Quine-duhem thesis summary

Counter thesis defined
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  1. Howard Sankey (University of Melbourne): Publications - PhilPeople
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  3. Being Scientific: Fasifiability, Verifiability, Empirical Tests, and Reproducibility
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If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Rachel Cooper Lancaster University, U. Search for more papers by this author. Read the full text.


  1. About and With W. V. Quine;
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  3. Underdetermination Thesis, Duhem-Quine Thesis | ticsofinan.gq.
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  5. Underdetermination Thesis, Duhem-Quine Thesis.
  6. Jerry Fodor on Semantic Holism - Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments;
  7. Essays on the Duhem-Quine Thesis;

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Howard Sankey (University of Melbourne): Publications - PhilPeople

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Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Consider the link between smoking and lung cancer.

We have concluded that smoking can cause lung cancer, but if we just looked at the correlations, we could come up with other explanations. Perhaps a gene or combination thereof makes people find tobacco more addictive and lung cancer more likely. Perhaps an incipient cancer creates a subtle discomfort that can be alleviated by smoking. We know more than just the correlation, and therefore having more information allows us to know that smoking causes cancer.

Holistic underdetermination, in science, considers that it's normally impossible to test scientific hypotheses by themselves, but only in conjunction with other hypotheses. Obviously, interpreting certain things that happened at the CERN accelerator, by themselves, as evidence of the Higgs boson required a large mass of other theory, which could be wrong somewhere.

The example in the entry is orbital mechanics. In the early s, there were theories of orbital mechanics based on Newton's laws, and there was our knowledge of the planets in the solar system. Both the orbits of Mercury and Uranus had anomalies. In the case of Uranus, our theory was correct and we didn't know about Neptune. We found it in Similarly, Mercury's anomalies could be accounted for by a planet closer to the Sun, named Vulcan.

Being Scientific: Fasifiability, Verifiability, Empirical Tests, and Reproducibility

Nobody was able to observe Vulcan, however, and eventually we found that it didn't exist as predicted, but the theory was wrong. The anomalies were accounted for with a new system of physical laws, relativity, that differed from Newton's in some ways. Therefore, whether our theories were wrong or our observations incomplete couldn't be determined by information available at the time, and in this case the same sort of anomalies were caused by entirely different things.

Distractive underdetermination questions whether we have all the possible hypotheses. It's conceivable that we would eventually have found that Neptune didn't exist and relativity was wrong, and that the anomalies were caused by supertechnological Martians playing practical jokes. What other hypotheses are possible?

Suppose we had two hypotheses that predicted different things for different experiments. We still can't say that one is right, because there may be other hypotheses that fit the facts which haven't occurred to us.

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Light was clearly made of discrete particles or continuous waves. Early physicists ran experiments and found it to be made of waves. Therefore, it wasn't made of particles. Then the anomalies started popping up. When something is heated up enough, it starts to glow, and the color of the glow depends on the temperature.

Blacksmiths used the glow of iron as something of a thermometer, although they referred to temperatures like "dull red" and "cherry red" rather than anything quantitative. It turned out that, if life was continuous waves, there was no way any physicist could explain how that worked. Max Planck showed that, if light came in discrete units, with energy going up as frequency increases, then a black body would only be able to radiate light up to a certain frequency, and the calculations worked.

Similarly, when light hits certain materials it can cause them to emit electrons of certain energies. The number of electrons varied with how bright the light was, but brighter light didn't produce more energetic photons. Einstein found that, if light came in packets like Planck supposed, that this photoelectric effect could be understood.

Eventually, physicists realized that light was, in a highly non-intuitive sense, both waves and particles, and properties of either would dominate depending on exactly what people were doing with it. This third hypothesis is what we're using today, and it seems to be very successful. The Stack Overflow podcast is back!

Listen to an interview with our new CEO. Sign up to join this community. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top. Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. What is the principle of underdetermination? Ask Question. Asked 1 year ago. Active 1 year ago.