Volume 92, Issue 1, Winter 2018
Meghan D. Page
Sense and Reference of a Believer
Pierre Duhem’s philosophy of science was criticized by several of his contemporaries for being surreptitiously influenced by his Catholic faith. In his essay “Physics of a Believer,” Duhem defends himself against this appraisal. In this paper, I detail Duhem’s argument and reconstruct his view concerning the relationship between theoretical science and religious belief. Ultimately, Duhem claims that the propositions of physical theory cannot contradict the propositions of religious belief because they do not share a domain of reference. To clarify why Duhem holds this view, I present a case study: the discovery of entropy. By examining how the term “entropy” was introduced into thermo-dynamic theory, a story with which Duhem was intimately familiar, much of the apparent conflict in Duhem’s philosophy of science is resolved.