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Pierre Duhem (1861 – 1916)

French physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science, best known for his writings on the indeterminacy of experimental criteria and on scientific development in the Middle Ages.
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Pierre Duhem
Now, a symbol is not, properly speaking, either true or false; it is, rather, something more or less well selected to stand for the reality it represents, and pictures that reality in a more or less precise, or a more or less detailed manner.
Duhem quotes
The first question we should face is: What is the aim of a physical theory? To this question diverse answers have been made, but all of them may be reduced to two main principles:
"A physical theory," certain logicians have replied, "has for its object the explanation of a group of laws experimentally established."
"A physical theory," other thinkers have said, "is an abstract system whose aim is to summarize and classify logically a group of experimental laws without claiming to explain these laws...
Now these two questions Does there exist a material reality distinct from sensible appearances? and What is the nature of reality? do not have their source in experimental method, which is acquainted only with sensible appearances and can discover nothing beyond them. The resolution of these questions transcends the methods used by physics; it is the object of metaphysics.
Therefore, if the aim of physical theories is to explain experimental laws, theoretical physics is not an autonomous science; it is subordinate to metaphysics...
Now, to make physical theories depend on metaphysics is surely not the way to let them enjoy the privilege of universal consent.
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