Jean Perrin’s argument for the existence of molecules from his 1908 experimental determination of Avogadro’s number raises two questions considered in this article. One is historical: Why as late as 1908 should Perrin have thought it necessary to argue that molecules exist? The other, which takes up the bulk of this article, is philosophical: In view of the fact that his argument appears to assume the existence of molecules as a premise, how, if at all, can a charge of circularity be avoided? I criticize attempted reconstructions of his argument by Salmon, Glymour, and hypothetico-deductivists. And I propose a probabilistic solution that avoids circularity. Finally, I consider whether Perrin’s reasoning, so construed, is an empirical argument for scientific realism.
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December 02 1994
Jean Perrin and Molecular Reality
Johns Hopkins University
Online Issn: 1530-9274
Print Issn: 1063-6145
©1994 by The University of Chicago. All reserved.
The University of Chicago. All reserved.
Perspectives on Science (1994) 2 (4): 396–427.
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Peter Achinstein; Jean Perrin and Molecular Reality. Perspectives on Science 1994; 2 (4): 396–427. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/posc_a_00467
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