Duhem, Quine and the Other Dogma
University of Urbino
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
A resemblance between positions held by Duhem and Quine has led
to the conjunction of their names: one speaks of Duhem-Quine.
Quines doctrine is expressed in Two Dogmas of Empiricism;
it was by refuting the second that he wound up in the company of
Duhem. But there is also the first, the analytic-synthetic distinction.
Quine questions it too, but one can wonder whether Duhem does: over
and over he emphasizes the troublesome synthetic character of physics
by contrasting it with the rigid necessity of mathematicsin
which analytic truths are generally held to figure paradigmatically.
Indeed his discussion of crucial experiments seems to rest on the
very distinction Quine questions; on an adherence to the first of
the two dogmas. But what about the second? An individual experiment
cannot be crucial; Duhem also uses the term experiment,
however, for a class of equivalent but very different experiments,
which all measure the same thing. I propose a structuralist set-theoretical
characterization of an abstract experiment or experimental
structure, whose (physical) models are the individual equivalent
experiments; and consider the status of the structure, which may
have an almost analytic cruciality, while referring
to the world through its physical models.