HPS Colloquium: Passions and Pet Theories: Revisiting Pierre Duhem's 'Good Sense'


Location: 201 O'Shag

Join us as Sam Hall presents his recent research!  We meet every Tuesday before Fall Break at 4 PM for coffee, snacks, and a chance to catch up before the presentation begins.

"Passions and Pet Theories: Revisiting Pierre Duhem's 'Good Sense' "

Confronted with the holistic nature of experimental testing and the underdetermination of theory by the empirical facts, historian-philosopher-scientist Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) famously emphasized the scientist’s need to cultivate ‘good sense’ (bon sens), a psychological faculty of intuitive judgment, in order to, among other things, decide when a floundering theoretical commitment should be given up. Recently, there has been renewed interest in further explicating this notion of good sense, brought on by David Stump’s (2007) re-reading of Duhem as a proto-virtue epistemologist. After first providing a brief overview of Duhem's views on scientific practice and the role of good sense, I’ll discuss the merits and misgivings of thinking about his philosophy of science through the lens of virtue epistemology. I’ll then suggest some alternative areas of further research that I think could provide a richer and more accurate understanding of good sense. These involve highlighting the emotional and tacit aspects of good sense as well as better situating it within the intellectual milieu in which Duhem is working (i.e., French philosophy of science in the long 19th century). I should note that this is very much a work in progress, in this case, towards a potential dissertation proposal. As such, I’ll spend less time rehearsing a precise argument and more time sketching the conceptual space I’ve been inhabiting, with the hope that those in attendance can help me make some sense of it and judge the viability of the project.

Samuel graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Transylvania University in 2011. He received his M.A. in Philosophy and Theology from Boston College in 2016.  His areas of interest include General Philosophy of Science, Religious Epistemology, Trust, Science and Values,  and the Ethics of Belief.