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Resisting Chemical Atomism: Duhem’s Argument

Paul Needham
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 75, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2006 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science AssociationPart II: Symposia PapersEdited by Cristina Bicchieri and Jason Alexander (December 2008), pp. 921-931
DOI: 10.1086/594535
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/594535
Page Count: 11
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Resisting Chemical Atomism: Duhem’s Argument
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Abstract

Late nineteenth‐century opponents of atomism questioned whether the evidence required any notion of an atom. In this spirit, Duhem developed an account of the import of chemical formulas that is clearly neutral on the atomic question rather than antiatomistic. The argument is supplemented with specific inadequacies of atomic theories of chemical combination and considerably strengthened by the theory of chemical combination provided by thermodynamics. Despite possible counterevidence available at the time, which should have tempered some of Duhem's concluding remarks, there was no atomic theory of chemical combination, which is wholly a product of the twentieth century.

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