, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1-25
Date: 04 Nov 2010

New perspectives on Pierre Duhem’s The aim and structure of physical theory

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The relation between history and philosophy in Duhem

Anastasios Brenner

In the opening pages of The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, Pierre Duhem claimed to provide “a simple logical analysis of the method by which physical theory makes progress”. Yet, his book contains a large amount of history. One finds numerous examples taken from the history of physics as well as a general interpretation of progress as a continuous process. History also enables us to go beyond the limits imposed on logical analysis. This association of history and logic is perhaps what is most astonishing for the modern reader. We are used to separate the historical study of science from the logical analysis of its language. These methods have given rise to two philosophical traditions: analytical philosophy of science and historical epistemology.

One may distinguish four major readings of The Aim and Structure. I thereby qualify not individual interpretations but how the text was perceived at certain times and

This specially invited book symposium launches a new series of symposia on old classic books by eminent thinkers whose work has shaped history and philosophy of science.