The Axiomatic Format

  • Mario Bunge
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 45)


A scientific theory can be expounded in either of three ways: historically, heuristically, or axiomatically. A historical exposition, if faithful and insightful, will display the original problem situation, the various attempts made to cope with it — including the wrong moves the way—, the adopted solution was justified, and its actual or likely influence on future developments. Needless to say, although the history of physics is growing fast, very few historical studies perform all of the preceding tasks. The heuristic approach, on the other hand, seizes on the most useful (not necessarily the most fundamental) formulas of the theory and it rushes on to work out their consequences and apply them. It is the approach adopted in the vast majority of publications and courses in physics. While both the historical and the heuristic formats are enlightening, the former is impractical: if a short statement or a quick command of the subject are desired, then the heuristic approach is preferable.


Physical Theory Axiom System Physical Concept Axiomatic Approach Physical Assumption 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Bunge
    • 1
  1. 1.Foundations and Philosophy of Science UnitMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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