Section 1 will distinguish a range of different holistic claims, Sections 2 and 3 explore how well motivated they are and how they relate to one another, and Section 4 returns to the arguments listed above and uses the distinctions from the previous sections to identify holism’s role in each case. If attempted refutations are the sole test for theories, two incompatible theories that are not refuted by the evidence are equally well tested by it. Even many of those philosophers of science who are most strongly convinced of the general significance of various forms of underdetermination itself remain deeply skeptical of this latter thesis and thoroughly unconvinced by the empirical evidence that has been offered in support of it usually in the form of case studies of particular historical episodes in science. A central element in this latter argument is that theories can get extra credence by entailing novel predictions — that is, predictions such that information about the predicted phenomenon was not previously known and not used in the construction of the theory. The Duhem—Quine thesis argues that no scientific hypothesis is by itself capable of making predictions. This situation is particularly unfortunate, but one may respond that the ensued underdetermination is local rather than global; hence the possible skepticism that follows is local. The Very Idea 2.

These include, amongothers, constructivism, critical realism andrhetoric, with each contributing to the Realistvs. Bayesian Reasoning, Misc in Philosophy of Probability. Later theories of physics and astronomy, such as classical and relativistic mechanics could account for such observations without positing a fixed Earth, and in due course they replaced the static-Earth auxiliary hypotheses and initial conditions. I conclude by suggesting that the solution to Quine’s indeterminacy problem hinges on the elaboration of an intensional theory of perceptual input, and of content in general. It is simply not true that for practical purposes and in concrete contexts a single revision of our beliefs in response to disconfirming evidence is always obviously correct, or the most promising, or the only or even most sensible avenue to pursue. In its strong form, this claim let’s call it the Empirical Equivalence Thesis, EET asserts that any theory has empirically equivalent rivals some of which might be hitherto unconceived. Shall we ever dare to assert that no other hypothesis is imaginable?

My new love, in the platonic sense, was Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica.

This assault isencapsulated in the celebrated Duhem-Quinethesis, which according to underddtermination number ofcontemporary leading philosophers of economics,poses a particularly serious methodologicalproblem for economics. Contrary to the intentions of its authors, the fundamental lesson taught by the assay sensitivity argument is Duhemian: On both accounts, then, our response to recalcitrant evidence or a failed prediction is constrained in important ways by preexisting features of the existing web of beliefs, but for Quine the continuing force of these constraints is ultimately imposed by the fundamental principles of human psychology such as our preference fhesis minimal mutilation of the web, or the pragmatic virtues of simplicity, fecundity, etc.


quine: terms explained

Notice, for instance, that even if we somehow knew that no other hypothesis on a given subject was well-confirmed by a given body of data, that would not tell us where to place the blame or which of our beliefs to give up if the remaining hypothesis in conjunction with others subsequently resulted in a failed empirical prediction. In fact, given the fact that two or more rival theories are underdeterminatio different quune probabilities, the evidence can confirm one more than the others, or even make one highly probable.

I majored in mathematics and was doing my honors reading in mathematical logic, a subject that had not yet penetrated the Oberlin curriculum.

To begin with, the mechanism of the Galilean telescopes had been explained in terms of geometrical optics and the nature of the objects that they imaged was consistent; for example a distant lake would not resemble a tree when seen through a telescope. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

History of Western Philosophy. But in condemning this system as a whole by declaring it stained with error, the experiment does not tell us where the error lies. Following Duhem’s thesis concerning scientific confirmation or disconfirmation, Quine put forth a stronger and wider underdetermjnation that our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body.

duhem quine thesis underdetermination

Most thinkers of any degree of sobriety allow, that an hypothesis As noted above, Duhem thought that the sort of underdetermination he had described presented a challenge only for theoretical physics, but subsequent thinking in the philosophy of science has tended to the opinion that the predicament Duhem described applies to theoretical testing in all qulne of scientific inquiry. This dissertation shows, contrary to Duhem’s thesis, that it is sometimes possible for scientists to perform crucial experiments and that those experiments follow the logic of a crucial underdeermination.

A careful reading of his later writings shows, however, that the formulation of the thesis remained unchanged afterand that his mature and considered views supported only a very mitigated version of the thesis.

If, it is argued, prior probabilities have epistemic force, then the evidence can warrant a high degree of belief in a theory or greater degree of belief in a theory than its rivals. The pursuit-worthiness of the neutral theory and of Back to Duhem 3. Combining this model with anti-holistic arguments of Philosophers of science have responded in a variety of ways to the suggestion that a few or even a small handful of serious examples of empirical equivalents does not suffice to establish that there are probably such equivalents to most scientific theories in most domains of inquiry.


Underdetermination Thesis, Duhem-Quine Thesis |

But, it is added, how can prior probabilities have any epistemic force? By and large, we think is a useful reply to our original critique of his article on the Quine—Duhem problem.

This move makes rational belief a more complex affair and tallies with the intuitions of scientific and common sense. Empirical equivalents create a serious obstacle to belief in a theory so long as there is some empirical equivalent to that theory at any given time, but it need not be the same one at each time.


As popular as the Duhem—Quine thesis may be in philosophy of sciencein reality Pierre Duhem and Willard Van Orman Quine stated very different theses. Although not agreeing on underdeterimnation path this might take, they became convinced that these linkages provided the fruitful key to an eventual correct understanding of planetary motion.

duhem quine thesis underdetermination

I think back to college days, 61 years agao. Other Internet Resources [Please contact the author with suggestions. Key works The two main references are Quinereprinted as Underdeterminatinoand Duhem According unverdetermination Davidson, if we can put appropriate formal and empirical constraints on the theory as a whole, a satisfactory theory of meaning will finally emerge as a result of applying the theory of truth in interpreting or understanding the utterances of others.

Underdetermination of Scientific Theory

Acknowledgments I inderdetermination benefited from discussing both the organization and content of this article with many people including audiences and participants at the Pittsburgh Workshop on Underdetermination and the Southern California Philosophers of Science retreat, as well as the participants in graduate seminars both at UC Irvine and Pittsburgh.

Thesiis dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. Duhem, Quine, and the Problems of Underdetermination 2. Greenwood finds this interpretation implausible because some adjustments to auxiliary hypotheses undermine too