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Summary The Quine-Duhem thesis is a form of the thesis of the underdetermination of theory by empirical evidence.  The basic problem is that individual theoretical claims are unable to be confirmed or falsified on their own, in isolation from surrounding hypotheses.  For this reason, the acceptance or rejection of a theoretical claim is underdetermined by observation.  The thesis can be interpreted in a more radical form that tends to be associated with the epistemic holism of Willard V. O. Quine or in a more restricted form associated with Pierre Duhem.  It is primarily an epistemic thesis about the relation between evidence and theory, though in Quine's case it also has semantic overtones connected with his rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction.
Key works The two main references are Quine 1951, reprinted as Quine 1953, and Duhem 1954.  Relevant extracts of both Quine and Duhem may be found in Curd & Cover 1998.
Introductions Ariew 1984; Ariew 2008; Gillies 1993; Hylton 2010; Krips 1982; Vuillemin 1979
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  1. James A. Anderson (2006). The Ethics and Science of Placebo-Controlled Trials: Assay Sensitivity and the Duhem-Quine Thesis. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 31 (1):65 – 81.
    The principle of clinical equipoise requires that, aside from certain exceptional cases, second generation treatments ought to be tested against standard therapy. In violation of this principle, placebo-controlled trials (PCTs) continue to be used extensively in the development and licensure of second-generation treatments. This practice is typically justified by appeal to methodological arguments that purport to demonstrate that active-controlled trials (ACTs) are methodologically flawed. Foremost among these arguments is the so called assay sensitivity argument. In this paper, I take a (...)
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  2. Roger Ariew (1984). The Duhem Thesis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):313-325.
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  3. N. Avgelis (1991). The Relevance of Duhem and Quine Thesis in the Light of Kant Cognitive Theory. Kant-Studien 82 (3):285-302.
  4. Yuri Balashov (1994). Duhem, Quine, and the Multiplicity of Scientific Tests. Philosophy of Science 61 (4):608-628.
    Duhem's and Quine's holistic theses, when properly understood, allow methodologically responsible ways of resolving a conflict between a theoretical system and experience; they only deny the possibility of doing it in an epistemically persuasive way. By developing a "string" model of scientific tests I argue that the pattern of interaction between the elements of a theoretical system arising in response to multiple adverse data can be helpful in locating a "weak spot" in it. Combining this model with anti-holistic arguments of (...)
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  5. Harry Beatty (1974). Behaviourism, Mentalism, and Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis. Philosophical Studies 26 (2):97 - 110.
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  6. Lars Bergström (1993). Quine, Underdetermination, and Skepticism. Journal of Philosophy 60 (7):331-358.
  7. Lars Bergström (1984). Underdetermination and Realism. Erkenntnis 21 (3):349 - 365.
  8. Sebastian Boţic (2010). Is Popper's 'Criterion of Demarcation' Outmoded ? Cultura 7 (1):41-53.
    This paper is concerned with the ′criterion of demarcation′ that Karl Popper put forward, while trying to show that it can be safely said that it is still standing. In doing so, I turn to two main objections to it: a Lakatos-Kuhn vision on the growth of science, and the famous Quine-Duhem thesis. The point that I hopefully made here is that the basic message of this prescriptive method is as respectful as ever, and, although not the subject of this (...)
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  9. Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann (2002). Bayesian Networks and the Problem of Unreliable Instruments. Philosophy of Science 69 (1):29-72.
    We appeal to the theory of Bayesian Networks to model different strategies for obtaining confirmation for a hypothesis from experimental test results provided by less than fully reliable instruments. In particular, we consider (i) repeated measurements of a single test consequence of the hypothesis, (ii) measurements of multiple test consequences of the hypothesis, (iii) theoretical support for the reliability of the instrument, and (iv) calibration procedures. We evaluate these strategies on their relative merits under idealized conditions and show some surprising (...)
