Science and Realism: The Legacy of Duhem and Meyerson in Contemporary American Philosophy of Science

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    Anglo-American epistemology has long recognized its debt to Pierre Duhem: most notably in the so-called “Duhem–Quine” thesis that has been at the center of debates over empiricism and realism. These debates began with the Vienna Circle and have continued through the development of a more historical reflection on the sciences. This development is still ongoing, as can be seen in Hilary Putnam’s work on realism. The most prominent figures in this movement of inheritance of Duhem’s work, as well as the most controversial, are Kuhn and Feyerabend. But this change in American philosophy of science since, say, the sixties may also draw our attention to another influence, less visible than Duhem’s, but just as important: that of Emile Meyerson. One finds references to Meyerson in writings by both Quine and Kuhn. Kuhn, in particular, has explicitly recognized his debt to the author of Identity and Reality. In an interview in the French newspaper Le Monde, he noted that he had, in philosophy, three major influences, apart from his contemporary, Quine: Duhem (for his Aim and Structure of Physical Theory), Meyerson (for Identity and Reality), and Koyré, who was responsible for the direct transmission of Meyerson’s work to the U.S. Kuhn also recalled that it was Popper himself who advised him to read Identity and Reality, a work that proved decisive for Kuhn.