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The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgements$
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James O. Young

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198714590

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198714590.001.0001

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We Really Shouldn’t Be Having this Conversation

We Really Shouldn’t Be Having this Conversation

Rational Disengagement in Science and in Art

(p.185) 9 We Really Shouldn’t Be Having this Conversation
The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgements

Carl Matheson

Oxford University Press

Discussions about art often make use of theoretical apparatuses that are intimidatingly complex to non-specialists. Given the significant differences in their conceptual schemes and standards of success, these theories and the interpretations they generate are often difficult to understand and often even more difficult to compare. As such, like fundamentally different scientific theories, they are, as Paul Feyerabend would say, “incommensurable.” This chapter pursues the analogy between theoretical incommensurability in science and in art. In particular, it attempts to determine the conditions under which workers pursuing one theoretical approach are permitted or obliged to ignore other approaches completely. Instead of relying upon the standard notion of incommensurability as untranslatability, the chapter employs the related concept of pragmatic incommensurability, in which the degree of incommensurability between two approaches is determined by the difficulty that proponents of the two theories would encounter in coming to understand each other.

Keywords:   incommensurability, Paul Feyerabend, art criticism, conceptual schemes, Thomas Kuhn, paradigms, literary theories, theory comparison, cognitive labour

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