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  10. Thomas A. Boylan & Paschal F. O'Gorman (2003). Pragmatism in Economic Methodology: The Duhem-Quine Thesis Revisited. [REVIEW] Foundations of Science 8 (1):3-21.
    Contemporary developments in economicmethodology have produced a vibrant agenda ofcompeting positions. These include, amongothers, constructivism, critical realism andrhetoric, with each contributing to the Realistvs. Pragmatism debate in the philosophies of thesocial sciences. A major development in theneo-pragmatist contribution to economicmethodology has been Quine's pragmatic assaulton the dogmas of empiricism, which are nowclearly acknowledged within contemporaryeconomic methodology. 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. This problem, (...)
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  11. Anastasios A. Brenner (1990). Holism a Century Ago: The Elaboration of Duhem's Thesis. Synthese 83 (3):325 - 335.
    Duhem first expounds the holistic thesis, according to which an experimental test always involves several hypotheses, in articles dating from the 1890s. Poincaré's analysis of a recent experiment in optics provides the incentive, but Duhem generalizes this analysis and develops a highly original methodological position. He is led to reject inductivism. I will endeavor to show the crucial role history of science comes to play in the development of Duhem's holism.
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  12. Martin Carrier (2011). Underdetermination as an Epistemological Test Tube: Expounding Hidden Values of the Scientific Community. Synthese 180 (2):189 - 204.
    Duhem—Quine underdetermination plays a constructive role in epistemology by pinpointing the impact of non-empirical virtues or cognitive values on theory choice. Underdetermination thus contributes to illuminating the nature of scientific rationality. Scientists prefer and accept one account among empirical equivalent alternatives. The non-empirical virtues operating in science are laid open in such theory choice decisions. The latter act as an epistemological test tube in making explicit commitments to how scientific knowledge should be like.
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  13. Karen Merikangas Darling (2002). The Complete Duhemian Underdetermination Argument: Scientific Language and Practice. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):511-533.
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  14. A. Derecin & S. Guccione (1985). Duhem-Thesis, Quine-Thesis and Duhem-Quine Thesis. Epistemologia 8:77-102.
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  15. Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem (1954). The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
    This classic work in the philosophy of physical science is an incisive and readable account of the scientific method. Pierre Duhem was one of the great figures in French science, a devoted teacher, and a distinguished scholar of the history and philosophy of science. This book represents his most mature thought on a wide range of topics.
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  16. Michael Dummett (1974). The Significance of Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis. Synthese 27 (3-4):351 - 397.
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  17. Branden Fitelson & Andrew Waterman, A Rejoinder to Strevens.
    By and large, we think Strevens’s [6] is a useful reply to our original critique [2] of his paper on the Quine–Duhem (QD) problem [5]. But, we remain unsatisfied with several aspects of his reply (and his original paper). Ultimately, we do not think he properly addresses our most important worries. In this brief rejoinder, we explain our remaining worries, and we issue a revised challenge for Strevens’s approach to QD.
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  18. Branden Fitelson & Andrew Waterman (2007). Comparative Bayesian Confirmation and the Quine–Duhem Problem: A Rejoinder to Strevens. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):332 - 338.
    By and large, we think (Strevens's [2005]) is a useful reply to our original critique (Fitelson and Waterman [2005]) of his article on the Quine-Duhem (QD) problem (Strevens [2001]). But, we remain unsatisfied with several aspects of his reply (and his original article). Ultimately, we do not think he properly addresses our most important worries. In this brief rejoinder, we explain our remaining worries, and we issue a revised challenge for Strevens's approach to QD.
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  19. Carlo Giannoni (1967). Quine, Grünbaum, and the Duhemian Thesis. Noûs 1 (3):283-297.
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  20. Donald Gillies (1998). The Duhem Thesis and the Quine Thesis. In Martin Curd & Jan Cover (eds.), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. Norton. 302--319.
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  21. Donald Gillies (1993). Philosophy of Science in the Twentieth Century: Four Central Themes. Blackwell.
