Duhem’s Critical Analysis of Mechanicism and his Defense of a Formal Conception of Theoretical Physics

José R. N. Chiappin, Cássio Costa Laranjeiras


The aim of this paper is to present Duhem’s critical view of the dynamical development of mechanics according to two principles of his theory of the development of physics: the continuous and the rational development of physics. These two principles impose a formal conception of physics that aims at demarcating physics from the metaphysical view on the one hand and the pragmatist/conventionalist view on the other hand. Duhem pursues an intermediary conception of physics, a representational system of empirical laws based upon formal principles. This formal conception of physics will adjust to his idea of scientific progress in the form of a sequence of representational systems as structures of increasing comprehensiveness of empirical laws, which leads him to defend a convergent structural realism pointing to an ideal physical theory.


Pierre Duhem; mechanicism; theoretical physics; synthetical/analytical method; structural realism.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24117/2526-2270.2017.i2.05


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ISSN: 2526-2270

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