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Presentation – Pierre Duhem and Ernst Mach: Science and Philosophy

Presentation – Pierre Duhem and Ernst Mach: Science and Philosophy

María De Paz and Antonio Augusto Passos Videira, “Presentation – Pierre Duhem and Ernst Mach: Science and Philosophy,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 74, no. 1 (2018): 13–16, DOI 10.17990/RPF/2018_74_1_0013

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Presentation – Pierre Duhem and Ernst Mach: Science and Philosophy

Type Journal Article
Author María De Paz
Author Antonio Augusto Passos Videira
Rights © 2018 Aletheia - Associação Científica e Cultural | © 2018 Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
Volume 74
Issue 1
Pages 13-16
Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
ISSN 0870-5283
Date 2018
DOI 10.17990/RPF/2018_74_1_0013
Language English
Content Ernst Mach (1838-1916) and Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) were leading scientists, philosophers and historians of science of their times. They lived and worked in a context marked by deep changes in the natural sciences, and in an epoch of intense social transformations. Regarding the sciences, we could just mention the development of electromagnetic theory, the decline of classical mechanics, the development of evolutionary theory, the emergence of the special and general theories of relativity or the controversy on the atomic structure of nature. Concerning society, we have to remember the historical background previous to the World War I and the cultural environment developed in Europe in those years. As to the relationship between science and society, the end of the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of a radical critique of science, which questioned its fundamental values. In a way, we can understand the philosophies of these two figures as replies to such criticisms.The year 2016 marked the one hundred anniversary of Mach’s and Duhem’s passing. There were several separate commemorations. However, to the best of our knowledge, the conference “Ernst Mach and Pierre Duhem: Science, Philosophy and History” held in the Brazilian Centre for Physical Research (CBPF) in September 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, was the only event taking the occasion of rethinking the views of these philosopher-scientists together. Although different in nature and scope, some of the fundamental issues that both authors tackled are coincident, and both are usually grouped among those creators considered as philosopher-scientist or scientist-philosophers. Their views were widely discussed during the twentieth century by logical positivists and subsequent philosophers of science, such as Willard Van Quine, Bas van Fraassen or Ian Hacking, to name just a few. We thought that in the twenty-first century their views can still be interesting, whether we approach them from the history of philosophy of science perspective or with the aim of bringing them to current discussions, since some of the problems pointed out by them are still at stake in philosophy of science, being Duhem’s holism one among the most famous. This Special Issue springs from that colloquium, although it is not exactly the proceedings, since many of the contributions have been rethought and reconsidered in the light of the discussions held there. There are also a few papers resulting from the specific call for papers to the special issue. Some of these arose also from previous collaborations between the editors and the authors in the FCT research project “The Physics of Principles and the Scientific Epistemology: The cases of Mach, Hertz, and Poincaré”.The main purpose of this thematic issue was to offer a forum for further re-questioning Mach’s and Duhem’s views and the impact that their work can still have nowadays. Our wish was to provide fresh views on the work of both authors, one hundred years after their passing. We think that the papers below have very well accomplished this aim.The papers in the thematic section aim to discuss and analyze Mach’s and Duhem’s views, regarding some of the questions mentioned above. The topics of the papers range from classical issues discussed by both authors – such as underdetermination, good sense, the distinction between physics and metaphysics, thought experiments, or mechanics – to more controversial perspectives, such as the relation between Mach and Pragmatism, the biological roots of some of his ideas, or the relation with current perspectives in philosophy of science. Three of the papers are devoted to Duhem’s and five to Mach’s ideas, and there is also one considering both together. All of them capture, in some sense, the essence of the interactions between science, history and philosophy, present in their work.In the first paper, Chiappin proposes a methodological structure for reconstructing philosophical conceptions of scientific theory formation. He focuses on Duhem’s theory of science and exposes his ideal of physical theory as a regulative principle. He considers different levels of the scientific theory – methodological, epistemological, and axiological – in order to offer a dynamical theory of the development and growth of science. In the second paper, Maar discusses the role of good sense as a Duhemian solution for the underdetermination problem, in the light of recent studies on good sense and virtue epistemology. The third paper, by Miranda Vilchis, approaches the Duhemian distinction between physics and metaphysics in an original way, and suggests a gradualist and continuist perspective between science and philosophy. The fourth paper is meant to be the dividing line between the contributions on Duhem’s and Mach’s views. In it, Puig and Passos Videira, tackle the distinction between physics and metaphysics in both authors in the light of the fact/value distinction, which is taken as a criterion to separate both disciplines.In order to compare Mach to twentieth-century philosophy of science, Islas Mondragon, in the fifth paper, evaluates the cognitive role of mental experiments for Mach, Popper and Kuhn. He decides to focus on Stevin’s inclined plane and Mach’s interpretation of it. Gori provides, in the sixth paper, an examination of Mach’s relation to metaphysics in order to assess his realist or anti-realist position, presenting a very interesting pragmatist perspective. The seventh paper relates Mach’s epistemological writings with a biological view of knowledge. Serra and Maia explore the influence of Darwinism in the thought of the Austrian author, disclosing interesting links between evolutionary ideas and the famous Machian economy of thought. The eighth paper by Coelho reconsiders Mach’s historical-critical foundation of mechanics in order to enlighten the problems present in the notion of force. He exposes the difficulties Mach encountered when trying to explain acceleration, based merely on empirical observations and which results of that explanation might be. In the last paper, de Paz, provides an up-to-date presentation of Mach’s epistemological conception in the light of a recent approach to the philosophy of science in practice.The Ad Extra section entails four papers. Bruno Nobre and Antonio A. P. Videira, in “Philosophy Matters: Steven Weinberg, Reductionism, and Inevitability”, seeks to critically examine the arguments used by S. Weinberg to defend reductionism. According to this physicist, the aim of elementary particle physics is to look for the ultimate and fundamental laws of nature. As such, the authors analyze the Weinbergian conception of a “final theory” and the concept of “inevitability” associated with it.Rodolfo Petrônio da Costa, in “Bohr e Einstein: Filosofia, Debate e Controvérsia”, intends to show that, despite Bohr and Einstein having opposite philosophical points of view to quantum mechanics, they might eventually agree, if their approaches were to be considered as dealing with distinct realms of reality.In “What’s Missing in the Secularization Debate?”, John Farina questions the assumptions of the current debate on the challenges of secularization place to religion. The author claims that the so called “secularization thesis” restricts the inquiry and leaves out other historic solutions, which would better help to question the ordering of the political society. Bruno Cunha, in “Kant e a sua Crítica a Hutcheson e à Doutrina do Sentimento Moral na Década de 1770”, reconstructs Kant’s criticism to Hutcheson and to the doctrine of moral feeling, during the so called silent decade. The author claims that in such a Kantian criticism is already patent, although not yet in a completely explicit way, the general lines of the future Kant’s mature conception of moral philosophy. 
Date Added 26/04/2018, 14:52:03
Modified 26/04/2018, 15:39:06


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