Macroscopic objects: An exercise in Duhemian ontology

Philosophy of Science 63 (2):205-224 (1996)
Aristotelian ideas are presented in a favorable light in Duhem's historical works surveying the history of the notion of chemical combination (1902) and the development of mechanics (1903). The importance Duhem was later to ascribe to Aristotelian ideas as reflected in the weight he attached to medieval science is well known. But the Aristotelian influence on his own mature philosophical perspective, and more particularly on his concern for logical coherence and the development of his ontological views, is not generally acknowledged. There are, however, clear pointers in this direction in these two earlier books on the history of science, which are unashamedly written in such a way as to project the author's own view of what is important in the relevant areas. Thermodynamics was the pinnacle of Duhemian science, and its interpretation requires the reinstatement, in Duhem's view, of Aristotelian conceptions which have been unfashionable since the rise of certain ideas with the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The present paper is not primarily an exposition of these Aristotelian views of Duhem's, but an attempt to pursue the interpretation of a macroscopic, thermodynamical perspective on chemical substances from an elementary viewpoint in the spirit of Duhem (1902), sometimes being more definite than Duhem seems to be, and occasionally taking issue with him on certain points. Some of his leading ideas will determine the general approach, but views and problems will also be taken from modern textbooks in an attempt to lay down the general lines along which an explicit ontology--in Quine's sense--of macroscopic theory might be developed
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DOI 10.1086/289909
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P. Needham (1998). Duhem's Physicalism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (1):33-62.
Patrick A. Heelan (1998). The Scope of Hermeneutics in Natural Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (2):273-298.
Paul Needham (2010). Transient Things and Permanent Stuff. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):147 – 166.

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