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  22. William K. Goosens (1975). Duhem's Thesis, Observationality, and Justification. Philosophy of Science 42 (3):286-298.
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  23. John D. Greenwood (1990). Two Dogmas of Neo-Empiricism: The "Theory-Informity" of Observation and the Quine-Duhem Thesis. Philosophy of Science 57 (4):553-574.
    It is argued that neither the "theory-informity" of observations nor the Quine-Duhem thesis pose any in principle threat to the objectivity of theory evaluation. The employment of exploratory theories does not generate incommensurability, but on the contrary is responsible for the mensurability and commensurability of explanatory theories, since exploratory theories enable scientists to make observations which are critical in the evaluation of explanatory theories. The employment of exploratory theories and other auxiliary hypotheses does not enable a theory to always accommodate (...)
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  24. Adolf Grünbaum (1962). The Falsifiability of Theories: Total or Partial? A Contemporary Evaluation of the Duhem-Quine Thesis. Synthese 14 (1):17 - 34.
  25. R. Kirk (1969). Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis. Mind 78 (312):607-608.
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  26. Robert Klee (1992). In Defense of the Quine-Duhem Thesis: A Reply to Greenwood. Philosophy of Science 59 (3):487-491.
    While discussing the work of Kuhn and Hanson, John Greenwood (1990) misidentifies the nature of the relationship between the incommensurability of theories and the theory-ladenness of observation. After pointing out this error, I move on to consider Greenwood's main argument that the Quine-Duhem thesis suffers from a form of epistemological self-defeat if it is interpreted to mean that any recalcitrant observation can always be accommodated to any theory. Greenwood finds this interpretation implausible because some adjustments to auxiliary hypotheses undermine too (...)
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  27. H. Krips (1982). Epistemological Holism: Duhem or Quine? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 13 (3):251-264.
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  28. Charles Landesman (1970). Scepticism About Meaning: Quine's Thesis of Indeterminacy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48 (3):320 – 337.
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  29. J. Largeault (1977). Can Theories Be Refuted? Essays on the Quine-Duhem Thesis. Edited by Sandra Harding. Dordrecht-Holland, Reidel, 1976, XXI, 318 Pages. [REVIEW] Dialogue 16 (04):748-754.
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  30. David Larson (1988). Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis. Southwest Philosophy Review 4 (1):65-70.
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  31. Christian List (1999). Craig's Theorem and the Empirical Underdetermination Thesis Reassessed. Disputatio:1-12.
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  32. Arthur B. Millman (1990). Falsification and Grünbaum's Duhemian Theses. Synthese 82 (1):23 - 52.
    This paper is a detailed critical study of Adolf Grünbaum's work on the Duhemian thesis. I show that (a) Grünbaum's geometrical counterexample to the (D1) subthesis is unsuccessful, even with minimal claims made for what the counterexample is supposed to show, and (b) the (D2) subthesis is not a reasonable one (and cannot correctly be attributed to Duhem). The paper concludes with an argument about the relation between the Duhemian thesis, concerning component hypotheses of a scientific theory, and the view (...)
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  33. Joe Morrison (2012). Evidential Holism and Indispensability Arguments. Erkenntnis 76 (2):263-278.
    The indispensability argument is a method for showing that abstract mathematical objects exist (call this mathematical Platonism). Various versions of this argument have been proposed (§1). Lately, commentators seem to have agreed that a holistic indispensability argument (§2) will not work, and that an explanatory indispensability argument is the best candidate. In this paper I argue that the dominant reasons for rejecting the holistic indispensability argument are mistaken. This is largely due to an overestimation of the consequences that follow from (...)
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  34. Joe Morrison (2010). Just How Controversial is Evidential Holism? Synthese 173 (3):335-352.
