Duhem's physicalism

Duhem is often described as an anti-realist or instrumentalist. A contrary view has recently been expressed by Martin (1991) (Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist (La Salle, IL: Open Court)), who suggests that this interpretation makes it difficult to understand the vantage point from which Duhem argues in La science allemande (1915) that deduction, however impeccable, cannot establish truths unless it begins with truths. In the same spirit, the present paper seeks to establish that Duhem is at any rate not the kind of anti-realist he is often presented as being, and that his views are like those Quine sees fit to call realist. An interpretation of Duhem's views on explanation and precision in science, and their bearing on the epistemological status of theory, is advanced which leads naturally into his critique of conventionalism. His attitude towards atomism, which should not be judged from a post-1925 perspective, is considered part of the unified view he strove after and appropriately called Duhem's physicalism, standing in contrast to the kind of reductionist conception usually associated with atomism.
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DOI 10.1016/S0039-3681(98)00014-4
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References found in this work BETA
Alan Chalmers (1993). The Lack of Excellency of Boyle's Mechanical Philosophy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 24 (4):541-564.
Roger Ariew (1984). The Duhem Thesis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):313-325.
Maureen Christie (1994). Philosophers Versus Chemists Concerning 'Laws of Nature'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 25 (4):613-629.
John Worrall (1982). Scientific Realism and Scientific Change. Philosophical Quarterly 32 (128):201-231.

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Citations of this work BETA
Paul Needham (2010). Nagel's Analysis of Reduction: Comments in Defense as Well as Critique. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 41 (2):163-170.
Paul Needham (2004). When Did Atoms Begin to Do Any Explanatory Work in Chemistry? International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):199 – 219.
Paul Needham (1999). Reduction and Abduction in Chemistry-a Response to Scerri. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (2):169 – 184.

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