Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist
By: R.N.D. Martin (author)Hardback
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Dr Martin's study of Pierre Duhem's work refutes many prevailing legends about Duhem. His book pays particular attention to the political and intellectual context of French Catholicism, wracked as it was by the tensions of the Dreyfus affair and the so-called modernist crisis. Duhem took his inspiration, not from the Papally-sponsored revival of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, but from Pascal, a fact that aroused suspicions of skepticism in the minds of conservatively-minded Catholics. The tensions between Duhem's work and authoritarian Catholic positions became more explicit at his historical work unfolded. Duhem has often been interpreted as a mere instrumentalist or conventionalist, denying the meaningfulness of a reality behind the theory. Dr Martin shows that Duhem was a Pascalian, arguing that both logic and intuition were indispensible in approaching the truth. Duhem argued that physics could not legitimately be used to attack Christianity, but he held that physics was equally useless for the defense of Christianity, a position which made him unpopular with many Catholics.
Duhem is now well-known for his historical work refuting the myth that there was no medieval science. Duhem showed that figures like Leonardo and Galileo were not isolated; far from being the founders of a new science, they were continuing a tradition of scientific work that had been developing for centuries. It has been surmised that Duhem was predisposed to rehabilitate medieval science for apologetic motives. Martin shows that Duhem's discovery of medieval science can be dated to within a month, and came as a complete suprise to him, changing the whole course of his work, and introducing an abrupt discontinuity between his earlier and his later preoccupations. Furthermore, Duhem's findings in medieval intellectual history have proved indigestible ever since, to believers and unbelievers alike.
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- ID: 9780812691597
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