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Volume 48 • Number 3

July 2011



 

 

QUINE AND DUHEM ON HOLISTIC HYPOTHESIS TESTING


by Gerald J. Massey


In the first sentence of The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory (hereafter Aim and Structure), Pierre Duhem characterizes his treatise as "a simple logical analysis of the method by which physical science [mathematical physics] makes progress." Later in the work, Duhem formulates the principal result of this simple logical analysis, the thesis or claim that we will call Duhem's infirmational holism (D-holism), as follows: A physicist decides to demonstrate the inaccuracy of a proposition; in order to deduce from this proposition the prediction of a phenomenon and institute the experiment which is to show whether this phenomenon is or is not produced, in order to interpret the results of this experiment and establish that the predicted phenomenon is not produced, he does not confine himself to making use of the proposition in question; he makes use also of a whole group of theories accepted by him as beyond dispute.


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ISSN: 2152-1123