It is attributed to Willard Van Orman Quine who motivated his holism scientific thesis extending Pierre Duhem’s problem of underdetermination in physical theory to all knowledge claims.
Scientific thesis 1845 astronomers found that the orbit of planet Uranus around the Sun departed from expectations. In 1915, Einstein’s general theory of relativity newly explained gravitation while precisely predicting Mercury’s orbit. Some scholars, like Quine, argue that if a prediction that a theory makes comes out true, then the corresponding piece of evidence confirms the whole theory and even the whole framework within which that theory is embedded.
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Some have questioned this radical or total form of confirmational holism. If total holism were true, they argue, that would lead to absurd consequences like the confirmation of arbitrary conjunctions. The critics of total holism do not deny that evidence may spread its support far and wide. Rather, they deny that it always spreads its support to the whole of any theory or theoretical framework that entails or probabilistically predicts the evidence. This view is known as partial holism.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1954. Philosophy of Science, Section 3, The Duhem-Quine Thesis and Underdetermination, W. The falsifiability of theories: total or partial?
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