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The heart of falsification

We must clearly distinguish between falsifiability and falsification. We have introduced falsifiability solely as a criterion for the empirical character of a system of statements. As to falsification, special rules must be introduced which will de­ter­mine under what conditions a system is to be regarded as falsified.

We say that a theory is falsified only if we have accepted basic statements which contradict it. This condition is neces­sary, but not sufficient; for we have seen that non-reproducible single occurrences are of no significance to science. Thus a few stray basic statements contradicting a theory will hardly induce us to reject it as falsified. We shall take it as falsified only if we discover a reproducible effect which refutes the theory. In other words, we only accept the falsification if a low-level empirical hypothesis which describes such an effect is proposed and corroborated. This kind of hypothe­sis may be called a falsifying hypothesis. The requirement that the falsifying hypothesis must be empirical, and so falsi­fiable, only means that it must stand in a certain logical relationship to possible basic statements; thus this requirement only concerns the logical form of the hypothesis. The rider that the hypothesis should be corroborated refers to tests which it ought to have passed—tests which confront it with accepted basic statements.

Thus the basic statements play two different rôles. On the one hand, we have used the system of all logically possible basic statements in order to obtain with its help the logical characterization for which we were looking—that of the form of empirical statements. On the other hand, the accepted basic statements are the basis for the corroboration of hypo­theses. If accepted basic statements contradict a theory, then we take them as providing sufficient grounds for its falsifi­cation only if they corroborate a falsifying hypothesis at the same time. [66-7]

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