The Impact of Duhemian Principles on Social Science Testing and Progress

Fred Chernoff

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392753
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Impact of Duhemian Principles on Social Science Testing and Progress

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This article draws on several elements of Pierre Duhem's account of science to show issues of the cumulation of knowledge and scientific progress in the social sciences. It concentrates on Duhem's principle of underdetermination of theory by evidence, his holist account of the growth of scientific knowledge, and his conventionalist view of theories. Willard Van Ormand Quine's version is holism on a still larger scale than Duhem's. Duhem's appeal to le bon sens does not present any damaging subjectivity into an account of science beyond what most philosophers of science recognize. It is clear that no measure-stipulation has been accepted by contemporary authors on all sides of the balance-of-power debate. It is shown that the concept of the measure-stipulation can explain the progress or absence of progress of debates in social science just as well as those in the natural sciences.

Keywords: social sciences; Pierre Duhem; underdetermination; holism; Van Ormand Quine; measure-stipulation; power debate

Article.  14572 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Epistemology

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