Item – Thèses Canada

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Hilbert, Martin,1961-
Pierre Duhem and neo-Thomist interpretations of physical science.
Ph. D. -- University of Toronto, 2000
Ottawa :National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada,[2001]
4 microfiches
Includes bibliographical references.
In 1879, Pope Leo XIII demanded that Catholic philosophers and theologians adopt scholastic philosophy and especially Thomism in their studies and teaching. Although not primarily about science, the encyclical 'Aeterni Patris ' expressed the hope that scholastic philosophy would be a means to understand and even to further science. The thesis examines how neo-Thomists in France and Belgium tried to understand contemporary physical science from the time of the papal mandate to the outbreak of the First World War. These geographical and temporal limits coincide with the immediate sphere of influence of Pierre Duhem (1861-1916), the well-known Catholic physicist, philosopher of science, and historian of science. After putting Aeterni Patris into historical context and focusing both on its own agenda with regard to the philosophy of science and on the challenges that it faced in a scientistic climate, the thesis identifies the major centres of neo-Thomism in the two countries and shows that Duhem was historically connected to all of them. Neo-Thomists were especially determined to re-establish hylomorphism by arguing that mechanical theories of the universe were deficient. Duhem too critiqued mechanism; but his criticism and agenda differed from that of the self-proclaimed neo-Thomists, by arguing that physical theory is not a metaphysical explanation. The thesis first examines the relation between physics and metaphysics through case studies of contemporary debates into which Duhem also entered: human freedom, creation in time, and the proof for the existence of God the Prime Mover. A more theoretical look at the relation shows both that Duhem developed some of his ideas in the philosophy of science in response to neo-Thomist criticism and that his thought in turn influenced some leading figures in the movement. It is argued that Jacques Maritain's ' Distinguer pour unir' depends heavily albeit unconsciously on Duhem's work. This proves that Duhem's thought is compatible with one influential school of neo-Thomism and even contributed to its development. The thesis concludes by making the necessary distinctions to counter arguments that Duhem was hostile to the neo-Thomist enterprise on account of his Pascalian inspiration, his friendship with Maurice Blondel, and his panning of Thomas in the ' Système du monde'.