The to save the central hypothesis, the observation

The
critique posed by the Duhem-Quine thesis is that it is impossible to test and
falsify single hypotheses, since the presence of implicit auxiliary hypotheses
may have had an effect on the result. In essence, whilst testing a single
hypothesis, there may be present certain other factors, auxiliary hypotheses,
which affect the observation. This critique rests on the basis that observations
are free of background assumptions. Duhem seems to suggest that auxiliary
hypotheses exist separately from observations, and therefore can be adjusted in
order to maintain the central hypothesis. This gap which has been created
between the observations and the auxiliary hypotheses is exploited by Popper’s
critics, as it allows them to question experimental observations on the basis
of auxiliary hypotheses. Through
this separation, the Duhem Thesis makes it possible to illustrate that the
observation may have arisen from the auxiliary hypotheses rather than the
hypothesis under examination. However, as the previous paragraph illustrates,
Popper was in fact aware of
the presence of auxiliary hypotheses in this work of the theory-dependent
nature of observation. For Popper believed that observations were inseparable,
since observations are “interpretations
in light of theories”.1
Therefore, for Popper, observations have value in virtue of the presence of auxiliary
hypotheses. Since the observations themselves have meaning due to the range of
background assumptions and theories (auxiliary hypotheses), the auxiliary
hypotheses have been adjusted in order to retain the central hypothesis, the
observation also changes. For example, consider the modus tollens above. Under the Duhem Thesis, Not-O does not entail Not-H because there still remains the
possibility that A1, or A2, or A3, etc. are false, which rules out the possibility of
the falsification of H. The scientist However, once the auxiliary hypotheses
are considered as part of observation itself, Not-O has occurred to due to A1, or A2, or A3.
Thus, upon changing the auxiliary hypotheses to save the central hypothesis,
the observation also undergoes a change.

1 Ibid., 107 (footnote* 3)

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