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Otto Neurath’s thoroughgoing anti-foundationalism is connected to the recognition that protocol sentences are not inviolable, that is they are fallible and their choice cannot be determined: ‘Poincaré, Duhem and others have adequately shown that even if we have agreed on the protocol statements, there is a not limited number of equally applicable, possible systems of hypotheses. We have extended this tenet of the uncertainty of systems of hypotheses to all statements, including protocol statements that are alterable in principle’. Later historiography has called Neurath’s extension of Duhemian holism the Neurath principle. Based on a study of Neurath’s early works on the history of optics, the paper investigates a previously unnoticed influence on the development of this principle, Neurath’s reading of Goethe’s Theory of colours. The historical and polemical parts of Goethe’s tripartite book provided Neurath with ideal examples for the vertical extension of Duhem’s thesis to observation statements. Moreover, Goethe’s critique of the language of science and his views on the theory-ladenness of observation, as well as on the history of science show strong parallels to many of Neurath’s ideas. These demonstrate the existence of surprisingly direct textual links between Romantic views on science and the development of twentieth-century philosophy of science. Neurath’s usage of Goethe’s examples also indicates that the birth of the Neurath principle is more tightly connected to actual scientific practice than to theory-testing, and that by admitting the theory-ladenness of observation reports and fallibility of protocol statements Neurath does not throw empiricism overboard.Keywords: Otto Neurath; J. W. von Goethe; Holism; Theory-ladenness; Duhem-Quine thesis; Romantic science.
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2006.09.008
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References found in this work BETA

Empiricism and Sociology.O. Neurath, Marie Neurath & Robert S. Cohen - 1974 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 25 (4):343-352.
Duhem's Physicalism.Paul Needham - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (1):33-62.
The Complete Duhemian Underdetermination Argument: Scientific Language and Practice.Karen Merikangas Darling - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):511-533.

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Citations of this work BETA

Otto Neurath.Jordi Cat - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Theory-Containment in Controversies: Neurath and Müller on Newton, Goethe, and Underdetermination.Gábor Zemplén - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (4):533-549.
Introduction.Tamás Demeter - 2012 - Studies in East European Thought 64 (1-2):1-4.

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