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Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie (1861–1916)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q027-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

Duhem was a French Catholic physicist, historian of science and philosopher of science. Champion of a programme of generalized thermodynamics as a unifying framework for physical science, he was a pioneer in the history of medieval and renaissance science, where he emphasized a continuity between medieval and early modern science. Duhem was also one of the most influential philosophers of science of his day, thanks to his opposition to mechanistic modes of explanation and his development of a holistic conception of scientific theories, according to which individual empirical propositions are not tested in isolation but only in conjunction with other theoretical claims and associated auxiliary hypotheses. Such a view of theory testing entails that there are no ‘crucial experiments’ deciding unambiguously for or against a given theory and that empirical evidence therefore underdetermines theory choice. Theory choice is thus partly a matter of convention. Duhem’s conventionalism is similar in kind to that later advocated by Otto Neurath and by W.V. Quine.

Citing this article:
Howard, Don. Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie (1861–1916), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q027-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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