Graduate studies at Western
Foundations of Chemistry 7 (1):85-102 (2005)
|Abstract||What, precisely, is `salt'? It is a certainwhite, solid, crystalline, material, alsocalled sodium chloride. Does any of that solidwhite stuff exist in the sea? – Clearly not.One can make salt from sea water easily enough,but that fact does not establish thatsalt, as such, is present in brine. (Paper andink can be made into a novel – but no novelactually exists in a stack of blank paper witha vial of ink close by.) When salt dissolves inwater, what is present is no longer `salt' butrather a collection of hydrated sodium cationsand chloride anions, neither of which isprecisely salt, nor is the collection. Theaqueous material in brine is also significantlydifferent from pure water. Salt may beconsidered to be present in seawater, but onlyin a more or less vague `potential' way.Actually, there is no salt in the sea. In bothancient and modern treatments of otherimportant chemical concepts, including thenotions of `element', related complication,especially polysemy (terms with multiplemeanings), also occurs.In a recent paper, Paul Needham discussed the(predicable) properties of chemical substances,phases, and solutions. He provided a valuablecharacterization of cases in which severalquantities occupy the same space. He alsoconcluded that solution properties are not`intensive', because solvent and solute do nothave parts in common. He tacitly assumed thatingredients are not altered by their inclusionin a solution. This may be the case in somespecial cases (deutero-benzene dissolved inbenzene, say) but is not true in general – andcertainly does not apply to the case of brine,which Needham used as an example – since theions that exist in the solution, and also theaqueous material there, are quite differentfrom the pure ingredients used in making thesolution. An adequate theory of wholes andparts (mereology) must take into account thatwhen individuals enter combinations ofinteresting sorts they no longer are the verysame individuals that existed prior to thecomposition. It appears that no such formaltheory now actually exists.|
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