Saturday, March 05, 2005

Duhem on the Historical Method in Scientific Pedagogy

La méthode légitime, sûre, féconde, pour préparer un esprit à recevoir une hypothèse physique, c'est la méthode historique. Retracer les transformations par lesquelles la matière empirique s'est accrue, tandis que la forme théorique s'ébauchait ; décrire la longue collaboration par laquelle le sens commun et la logique déductive ont analysé cette matière et modelé cette forme jusqu'à ce que l'une s'adaptât exactement à l'autre, c'est le meilleur moyen, voire le seul moyen, de donner à ceux qui étudient la Physique une idée juste et une vue claire de l'organisation si complexe et si vivante de cette science.

Rough, off-the-top-of-my-head translation: "The sure, fruitful, legitimate method for preparing a mind to receive a physical hypothesis is the historical method. Retracing the transformations by which the empirical matter is increased while the theoretical form is sketched out; describing the long collaboration by which common sense and deductive logic have analyzed this matter and modeled this form until the one is adapted exactly to the other; this is the best way, or even the only way, to give to those who study Physics an accurate idea and a clear view of the organization, so complex and so alive, of this science."

-Duhem, La théorie physique, son object, sa structure (1906).

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