement results impossible and thus also a comparison of statements.
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Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

 
Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Political Philosophy on Incommensurability - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 240
Incommensurability/pluralism/Political Philosophy/D’Agostino: The notion of incommensurability is therefore crucially important in the debate between monists and pluralists (see, especially, Chang, 1997(1); Raz, 1986(2): ch. 13). Pluralists needn't, of course, insist on across-the-board incommensurability.
>Pluralism.
As Barry already argued in 1965, with his use of economists' 'indifference curves' (1990(3): ch. I, s. 2), and as James Griffin (1986(4): 89—90) and others have reaffirmed subsequently, a single, unequivocal ranking of options is possible, even with multiple underlying bases of assessment, so long as these values 'trade off' against one another. Indeed, pluralism and incommensurability are logically independent; even a pluralist who believes that trade-offs are always possible does not thereby become a monist (see Dancy, 1993(5): 121). She has a basis, for instance, which the genuine monist seems to lack, for conceptualizing the regret that we frequently experience even when we choose the best option (see Stocker, 1997(6): 1997). Rhetorically, it is nevertheless understandable that pluralists have tended to focus on cases where, because trade-offs seem impossible or inappropriate, incommensurability is evident.
For pluralists identify their position at least partly in opposition to monism, and incommensurability is incompatible with full-blooded monism. (This is the significance, for utilitarianism, of the debate about 'interpersonal comparability' of welfare.
Comparibility: Without such comparability, utilitarianism becomes a pluralist approach, lacking the single overall normative standard whose importance Mill stressed. See, for instance, Elster and Roemer, 1991(7). )

1. Chang, Ruth, ed. (1997) Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason. Cambridge , MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Raz, Joseph (1986) The Morality of Fæedom. Oxford: Clarendon.
3. Barry, Brian (1990) Political A,'gument: A Reissue with a New Introduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
4. Griffin, James (1986) Well-Being. Oxford: Clarendon.
5. Dancy, Jonathan (1993) Moral Reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.
6. Stocker, Michael (1997) 'Abstract and concrete value: plurality, conflict, and maximization'. In Ruth Chang, ed., Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
7. Elster, Jon and John Roemer, eds (1991) Interpersonal Comparisons of Well-Being. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D’Agostino, Fred 2004. „Pluralism and Liberalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Political Philosophy
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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