more from Pierre Duhem

Single Idea 18197

[catalogued under 14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 6. Theory Holism]

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.

Gist of Idea

Experiments only test groups of hypotheses, and can't show which one is wrong


Pierre Duhem (The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory [1906], p.187), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics II.2

Book Reference

Maddy,Penelope: 'Naturalism in Mathematics' [OUP 2000], p.101

A Reaction

This is the idea frequently invoked by Quine, in support of his holistic view of scientific knowledge (along with Neurath's Boat).