Pierre Duhem’s use of the return to the sources as a justification tool
Les origines de la statique, published in 1905 by physicist and historian of physical theories Pierre Duhem, offers not only a radically new interpretation of the history of statics but also represents a milestone in the methodology of history of science thanks to a particular form of historical reasoning as deployed by the author to justify his hypotheses. This article uses a quantitative analysis of the references contained in the book’s footnotes in order to study the way Duhem validated his assertions. We highlight in particular his relentless will to return to the original texts. This method is one of the reasons why Duhem’s book (and more generally the Duhemian methodology) had such a lasting impact on French epistemology.
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