© 1976

Can Theories be Refuted?

Essays on the Duhem-Quine Thesis

  • Sandra G. Harding

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 81)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XXI
  2. Pierre Duhem
    Pages 1-40
  3. Willard van Orman Quine
    Pages 41-64
  4. Sandra G. Harding
    Pages 86-88
  5. Karl R. Popper
    Pages 113-115
  6. Adolf Grünbaum
    Pages 116-131
  7. Willard van Orman Quine
    Pages 132-132
  8. Laurens Laudan
    Pages 155-161
  9. Carlo Giannoni
    Pages 162-175
  10. Gary Wedeking
    Pages 176-183
  11. Mary Hesse
    Pages 184-204
  12. Paul K. Feyerabend
    Pages 289-315
  13. Back Matter
    Pages 316-323

About this book


According to a view assumed by many scientists and philosophers of science and standardly found in science textbooks, it is controlled ex­ perience which provides the basis for distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable theories in science: acceptable theories are those which can pass empirical tests. It has often been thought that a certain sort of test is particularly significant: 'crucial experiments' provide supporting empiri­ cal evidence for one theory while providing conclusive evidence against another. However, in 1906 Pierre Duhem argued that the falsification of a theory is necessarily ambiguous and therefore that there are no crucial experiments; one can never be sure that it is a given theory rather than auxiliary or background hypotheses which experiment has falsified. w. V. Quine has concurred in this judgment, arguing that "our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not indi­ vidually but only as a corporate body". Some philosophers have thought that the Duhem-Quine thesis gra­ tuitously raises perplexities. Others see it as doubly significant; these philosophers think that it provides a base for criticism of the foundational view of knowledge which has dominated much of western thought since Descartes, and they think that it opens the door to a new and fruitful way to conceive of scientific progress in particular and of the nature and growth of knowledge in general.


falsification physical theory science scientific discovery

Editors and affiliations

  • Sandra G. Harding
    • 1
  1. 1.Sate University of New YorkAlbanyUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Can Theories be Refuted?
  • Book Subtitle Essays on the Duhem-Quine Thesis
  • Editors Sandra Harding
  • Series Title Synthese Library
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1976
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-90-277-0629-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-90-277-0630-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-010-1863-0
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXI, 323
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site