Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience. But Bas van Fraassen has offered an extremely influential line of argument intended to show that such contrastive underdetermination is a serious concern for scientific theorizing more generally. This assault isencapsulated in the celebrated Duhem-Quinethesis, which according to a number ofcontemporary leading philosophers of economics,poses a particularly serious methodologicalproblem for economics. The scope of the epistemic challenge arising from underdetermination is not limited only to scientific contexts, as is perhaps most readily seen in classical skeptical attacks on our knowledge more generally. In this dissertation, I address these shortcomings and show how and what kind of experimental knowledge fNI can reliably produce which would be theoretically significant. The purpose of the paper is to discuss the effects of the thesis in four specific and diverse theories in economics, and to illustrate the dependence of testing the theories on a set of auxiliary hypotheses. He refers to two possible ways of proceeding when an experiment contradicts the consequences of a theory:

All of the many versions of this position fall into one of two camps: From the rather remarkable but seemingly uncontroversial fact that mathematics is indispensable to science, some philosophers have drawn serious metaphysical conclusions. Historically, the nature of the connection between these controversies is critically examined with special attention to the claim that the neutralist position is actually the classical position brought up to date. For Quine, by contrast, the fundamental relation by which our language comes to be about the world, and to have empirical content, is that between a sentence and stimulations of our sensory surfaces; reference, while important, is a derivative notion. See also Parsons for some related worries about Quinean holism. Sign in Create an account.

But, if epistemology focuses on justification rather than truth, turning from concerns about certainty to a fallibilist attitude towards belief, then empiricism remains viable.

Pierre Duhem

From my historical study, things did not evolve in this way, and the theory was both proposed and rebutted on the basis of normative arguments htesis in the s. So once again we ought to reject P1. The objections that have received the most attention, however, are those thesie to Hartry Field, Penelope Maddy and Elliott Sober. That said, they extend the analysis in a more specific way, reflecting particular concerns about the marginalization of points of view based on gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and political status.


Some model builders even find pleasure in building two or more models of the same law. The Duhem Thesis 2. The contrast here is not merely wtanford semantics and epistemology: I also claim that Allais had an intuition of how to combine testability and normativity, unlike most later experimenters, and that it would have been more fruitful to work from his intuition than to make choice experiments of the naively empirical style that flourished after him.

Others portray epistemic privilege in a more splintered or deflationary manner, suggesting that no one point of view can be established as superior to another by any overarching standard of epistemological assessment.

Although both Duhem and Quine recognised this aspect, they qujne to see its consequences: But I also show that Lakatos’ use of an analogue of the thesis to criticize Popper is misdirected, and that it is sometimes possible to justify the claim that a theory is false even though one lacks logically conclusive refuting evidence. A starting point is to detail how laboratory evaluations of economic hypotheses constitute composite tests.

Since the studies of Buridan and Oresme had remained in large part in manuscript, Duhem suggested that Albert of Saxony, whose works were printed and reprinted during the sixteenth century, was the likely link to Galileo.

Another way to think about scientific realism is in terms of the epistemic aims of scientific inquiry van Fraassen Therefore, if a physicist is given only an equation, he is not taught anything.

Duhem supports this statement using an analogy with the trajectory of a ball. For example, van Fraassen He points out that hypotheses are confirmed relative to competing hypotheses.

Such perfection for Duhem is an equilibrium of disparate elements, not itself a single ideal type. One of these challenges, the underdetermination of theory by data, has a storied history in twentieth century philosophy more generally, and is often traced to the work of Duhem [] Since the empirical adequacy of a theory is not threatened by the existence of another that is empirically equivalent to it, fulfilling this aim has nothing to fear from the possibility of such empirical equivalents.

So even if two theories are empirically equivalent at a given time this is no guarantee that they will remain so, and thus there is no foundation for a general pessimism about our ability to distinguish theories that are empirically equivalent to each other on empirical grounds. It is not entirely clear, however, whether the evolutionary analogy is sufficient to dissolve the intuition behind the miracle argument.


In contradistinction with Quine’s behavioristic semantics, theories of meaning, or content, in the cognitivist tradition endorse intentional realism, and are prone to be unsympathetic to Quine’s thesis.

Duhem supports this claim with examples from physical theory, including one designed to illustrate a celebrated further consequence he draws from it. His teaching positions brought him from Lille, then briefly to Rennes, then to Bordeaux for the remainder of his life, but never to Paris.

Though in theory, a commitment to studying the sciences from a sociological perspective is interpretable in such a way as to be neutral with respect to realism Lewens ; cf.

This would leave platonism on rather shaky ground.

Underdetermination of Scientific Theory (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Conclusion It is not clear how damaging the above criticisms are to the indispensability argument and whether the explanatory version of the argument survives. Options 1 filter applied. When we see the science of Galileo triumph over the stubborn Peripatetic philosophy of somebody like Cremonini, we believe, since we are ill-informed about the history of human thought, that we are witness to the victory of modern, young science over medieval philosophy, so obstinate in its mechanical repetition.

quine duhem thesis stanford

In fact, from the start, when he described the broad-shallow English mind, his archetype was Napoleon Bonaparte, a great genius of military details—not an Englishman. Stanford concedes, however, that the historical record can offer only fallible evidence of a distinctive, general problem of contrastive scientific underdetermination, rather than the kind of deductive proof that champions of duhen case from empirical equivalents have typically sought.

One of the most intriguing features of mathematics is its applicability to empirical science. Duhem, Quine, and the Problems of Underdetermination 2. Oxford University Press, pp.

quine duhem thesis stanford