If subsequent observation and experiment produces data that conflict with those predicted, one might think that this reflects badly on the hypothesis under test, but Duhem pointed out that given all of the assumptions required to derive predictions, it is no simple matter to identify where the error lies. Confirmational holism is the view that theories are confirmed or disconfirmed as wholes Quine b, p. The basic problem is that individual theoretical claims are unable to be confirmed or falsified on their own, in isolation from surrounding hypotheses. Duhem presented a thesis in physics for his doctorate. We also need a faculty that allows us to intuit the truth of the first principles or axioms, that is, bon sens good sense. Another way to think about scientific realism is in terms of the epistemic aims of scientific inquiry van Fraassen

This classic work in the philosophy of physical science is an incisive and readable account of the scientific method. Thus, when Duhem accused Faraday and Maxwell of having English minds, he did so by trying to establish something about how they conducted their science, not by referring to their ancestry. And since one cannot know this independently, the pessimistic induction is fallacious. By examining and articulating in much more detail the role of auxiliary hypotheses in debates related to the Duhem-Quine thesis, and by displaying the underlying rationality of the favorable appraisal scientists often give theories that rigorously determine parameters, this thesis attempts to walk the difficult path between what Popper called the myth of the framework and what Kitcher calls the myth of Legend. As part of his famous critique of the widely accepted distinction between truths that are analytic true by definition, or as a matter of logic or language alone and those that are synthetic true in virtue of some contingent fact about the way the world is , Quine argued instead that all of the beliefs we hold at any given time are linked in an interconnected web, which encounters our sensory experience only at its periphery: Reprinted in Duhem We discuss Duhem’s thesis in the context of demonstrating why evidence supporting the farm problem has not diminished the standing of general equilibrium theory among agricultural economists.

quine duhem thesis stanford

Open access to the SEP is made possible by stanforf world-wide funding initiative. This shows, incidentally why there is something misleading about the oft-voiced complaint that Quinean underdetermination rests upon a crude hypothetico-deductive view of confirmation: The prodigious quantity and quality of his publications in many fields of science, the philosophy of science, and the history of science were not able to change his situation.


Duhem is well known for his attack on the use of models in physical science. Cambridge University Press, 1— Benacerraf b — and the indeterminacy problem for the reduction of numbers to sets — if numbers are sets, which sets are they Benacerraf a?

Pierre Duhem

The proud and stubborn Duhem told his daughter: One could take a less restrictive line and claim that the higher reaches of set theory, although without physical applications, do carry ontological commitment by virtue of the fact that they have applications in other parts of mathematics. If watching lots of cartoons causes children to be more violent in their playground behavior, then we should barring complications expect to find a correlation between levels of cartoon viewing and violent playground behavior.

quine duhem thesis stanford

A general disclaimer is in order here: Sober takes issue with the claim that mathematical theories share stanforrd empirical support accrued by our best scientific theories. Leplin wants, inconsistently, to use Duhem, Quine, and the Problems of Underdetermination 2.

quine duhem thesis stanford

While the explanation being advanced involves biology e. But such possibilities, Stanford argues, amount to nothing more than the sort of Evil Deceiver to which Descartes appealed in order to doubt any of his beliefs that could possibly be doubted see Section 1, above. His pursuit of this reference, and stannford research to which it led, is widely acknowledged to have created the field of the history of medieval science.

A fairly standard reply to this line of argument is to suggest that what Laudan and Leplin really show is that the notion of empirical equivalence must be applied to larger collections of beliefs than those traditionally identified as scientific theories—at least large enough to encompass the auxiliary assumptions needed to derive empirical predictions from them.

And as in the historicist approach, notions such as truth, reference, and ontology are here relative to particular contexts; they have no context-transcendent significance.

No finite amount of data will ever be able to narrow the possibilities down to just a single function or indeed, any finite number of candidate functions, from which the distribution of data points we have might have been generated.

Pierre Duhem (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

This sort of idealism, however, though historically important, is rarely encountered in contemporary philosophy of science. The roles mathematics plays in these theories is also varied. The analysis we have given of experiments in physics shows syanford to be completely interpenetrated by theoretical interpretation, to the point where it becomes impossible to express fact in isolation from theory, in such experiments. Responses to this argument generally take one of two forms, the first stemming from the qualifications to realism outlined in section 1.


However, duhe just the way that the realist strategy of selectivity see section 2. In other words, Stanford claims that in the past we have repeatedly failed to exhaust the space of fundamentally distinct theoretical possibilities that were well confirmed by the existing evidence, and that we have every reason to believe that we are probably also failing to exhaust the space of such alternatives that are well confirmed by the evidence we have at present.

This prognosis of potentially irresolvable dialectical complexity is relevant to a number of further views in the philosophy of science, some of which arise as direct responses to it. We will need to spell out what counts as an attractive theory but for this we can appeal to the standard desiderata for good scientific theories: Liber Amicorum Pascal EngelGeneva: After the death of his parents, Pierre-Joseph was forced to discontinue his studies with the Jesuits in order to provide for the family.

Indispensability Arguments in the Philosophy of Mathematics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

In other words, he shows that there are more reasons to worry about underdetermination concerning inferences to hypotheses about unobservables than to, say, inferences about unobserved observables. Most commonly, the position is described in terms of the epistemic achievements constituted by scientific theories and models—this qualification will be taken as given henceforth. Light may be a swarm of projectiles, or it may be a vibratory motion whose waves are propagated in a medium; is it forbidden to be anything else at all?

Although tthesis agreeing on what path this might take, they became convinced that these linkages provided the fruitful key to an eventual correct understanding of planetary motion.

If, for example, some theorem of mathematics has its explanation rest in an explanatory proof, then any applications of that theorem in the empirical realm would give rise to a prima facie case that the full explanation of the empirical phenomenon in question involves the intra-mathematical explanation of the theorem. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science27 1: The challenge to objectivity in the sense of universality or perspective-independence thesus be, in some cases, more difficult to square with the possibility of realism.