Monday, March 24, 2008

True, False, and Inquiry

A botanist seeking a rare tree met two country people from whom he requested information. "There is one of those trees in this wood here," says the first. The other says to him, "Take the third path that you come to. Follow it for one hundred paces. You will be at the very foot of the tree you are seeking." The botanist takes the third path, he goes a hundred steps, but he does not reach the object of his quest. To touch the foot of the tree requires an additional five paces.

Of the two pieces of information that he received, the first was true and the second was false. Even so, which of the two country people has more right to his gratitude?


Pierre Duhem, "On the Subject of Experimental Physics," Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science, Ariew and Barker, eds. & trs. Hackett (Indianapolis: 1996), p. 110

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