Deconstructing the Phantom: Duhem and the Scientific Realism Debate

Foundations of Science 27 (4):1453-1475 (2022)
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Abstract

For many decades, Duhem has been considered a paradigmatic instrumentalist, and while some commentators have argued against classifying him in this way, it still seems prevalent as an interpretation of his philosophy of science. Yet such a construal bears scant resemblance to the views presented in his own works—so little, indeed, that it might be said to constitute no more than a mere phantom with respect to his actual thought. In this article, we aim to deconstruct this phantom, tracing the sources of the misconceptions surrounding his ideas and pinpointing the sources and/or causes of its proliferation. We subsequently point out and discuss those elements of his philosophy that, taken together, support the view of him as a scientific realist of a sophisticated kind. Finally, we defend our own interpretation of his thought against suggestions to the effect that it is oriented towards neither instrumentalism nor scientific realism.

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Mateusz Kotowski
Wroclaw Technical University

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