    This paper is an examination of evidential holism, a prominent position in epistemology and the philosophy of science which claims that experiments only ever confirm or refute entire theories. The position is historically associated with W.V. Quine, and it is at once both popular and notorious, as well as being largely under-described. But even though there’s no univocal statement of what holism is or what it does, philosophers have nevertheless made substantial assumptions about its content and its truth. Moreover they (...)
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  35. Olaf Mueller (1998). Does the Quine/Duhem Thesis Prevent Us From Defining Analyticity? Erkenntnis 48 (1):85-104.
    Quine claims that holism (i.e., the Quine-Duhem thesis) prevents us from defining synonymy and analyticity (section 2). In Word and Object, he dismisses a notion of synonymy which works well even if holism is true. The notion goes back to a proposal from Grice and Strawson and runs thus: R and S are synonymous iff for all sentences T we have that the logical conjunction of R and T is stimulus-synonymous to that of S and T. Whereas Grice and Strawson (...)
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  36. Olaf Mueller (1998). Does the Quine/Duhem Thesis Prevent Us From Defining Analyticity? On Fallacy in Quine. Erkenntnis 48 (1):81 - 99.
    Quine claims that holism (i.e., the Quine-Duhem thesis) prevents us from defining synonymy and analyticity (section 2). In "Word and Object," he dismisses a notion of synonymy which works well even if holism is true. The notion goes back to a proposal from Grice and Strawson and runs thus: R and S are synonymous iff for all sentences T we have that the logical conjunction of R and T is stimulus-synonymous to that of S and T. Whereas Grice and Strawson (...)
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  37. Olaf L. Müller (2002). From Within and From Without. Two Perspectives on Analytic Sentences. In Wolfram Hinzen & Hans Rott (eds.), Belief and meaning: Essays at the interface. Deutsche Bibliothek der Wissenschaften.
    The analytic/synthetic distinction can be conceived from two points of view: from within or from without; from the perspective of one's own language or from the perspective of the language of others. From without, the central question is which sentences of a foreign language are to be classified as analytic. From within, by contrast, the question concerning the synthetic and the analytic acquires a normative dimension: which sentences am I not permitted to reject—if I want to avoid talking nonsense? Both (...)
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  38. Samir Okasha (2000). The Underdetermination of Theory by Data and the "Strong Programme" in the Sociology of Knowledge. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (3):283 – 297.
    Advocates of the "strong programme" in the sociology of knowledge have argued that, because scientific theories are "underdetermined" by data, sociological factors must be invoked to explain why scientists believe the theories they do. I examine this argument, and the responses to it by J.R. Brown (1989) and L. Laudan (1996). I distinguish between a number of different versions of the underdetermination thesis, some trivial, some substantive. I show that Brown's and Laudan's attempts to refute the sociologists' argument fail. Nonetheless, (...)
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  39. Wolfgang Pietsch (2012). Defending Underdetermination or Why the Historical Perspective Makes a Difference. In. In Henk W. de Regt (ed.), Epsa Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer. 303--313.
  40. Stathos Psillos, Underdetermination Thesis, Duhem-Quine Thesis.
    Underdetermination is a relation between evidence and theory. More accurately, it is a relation between the propositions that express the (relevant) evidence and the propositions that constitute the theory. Evidence is said to underdetermine theory. This may mean two things. First, the evidence cannot prove the truth of the theory. Second, the evidence cannot render the theory probable. Let’s call the first deductive underdetermination, and the second inductive (or ampliative) underdetermination. Both kinds of claim are supposed to have a certain (...)
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  41. W. V. Quine (1991). Two Dogmas in Retrospect. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21 (3):265 - 274.
    In retrospecting "Two Dogmas" I find myself overshooting by twenty years. I think back to college days, 61 years agao. I majored in mathematics and was doing my honors reading in mathematical logic, a subject that had not yet penetrated the Oberlin curriculum. My new love, in the platonic sense, was Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica.
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  42. W. V. Quine (1951/1953). Main Trends in Recent Philosophy: Two Dogmas of Empiricism. Philosophical Review 60 (1):20--43.
