Confirmational holism is the claim that scientific theories are confirmed or disconfirmed as a whole. Thus the framework of a theory (formal conceptual scheme) is just as open to revision as the "content" of the theory. The aphorism that Quine uses is: theories face the tribunal of experience as a whole. This idea is problematic for the analytic-synthetic distinction because such a distinction supposes that some facts are true of language alone, but if conceptual scheme is as open to revision as synthetic content, then there can be no plausible distinction between framework and content, hence no distinction between the analytic and the synthetic. Also called the Quine-Duhem thesis
One upshot of confirmational holism is the underdetermination of theories: if all theories (and the propositions derived from them) of what exists are not sufficiently determined by empirical data (data, sensory-data, evidence); each theory with its interpretation of the evidence is equally justifiable. Thus, the Greek's worldview of Homeric gods is as credible as the physicists' world of electromagnetic waves. Quine later argued for Ontological Relativity, that our ordinary talk of objects suffers from the same underdetermination and thus does not properly refer to objects.
While underdetermination does not invalidate the principle of falsifiability first presented by Karl Popper, Popper himself acknowledged that continual ad hoc modification of a theory provides a means for a theory to avoid being falsified. In this respect, the principle of parsimony, or Occam's Razor, plays a role. This principle presupposes that between multiple theories explaining the same phenomenon, the simplest theory--in this case, the one that is least susceptible to continual ad hoc modification--is to be preferred.
The central theses underlying the indeterminacy of translation and other extensions of Quine's work are ontologicalrelativity and the related doctrine of confirmation holism.
The premise of confirmation holism is that all theories (and the propositions derived from them) are under-determined by empirical data (data, sensory-data, evidence); although some theories are not justifiable, failing to fit with the data or being unworkably complex, there are many alternatives which are equally justifiable.
Quine'sontological relativism (evident in the passage above) led him to agree with Pierre Duhem that for any collection of empirical evidence, there would always be many theories able to account for it.
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