Chemistry in the French tradition of philosophy of science: Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (4):627-649 (2005)
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At first glance twentieth-century philosophy of science seems virtually to ignore chemistry. However this paper argues that a focus on chemistry helped shape the French philosophical reflections about the aims and foundations of scientific methods. Despite patent philosophical disagreements between Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard it is possible to identify the continuity of a tradition that is rooted in their common interest for chemistry. Two distinctive features of the French tradition originated in the attention to what was going on in chemistry.French philosophers of science, in stark contrast with analytic philosophers, considered history of science as the necessary basis for understanding how the human intellect or the scientific spirit tries to grasp the world. This constant reference to historical data was prompted by a fierce controversy about the chemical revolution, which brought the issue of the nature of scientific changes centre stage.A second striking—albeit largely unnoticed—feature of the French tradition is that matter theories are a favourite subject with which to characterize the ways of science. Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard developed most of their views about the methods and aims of science through a discussion of matter theories. Just as the concern with history was prompted by a controversy between chemists, the focus on matter was triggered by a scientific controversy about atomism in the late nineteenth-century.Keywords: France; Epistemology; Chemistry; Revolution; Atomism; Realism.



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Citations of this work

Explicating Meyerson: The Critique of Positivism and Historical Épistémologie.M. Anthony Mills - 2015 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (2):318-347.
Identity versus determinism: Émile Meyerson׳s neo-Kantian interpretation of the quantum theory.M. Anthony Mills - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 47:33-49.

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References found in this work

Philosophy of Chemistry.Joachim Schummer - 2010-01-04 - In Fritz Allhoff (ed.), Philosophies of the Sciences. Wiley‐Blackwell. pp. 163–183.
Bachelard and the Problem of Epistemological Analysis.Stephen W. Gaukroger - 1976 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 7 (3):189.
Hélène Metzger: the history of science between the study of mentalities and total history.Cristina Chimisso - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 32 (2):203-241.
Aristotelian chemistry: A prelude to Duhemian metaphysics.Paul Needham - 1996 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (2):251-269.

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