Ideas of Pierre Duhem, by Theme

[French, 1861 - 1916, A practising physicist.]

green numbers give full details    |    back to list of philosophers    |     unexpand these ideas    |    
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 6. Falsification
Observation can force rejection of some part of the initial set of claims
     Full Idea: Logic and observation alone do not force a scientist to reject a scientific claim if experimental observations so not turn out as expected. The scientist must reject something of the initial set of claims, but that is a matter of choice.
     From: report of Pierre Duhem (The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory [1906]) by Stephen Boulter - Why Medieval Philosophy Matters 2
     A reaction: This is a key point against any simplified Popperian notion of falsification. Tiny observations can't kill huge well supported theories.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 6. Theory Holism
Experiments only test groups of hypotheses, and can't show which one is wrong
     Full Idea: The physicist can never subject an isolated hypothesis to experimental test, but only a whole group of hypotheses; when the experiment is in disagreement with his predictions does not designate which one should be changed.
     From: Pierre Duhem (The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory [1906], p.187), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics II.2
     A reaction: This is the idea frequently invoked by Quine, in support of his holistic view of scientific knowledge (along with Neurath's Boat).