Duhem: Images of Science, Historical Continuity, and the First Crisis in Physics

Michael Liston


Duhem used historical arguments to draw philosophical conclusions about the aim and structure of physical theory.  He argued against explanatory theories and in favor of theories that provide natural classifications of the phenomena.  This paper presents those arguments and, with the benefit of hindsight, uses them as a test case for the prevalent contemporary use of historical arguments to draw philosophical conclusion about science.  It argues that Duhem provides us with an illuminating example of philosophy of science developing as a contingent, though natural, response to problems arising in a particular scientific context and under a particular understanding of the history of science in that context.  It concludes that the history of science provides little support for interesting theses about the present or future state of science.


Pierre Duhem; historical induction; scientific realism; antirealism; natural classification; energetics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24117/2526-2270.2017.i2.07


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Copyright (c) 2017 Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science

ISSN: 2526-2270

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