GRE Reading Comprehension

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Source: XDF

Historically, a cornerstone of classical empiricism has been the notion that every true generalization must be confirmable by specific observations. In classical empiricism, the truth of "All balls are red," for example, is assessed by inspecting balls; any observation of a non red ball refutes unequivocally the proposed generalization.

For W.V.O. Quine, however, this constitutes an overly "narrow" conception of empiricism. "All balls are red," he maintains, forms one strand within an entire web of statements (our knowledge); individual observations can be referred only to this web as a whole. As new observations are collected, he explains, they must be integrated into the web. Problems occur only if a contradiction develops between a new observation, say, "That ball is blue," and the preexisting statements. In that case, he argues, any statement or combination of statements (not merely the "offending" generalization, as in classical empiricism) can be altered to achieve the fundamental requirement, a system free of contradictions, even if, in some cases, the alteration consists of labeling the new observation a "hallucination."

Question List: 1 2

According to Quine's conception of empiricism, if a new observation were to contradict some statement already within our system of knowledge, which of the following would be true?

  • A The new observation would be rejected as untrue.
  • B Both the observation and the statement in our system that it contradicted would be discarded.
  • C New observations would be added to our web of statements in order to expand our system of knowledge.
  • D The observation or some part of our web of statements would need to be adjusted to resolve the contradiction.
  • E An entirely new field of knowledge would be created.

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