Anti-Scepticism and Epistemic Humility in Pierre Duhem’s Philosophy of Science


  • Marie Gueguen University of Western Ontario
  • Stathis Psillos University of Athens



Pierre Duhem, Scientific Representation, Explanatory hypotheses, Holism, Natural Classification


Duhem’s philosophy of science is difficult to classify according to more contemporary categories like instrumentalism and realism. On the one hand, he presents an account of scientific methodology which renders theories as mere instruments. On the other hand, he acknowledges that theories with particular theoretical virtues (e.g., unity, simplicity, novel predictions) offer a classification of experimental laws that “corresponds to real affinities among the things themselves.” In this paper, we argue that Duhem’s philosophy of science was motivated by an anti-sceptical tendency, according to which we can confidently assert that our theories reveal truths about nature while, at the same time, admitting that anti-scepticism should be moderated by epistemic humility. Understanding Duhem’s epistemological position, which was unique amongst French philosophers of science in the beginning of the 20th century, requires a careful examination of his accounts of representation, explanation, and of their interrelation.


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Author Biography

Stathis Psillos, University of Athens

Stathis Psillos is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and History of Science at the University of Athens. Address: University Campus, Athens 15771 Greece. He is also a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy-Engaging Science, University of Western Ontario. Address: 1151 Richmond Street N6A3K7 London, Ontario, Canada.




How to Cite

Gueguen, Marie, and Stathis Psillos. 2017. “Anti-Scepticism and Epistemic Humility in Pierre Duhem’s Philosophy of Science”. Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science, no. 2 (June).