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  43. Darrell P. Rowbottom (2010). Corroboration and Auxiliary Hypotheses: Duhem's Thesis Revisited. Synthese 177 (1):139-149.
    This paper argues that Duhem’s thesis does not decisively refute a corroboration-based account of scientific methodology (or ‘falsificationism’), but instead that auxiliary hypotheses are themselves subject to measurements of corroboration which can be used to inform practice. It argues that a corroboration-based account is equal to the popular Bayesian alternative, which has received much more recent attention, in this respect.
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  44. Husain Sarkar (2000). Empirical Equivalence and Underdetermination. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (2):187 – 197.
    Jarrett Leplin in A Novel Defense of Scientific Realism (1997) argues that if the thesis of empirical equivalence is cogent, then the thesis of underdetermination cannot even get off the ground. Part of Leplin's argument rests on the claim that auxiliary hypotheses can be independently confirmed, thus enabling us to determine the epistemic worth of a theory. This, in turn, helps in determining about what we should be realists. Leplin's claims are demonstrated to be problematic. Leplin wants, inconsistently, to use (...)
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  45. K. R. Sawyer, Clive Beed & H. Sankey (1997). Underdetermination in Economics. The Duhem-Quine Thesis. Economics and Philosophy 13 (1):1-23.
  46. Rogério Passos Severo (2008). “Plausible Insofar as It is Intelligible”: Quine on Underdetermination. Synthese 161 (1):141 - 165.
    Quine’s thesis of underdetermination is significantly weaker than it has been taken to be in the recent literature, for the following reasons: (i) it does not hold for all theories, but only for some global theories, (ii) it does not require the existence of empirically equivalent yet logically incompatible theories, (iii) it does not rule out the possibility that all perceived rivalry between empirically equivalent theories might be merely apparent and eliminable through translation, (iv) it is not a fundamental thesis (...)
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  47. Itay Shani (2005). Intension and Representation: Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis Revisited. Philosophical Psychology 18 (4):415 – 440.
    This paper re-addresses Quine's indeterminacy of translation/inscrutability of reference thesis, as a problem for cognitive theories of content. 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. Yet, despite this fundamental difference, I argue that they are just as vulnerable to the indeterminacy. I then argue that the vulnerability is rooted in a theoretical commitment tacitly shared with Quine, namely, the commitment to (...)
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  48. Michael Strevens (2005). The Bayesian Treatment of Auxiliary Hypotheses: Reply to Fitelson and Waterman. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (4):913-918.
    Bayesian treatment of auxiliary hypotheses rests on a misinterpretation of Strevens's central claim about the negligibility of certain small probabilities. The present paper clarifies and proves a very general version of the claim. The project Clarifications The negligibility argument Generalization and proof.
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  49. Michael Strevens (2001). The Bayesian Treatment of Auxiliary Hypotheses. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3):515-537.
    This paper examines the standard Bayesian solution to the Quine–Duhem problem, the problem of distributing blame between a theory and its auxiliary hypotheses in the aftermath of a failed prediction. The standard solution, I argue, begs the question against those who claim that the problem has no solution. I then provide an alternative Bayesian solution that is not question-begging and that turns out to have some interesting and desirable properties not possessed by the standard solution. This solution opens the way (...)
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  50. Morten Søberg (2005). The Duhem‐Quine Thesis and Experimental Economics: A Reinterpretation. Journal of Economic Methodology 12 (4):581-597.
    The Duhem?Quine thesis asserts that any empirical evaluation of a theory is in fact a composite test of several interconnected hypotheses. Recalcitrant evidence signals falsity within the conjunction of hypotheses, but logic alone cannot pinpoint the individual element(s) inside the theoretical cluster responsible for a false prediction. This paper considers the relevance of the Duhem?Quine thesis for experimental economics. A starting point is to detail how laboratory evaluations of economic hypotheses constitute composite tests. Another aim is to scrutinize the strategy (...)
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