Resisting chemical atomism: Duhem's argument

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):921-931 (2008)
Abstract
Late nineteenth‐century opponents of atomism questioned whether the evidence required any notion of an atom. In this spirit, Duhem developed an account of the import of chemical formulas that is clearly neutral on the atomic question rather than antiatomistic. The argument is supplemented with specific inadequacies of atomic theories of chemical combination and considerably strengthened by the theory of chemical combination provided by thermodynamics. Despite possible counterevidence available at the time, which should have tempered some of Duhem's concluding remarks, there was no atomic theory of chemical combination, which is wholly a product of the twentieth century. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, SE‐106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; e‐mail: paul.needham@philosophy.su.se.
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