This classic work in the philosophy of physical science is an incisive and readable account of the scientific method. Pierre Duhem was one of the great figures in French science, a devoted teacher, and a distinguished scholar of the history and philosophy of science. This book represents his most mature thought on a wide range of topics.
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Translator's Preface xv
Author's Preface to the Second Edition xvii
THE AIM OF PHYSICAL THEORY
Chapter L Physical Theory and Metaphysical Explanation 7
1. Physical theory considered as explanation. 2. Accord-
ing to the foregoing opinion, theoretical physics is sub-
ordinate to metaphysics. 3. According to the foregoing
opinion, the value of a physical theory depends on the
metaphysical system one adopts. 4. The quarrel over oc-
cult causes. 5. No metaphysical system suffices in con-
structing a physical theory.
Chapter II. Physical Theory and Natural Classification 19
L What is the true nature of a physical theory and the
operations constituting it? 2. What is the utility of a
physical theory? Theory considered as an economy of
thought. 3. Theory considered as classification. 4. A
theory tends to be transformed into a natural classifica-
tion. 5. Theory anticipating experiment.
Chapter III. Representative Theories and the History of
1. The role of natural classifications and of explanations
in the evolution of physical theories. 2. The opinions of
physicists on the nature of physical theories.
Chapter IV. Abstract Theories and Mechanical Models 55
1. Two kinds of rninds: ample and deep. 2. An example
of the ample mind: the mind of Napoleon. 3. The ample
mind, the supple mind, and the geometrical mind. 4.
Amnleness of mind and the English mind. 5. English
physics and the mechanical model. 6. The English school relative because it is approximate. 4. Every physical law
and mathematical physics. 7. The English school and the is provisional because it is symbolic. 5. The laws of
logical coordination of a theory. 8. The diffusion of physics are more detailed than the laws of common
English methods. 9. Is the use of mechanical models sense.
fruitful for discoveries? 10. Should the use of mechanical
models suppress the search for an abstract and logically Chapter VI. Physical Theory and Experiment 180
ordered theory? 1. The experimental testing of a theory does not have
the same logical simplicity in physics as in physiology.
PART II 2. An experiment in physics can never condemn an iso-
THE STRUCTURE OF PHYSICAL THEORY lated hypothesis but only a whole theoretical group. 3.
A "crucial experiment" is impossible in physics. 4. Criti-
Chapter I. Quantity and Quality 107 cism of the Newtonian method. First example: celestial
1. Theoretical physics is mathematical physics. 2. Quan- mechanics. 5. Criticism of the Newtonian method ( con-
tity and measurement. 3. Quantity and quality. 4. Purely tinued). Second example: electrodynamics. 6. Conse-
quantitative physics. 5. The various intensities of the quences relative to the teaching of physics. 7. Conse-
same quality are expressible in numbers. quences relative to the mathematical development of
Chapter II. Primary Qualities 121 physical theory. 8. Are certain postulates of physical
1. On the excessive multiplication of primary qualities. theory incapable of being refuted by experiment? 9. On
2. A primary quality is a quality irreducible in fact, not hypotheses whose statement has no experimental mean-
by law. 3. A quality is never primary, except provision- ing. 10. Good sense is the judge of hypotheses which
ally. ought to be abandoned.
Chapter III. Mathematical Deduction and Physical Theory132 Chapter VII. The Choice of Hypotheses 219
1. Physical approximation and mathematical precision. 1. What the conditions imposed by logic on the choice of
2. Mathematical deductions physically useful and those hypotheses reduce to. 2. Hypotheses are not the product
not. 3. An example of mathematical deduction that can of sudden creation, but the result of progressive evolu-
never be utilized. 4. The mathematics of approximation. tion. An example drawn from universal attraction. 3. The
Chapter IV. Experiment in Physics 144 physicist does not choose the hypotheses on which he
1. An experiment in physics is not simply the observation will base a theory; they genninate in him without him.
of a phenomenon; it is, besides, the theoretical inter- 4. On the presentation of hypotheses in the teaching of
pretation of this phenomenon. 2. The result of an experi- physics. 5. Hypotheses cannot be deduced from axioms
ment in physics is an abstract and symbolic judgment. 3. provided by common-sense knowledge. 6. The impor-
The theoretical intekpretation of phenomena alone makes tance in physics of the historical method.
possible the use of instruments. 4. On criticism of an ex-
periment in physics; in what respects it differs from the APPENDIX
examination of ordinary testimony. 5. Experiment in Physics of a Believer 273
physics is less certain but more precise and detailed
than the non-scientiBc establishment of a fact. 1. Introduction. 2. Our physical system is positivist in its
origins. 3. Our physical system is positivist in its con-
Chapter V. Physical Law 165 clusions. 4. Our system eliminates the alleged objections
L The laws of physics are symbolic relations. 2. A law of physical science to spiritualistic metaphysics and the
of physics is, properly speaking, neither true nor false but Catholic faith. 5. Our system denies physical theory any
approximate. 3. Every law of physics is provisional and metaphysical or apologetic import. 6. The metaphysician
should know physical theory in order not to make an
filegitimate use of it in his speculations. 7. Physical
theory has as its limiting form a natural classification.
8. There is an analogy between cosmology and physical
theory. 9. Ön the analogy between physical theory and
The Value of Physical Theory 312
Translator's Index 337