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Peter Achinstein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190615055

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190615055.001.0001

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Holism vs. Particularism

Holism vs. Particularism

An Evidential Debate (“Find the Ether”)

Chapter:
(p.168) 4 Holism vs. Particularism
Source:
Speculation
Author(s):

Peter Achinstein

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190615055.003.0004

Evidential holism is the view that individual hypotheses do not receive evidential support, only entire theoretical systems do. Evidential particularism is the view that within a theoretical system each hypothesis can and must receive evidential support for the system to be established. Both views are examined, the former as expressed by Whewell, the latter as expressed by Mill. Although each view is different, both adopt an “either/or” attitude toward theory evaluation: either you prove the whole theory, or it remains a speculation. In this chapter, the holist viewpoint is seriously challenged and a form of particularism is defended. However, the “either/or” attitude of both views is rejected in favor of a more nuanced, contextually based method of theory evaluation.

Keywords:   evidential holism, evidential particularism, Mill, theory evaluation, Whewell

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