The_Quine_Duhem_thesis

The_Quine_Duhem_thesis - The Quine-Duhem thesis In a number...

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The Quine-Duhem thesis In a number of popular accounts of the progress of science, we are told that there was some dispute between advocates of two rival theories. Then someone constructs a ‘crucial experiment’ that decides between the two. While something like this can occur (and has occurred in some famous cases), frequently matters are more complicated.
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‘Falsification’ of theories Sometimes theories make predictions that can be checked. If the predictions are observed to be true, then the theory is confirmed or verified. If the predictions are false, then the theory is falsified or disconfirmed.
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Conclusive falsification is rare When a theory makes a false prediction, in general various ‘auxiliary hypotheses’ are used to derive the prediction. In such cases (the typical case), it is in principle possible to take the false prediction to cast doubt on some auxiliary hypothesis rather than on the theory.
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Example: Precession of the perihelion of Mercury The orbit of Mercury is not perfectly elliptical. The ellipse ‘turns’ around the sun at a measurable rate. The simplest calculation of an orbit suggests that the orbit should not precess in this manner. This phenomenon was known for many years before Newton’s theory was taken to be incorrect. Was this sheer dogmatism? Arguably, it was perfectly reasonable. For one thing, calculating trajectories of
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bodies when there are many other bodies around is very difficult and solutions can only be approximated. No one knew for certain that the effect was not due to other planets. Furthermore, if the Sun is not uniformly dense, or rotates, or Mercury has a magnetic field, or any of a host of other possibilities obtain, this could (for all physicists knew) account for the precession. It was not until Einstein’s alternative theory
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The_Quine_Duhem_thesis - The Quine-Duhem thesis In a number...

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