, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 401-408

Maiocchi on Duhem, howard on Duhem and Einstein: Historiographical comments


These comments center on the methodological stance that Howard and Maiocchi recommend to us when we are doing history of philosophy. If Howard and Maiocchi are right, both Duhem and Einstein developed closely related versions of conventionalism and realism, and in both of their philosophies the conventionalist and realist moments were mutually compatible. Duhem's holism and, arguably, Einstein's as well, denies the need for across-the-board literalism, and both of them had important reasons for denying that convergence was required or even desirable for realism. Thus, for those who are caught up in the current disputes, serious consideration of the discrepancies between the standard current versions of realism and conventionalism and the positions that contextualist analyses reveal to have been advocated by Duhem and Einstein may uncover some of the tacit assumptions that impede the resolution or advancement of our disputes.