Ad Hoc Explanation

One thing is explicitly forbidden in the reshaping process, and that is ad hoc explanation, i.e. introducing exceptions to the general law, thus disproving the contradicting facts by reference to time, location, or other trivial circumstances pertinent to the particular observation.

The important issue in connection with ad hoc explanations is not that they are simple minded, but that the practice of their use makes the theories impossible to refute. As science, according to the logical empiricist outlook, is linked to reality exclusively through the attempts to refute its empirical generalizations, adhocery will make it logically true and irrefutable, hence cutting its relations to reality.

Exactly what establishes an ad hoc explanation was never defined in quite a satisfactory manner. The general idea was that the circumstances for any exception from a general rule must be possible to establish by independent evidence. A good example of ad hoc explanations from economics would be to explain an actual history of transaction prices and quantities in a market in terms of "autonomous shifts" in families of supply and demand curves so as to fit the actual data points in the intersections of these curves.

But, as we will shortly see, there is a more subtle way of amending a theory so as to make it immune to refutation.

0 0

Post a comment