Sample Essay

Words 1,696

The Quine-Duhem thesis is confirmed by the history of science. All great theories were originally part of total systems of belief that were falsified. All theories are ‘born falsified’. Copernicus’ theory by the failure of the planets to change in apparent size as expected, Newton’s by deviations in the moon’s orbit from the predicted path, Einstein’s special relativity theory by the experiments of Kaufmann on electrons. All these falsifications were later blamed on other parts of the scientific consensus of the time on supposition about naked eye observations through the atmosphere, or about the effects of other bodies on the moon, or about the value of the mass of the electron, respectively. But at the time, no one could show it was these assumptions, rather than the new theory promulgate, which was false. The Duhem-Quine thesis casts doubt on the logic of fabrication and thus on the decisive character of the crucial experiment.  Duhem pointed out that the outcome of an experiment is not predicted based on one hypothesis alone because auxiliary hypotheses are involved as well.  These are not typically regarded as problematic, and they are not generally perceived to be under threat when the hypothesis of interest is tested.  On the other hand, if the outcome of the test is not that predicted, it is logically possible that the hypothesis under test is sound and the error lies in one or more of the auxiliaries.

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