Foundations of Chemistry 10 (1) (2008)
|Abstract||This paper discusses the important paper by Paul Thagard on the pathway version of mechanistic explanation that is currently used in chemical explanation. The author claims that this method of explanation has a respectable pedigree and can be traced back to the Chemical Revolution in the arguments used by the Lavoisier School in their theoretical duels with Richard Kirwan, the proponent of a revised phlogistonian theory. Kirwan believed that complex chemical reactions could be explained by recourse to affinity tables that catalogued the attraction that various simple bodies possessed towards each other. To explain was in effect to make a delayed prediction, it is not enough just to show how a phenomenon fits into the discernible patterns of the world. Lavoisier, Fourcroy and their colleagues used pathway reasoning, although disguising this fact by suggesting that affinities varied when subjected to n-body situations.|
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