Charles Taylor on overcoming incommensurability

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


As he recognizes, Taylor's view of practical reasoning commits him to the existence of incommensurable world-views. However, he holds that it is in principle possible to overcome these incommensurabilities. He has two major arguments for this conclusion, which I label the argument from the human condition, and the transition argument. I show that the first argument, though perhaps successful in the case Taylor takes as an example, cannot be generalized. The second argument is even less successful, since all the evidence it produces is compatible with a thoroughgoing relativism. I point out, moreover, that even if Taylor's arguments were successful, they would not demonstrate that someone who chose to continue to reject the practice that had been vindicated would be irrational to do so. I conclude that there seems no way to circumvent the relativism to which Taylor's picture of practical reasoning leads.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-61
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Charles Taylor
  • incommensurability
  • practical reason
  • relativism


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