David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Philosophy of Science 26 (2):104-113 (1959)
This article is devoted to the question: does the Duhemian argument support the position taken by those contemporary philosophers who--like W. V. O. Quine and M. White--reject the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements? The term "Duhemian argument" is used to refer to the following statement: it is impossible to put to the test one isolated empirical statement; testing empirical statements involves testing a whole group of hypotheses. An analysis of the logical structure of reductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that the Duhemian argument is valid and that it entails the following statements: (1)--experience alone cannot compel us absolutely to the acceptance of any isolated empirical statement whatsoever, independently of our acceptance or rejection of some other statements, and (2)--no isolated empirical statement can be conclusively falsified by experience, independently of our acceptance or rejection of some other statements. The Duhemian argument seems then to establish conclusively the cogency of the claim that, in principle, it is possible to reject or to maintain any particular empirical statement, provided we make appropriate changes in the system of hypotheses which is put to test. The philosophers who reject the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements--in particular Quine--claim that the same line of reasoning supports their contention. It is alleged that: (1)--the Duhemian argument makes impossible a definition of statement synonymy and, consequently, a definition of analyticity in terms of synonymy, and (2)--that the unit of empirical significance is the whole of science or the total science, and (3)--that it is a folly to seek a boundary between synthetic and analytic statements, because all our statements are equally open to revision. The article tries to show that these conclusions do not follow from the Duhemian argument. In particular it is shown: (1)--that the Duhemian argument does not exclude the definition of statement synonymy, (2)--that this argument does not support the contention that the enigmatic entity called "the whole of science" or the "total science" is involved in each and every testing procedure, (3)--that the principle of fundamental revisability of every statement does not change the fact that in scientific practice the situation is never so hopeless as the Duhemian argument seems to imply, because even inconclusive arguments may differ in their adequacy, and (4)--that the term "revision" is ambiguous and only this ambiguity lends an air of plausibility to Quine's formulations. The conclusion is that the Duhemian line of reasoning does not support the contention of philosophers who reject the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Frank Hindriks (2013). Collective Acceptance and the Is-Ought Argument. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (3):465-480.
Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2003). Should We Trust Our Intuitions? Deflationary Accounts of the Analytic Data. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):299-323.
Richard Swinburne (1984). Analytic/Synthetic. American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1):31 - 42.
A. David Kline (1988). On the Intertheoretic Competition Hypothesis. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:33 - 40.
Siri Naess & Arne Naess (1960). Psychological Research and Humean Problems. Philosophy of Science 27 (2):134-146.
Adolf Grünbaum (1960). The Duhemian Argument. Philosophy of Science 27 (1):75-87.
Robert Barrett (1965). Quine, Synonymy and Logical Truth. Philosophy of Science 32 (3/4):361-367.
Arthur B. Millman (1990). Falsification and Grünbaum's Duhemian Theses. Synthese 82 (1):23 - 52.
Andrew Chrucky (1998). Teaching Validity with a Stanley Thermos. Philosophy Now 22:22-23.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads12 ( #124,436 of 1,096,878 )
Recent downloads (6 months)4 ( #74,153 of 1,096,878 )
How can I increase my downloads?