Duhem, Quine, and the Problems of Underdetermination The scope of the epistemic challenge arising from underdetermination is not limited only to scientific contexts, as is perhaps most readily seen in classical skeptical attacks on our knowledge more generally. John Stuart Mill articulated a distinctively scientific version of the concern with impressive clarity in A System of Logic, where he writes: Most thinkers of any degree of sobriety allow, that an hypothesis
Oxford University Press, If the logical content derived from a true theory and a false theory are both equally confirmed by observation, they are empirically equivalent; that is, even if a theory is false, its logical consequences are equally confirmed by the data as a true theory.
Some philosophers think that at any time there are good reasons for scientists to believe the logical content of a theory is in no part false.
However, if at least two scientific theories are empirically equivalent, then scientific realism is untenable, for there are no good reasons for believing a true theory is true while a false theory is false.
This is even after assuming that all observations are not mistaken. However, the blackness or non-blackness of unobserved ravens is unknown. Since the argument is not deductive, this would cast doubt on whether or not the currently accepted theory is true and not false; the conclusion that all unobserved ravens resemble observed ravens in blackness goes beyond what is present in the premises.
The next raven could be orange, green, blue, or any number of colors. The same goes for all ravens observed after a specific time t. An inductive argument leads to conclusions that are not entailed by its premises. Oxford University Press,6.
An infinite number of false theories that are empirically equivalent to one true theory could each predict different results sometime in the unobserved past, and since these theories all transcend experience, the scientist cannot know if his theory is part of the infinite number of false theories or the one true theory.
Even if all the possible data in the past in all possible locations were available to a scientist and confirmed a scientific theory at any time t, there is a greater problem induction needs to overcome: If we are challenged as to why The interesting doubt is as to whether the laws of motion will remain in operation until tomorrow.
If this doubt is raised, we find ourselves in the same position as when the doubt about the sunrise was first raised. The only reason for believing that the laws of motion will remain in operation is that they have operated hitherto, so far as our knowledge of the past enables us to judge.
Scientists assume that the laws of nature are invariant with respect to time and space. However, if scientists were to justify such an assumption, the problem of induction again emerges: Such a justification cannot be conclusively verified in a finite universe, since the claim itself to have inspected the entire universe cannot be conclusively verified.
If the nontautological consequences that can be logically derived from a true theory and a false theory are both equally confirmed by current observation, and each transcend experience, then there are no good reasons for believing one theory that is corroborated by all the available data is true while the other, equally corroborated, is false.
One theory may be more convenient to employ, easier to understand, or more parsimonious, but none of these heuristics necessarily makes the theory true. There are not just two, but an infinite number of theories that are equally confirmed by observation, but when they transcend experience, they predict false unobserved phenomena.
While there is an ontological distinction between the true and false theories, at no time can a theory be differentiated epistemically between the set of false theories that are empirically corroborated and the single true theory. There are at least three examples of unobserved phenomena: A theory that transcends experience can always be false about unobserved phenomena, for to assume that the past will be like the future in any respect is to beg the question; scientists claim they know the past will be like the future while they cannot know that the past will be like the future.
Therefore, for any theory that transcends experience, scientists cannot know whether or not it is false about unobserved phenomena. In conclusion, even when a theory that transcends experience makes many true predictions, this hardly can be taken as showing that it is true.
|Academic Tools||In other words, even if there were such a thing as the correct theory of nature we lack physical capabilities to find out what it is for sure, distinct theories may well be empirically equivalent.|
This underdetermination of scientific theories demonstrates that there are no good reasons for believing a theory is true over any alternative theory if both are empirically equivalent.
The unobserved data at time t could very well corroborate a host of different theories other than theory T.contrived, it may be very hard to procure the requisite evidence. The underdetermination thesis is much stronger.
It asserts that in all cases, no matter how long and ingeniously evidence collection may proceed, the underdetermination will persist.
(Merely) Sporadic underdetermination. The thesis does not merely assert that there can arise cases, either contrived or natural, in which some part of a theory .
Underdetermination and evidence. To show that a conclusion is underdetermined, one must show that there is a rival conclusion that is equally well supported by the standards of evidence.
must fail to determine uniquely a single theory.
The thesis has a vener- able history, with roots extending as far back as Hume's skepticism over the possibility of justified inductive inference. The related Duhem-Quine thesis asserts that theories can only con- front evidence as whole.
But contrastive underdetermination (Section 3 below) involves the quite different possibility that for any body of evidence confirming a theory, there might well be other theories that are also well confirmed by that very same body of evidence.
philosophy of science:: Underdetermination — Britannica Online Encyclopedia nbsp; philosophy of science, Underdetermination, Britannica Online Encyclopedia, The complexities of the notion of falsification, originally diagnosed by Duhem, had considerable impact on contemporary philosophy of sof science through the work of the American philosopher WQuine proposed a general thesis of the .
The underdetermination thesis has long been a truism in science studies, accepted and asserted with the same freedom that philosophers now routinely remark on the impotence of logic to provide us with a finite axiomatization of arithmetic.