Stathis Psillos
University of Athens
This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing on the work of Duhem, Stallo, Ostwald, Poincaré and Boltzmann. Section 3 examines in detail Perrin’s theoretical account of the molecular origins of Brownian motion, reconstructs the structure and explains the strength of Perrin’s argument for the reality of molecules. Section 4 draws three important lessons for the current debate over scientific realism
Keywords Atomism  Hypothesis  Scientific realism  Jean Perrin  Brownian movement  Metaphysics
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DOI 10.1007/s10838-011-9165-x
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem - 1954 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Expanding Our Grasp: Causal Knowledge and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives.Matthias Egg - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):115-141.
Evidence: Wanted, Alive or Dead.Stathis Psillos - 2015 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (3):357-381.
Normativity, the Base-Rate Fallacy, and Some Problems for Retail Realism.Paul Dicken - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):563-570.

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