Duhem, Quine and the other dogma

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Afriat, Alexander
preprint description
By linking meaning and analyticity (through synonymy), Quine rejects both “dogmas of empiricism” together, as “two sides of a single dubious coin.” His rejection of the second (“reductionism”) has been associated with Duhem’s argument against crucial experiments — which relies on fundamental differences, brought up again and again, between mathematics and physics. The other dogma rejected by Quine is the “cleavage between analytic and synthetic truths”; but aren’t the truths of mathematics analytic, those of physics synthetic? Exploiting Quine’s association of essences, meaning, synonymy and analyticity, and appealing to a ‘model-theoretical’ notion of abstract test derived from Duhem and Quine — which can be used to overcome their holism by separating essences from accidents — I reconsider the ‘crucial experiment,’ the aforementioned “cleavage,” and the differences Duhem attributed to mathematics and physics; and propose a characterisation of the meaning and reference of sentences, which extends, in a natural way, the distinction as it applies to words.