David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Foundations of Chemistry 11 (2):65-77 (2009)
In 1931 eminent chemist Fritz Paneth maintained that the modern notion of “element” is closely related to (and as “metaphysical” as) the concept of element used by the ancients (e.g., Aristotle). On that basis, the element chlorine (properly so-called) is not the elementary substance dichlorine, but rather chlorine as it is in carbon tetrachloride. The fact that pure chemicals are called “substances” in English (and closely related words are so used in other European languages) derives from philosophical compromises made by grammarians in the late Roman Empire (particularly Priscian [fl. ~520 CE]). When the main features of the constitution of isotopes became clear in the first half of the twentieth century, the formal (IUPAC) definition of a “chemical element” was changed. The features that are “essential” to being an element had previously been “transcendental” (“beyond the sphere of consciousness”) but, by the mid-twentieth century the defining characteristics of elements, as such, had come to be understood in detail. This amounts to a shift in a “horizon of invisibility” brought about by progress in chemistry and related sciences. Similarly, chemical insight is relevant to currently-open philosophical problems, such as the status of “the bundle theory” of the coherence of properties in concrete individuals.
|Keywords||Philosophy Physical Chemistry History Chemistry/Food Science, general Philosophy of Science|
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References found in this work BETA
D. M. Armstrong (2004). Truth and Truthmakers. Cambridge University Press.
Ruth Garrett Millikan (2000). On Clear and Confused Ideas: An Essay About Substance Concepts. Cambridge University Press.
David Robb (2005). Qualitative Unity and the Bundle Theory. The Monist 88 (4):466-92.
Eric Scerri (2000). Realism, Reduction and the “Intermediate Position”. In Nalini Bhushan & Stuart Rosenfeld (eds.), Of Minds and Molecules: New Philosophical Perspectives on Chemistry. New York: Oxford University Press 51--72.
Joseph Owens (2007). Aristotle's Gradations of Being in Metaphysics E-Z. St. Augustine's Press.
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