Quine duhem thesis underdetermination

From: Tucker M.
Added: 24.04.2021
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Optical Illusion as a metaphor : it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation, because an empirical test of the hypothesis requires one or more background assumptions. Since the perception of the human visual system is affected by context, square A appears to be darker than square B, but they are exactly the same shade of gray. The Duhem—Quine thesis also called the Duhem—Quine problem , after Pierre Duhem and Willard Van Orman Quine is that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation, because an empirical test of the hypothesis requires one or more background assumptions also called auxiliary assumptions or auxiliary hypotheses. The hypothesis in question is by itself incapable of making predictions.
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Duhem–Quine thesis - Wikipedia

The thinking here began with Pierre Duhem who said, regarding an experiment which provided evidence contrary to a prior belief, "The only thing the experiment teaches us is that among the propositions used to predict the phenomenon and to establish whether it would be produced, there is at least one error; but where this error lies is just what it does not tell us. Quine would take this movement a step further in what he called underdetermination. By this he meant that our lack of certainty about our prior knowledge would allow us to accept multiple theories explaning our current condition. This is an interpretation of Quine's Nonuniqueness thesis: For any theory, T, and any given body of evidence supporting T, there is at least one rival i. This is a result of our inability to completely understand or gain access to the whole set of empirical evidence for any one particular situation or system, and therefore our acceptance that new evidence could be made available at any time.
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Duhem–Quine thesis

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