I've listened to two sets of lectures on the philosophy of science that treat Quine's results on underdetermination, the dissolution of the analytic/synthetic distinction, and confirmation holism as landmark developments in the philosophy of science. They also devoted considerable time to Feyerabend and "Against Method".

The SEP article on the demarcation problem doesn't mention either of them or any of their results.

Is this a major omission by the SEP that should be fixed? Or am I overestimating the importance of Quine and Feyerabend?

Do standard academic philosophy of science courses and text books cover Quine and Feyerabend?

  • are "how important" legitimate formats for questions?
    – user25714
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 21:13
  • @user3293056 in this case, I think objective answers are possible from the perspective of someone who has more exposure to academic philosophy than I do. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 21:16
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    Here is the index for the Oxford Handbook of Philosohpy of Science and you can see how many times Quine and Feyerabend are mentioned oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/… Quine is mentioned only a little bit less than Popper so that should say something.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:30
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    Importance to the philosophy of science is one thing. Importance to the demarcation problem is another thing. Bundling these together causes a confusion. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:45
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    @Not_Here I see your point. The impression I got from the lectures was that Quine's result was at least as "monumental" as Kuhn's, in terms of it being a challenge to Popper. At the very least, they would mention him at the end of the Falsification section of the article. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


As written, your question seems to assume that someone is an important philosopher of science only if they're mentioned in one particular Stanford Encyclopedia article. Both Feyerabend and Quine have entire articles of their own.

There's been relatively little work on the demarcation problem in professional philosophy of science over the past 30 years or so. The SEPh article's gloss on Laudan (1983) pretty much sums up where most professional philosophers are these days: "there is no hope of finding a necessary and sufficient criterion of something as heterogeneous as scientific methodology."

I can't think of any recent work on Quine and demarcation off the top of my head. But there's been an active debate between Ian James Kidd and Massimo Pigliucci over the past year (see here here here and here). Briefly, Kidd has very actively been promoting renewed attention to Feyerabend's work, arguing that Feyerabend's positions are much more reasonable than his contemporary critics made them seem, and indeed that Feyerabend's positions are often very similar to some mainstream feminist and pragmatist positions today. This includes defending Feyerabend from the charge that he advocated pseudoscience in an infamous defense of astrology. (For a list of Kidd's papers and books on Feyerabend, see here.) On the other hand, Pigliucci has been trying to revive work on the demarcation problem; I think he's motivated by the trope that there's a crisis in public confidence in science, and thinks that solving the demarcation problem can restore this confidence. Astrology is one of the standard examples of pseudoscience, so of course he didn't want to let a defense of astrology go completely unanswered. On Pigliucci's view, pseudoscience is a family resemblance concept, roughly characterized by a combination of low empirical support and theoretical articulation (see here).

This debate attracted a little attention, but it's too recent to tell whether it's going to amount to an important new chapter in work on the demarcation problem. Since the SEPh article on demarcation is only three years old, it's not surprising that it doesn't include a debate that happened last year.

  • "I think he's motivated by the trope that there's a crisis in public confidence in science, and thinks that solving the demarcation problem can restore this confidence. " I have wondered this myself see this post and this post -- if you have any input on those, I'd be interested. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 18:55
  • I don't know enough about the communities of theology and religious apologetics to know whether anyone has appealed to underdetermination. (So nothing to offer on the first question, I'm afraid.) There's a substantial philosophy of climate science literature, including on climate skepticism; I've given some especially relevant citations in an answer to that question.
    – Dan Hicks
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:55

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