Explanation and theory formation in quantum chemistry

Foundations of Chemistry 11 (3):145-174 (2009)
In this paper I expand Eric Scerri’s notion of Popper’s naturalised approach to reduction in chemistry and investigate what its consequences might be. I will argue that Popper’s naturalised approach to reduction has a number of interesting consequences when applied to the reduction of chemistry to physics. One of them is that it prompts us to look at a ‘bootstrap’ approach to quantum chemistry, which is based on specific quantum theoretical theorems and practical considerations that turn quantum ‘theory’ into quantum ‘chemistry’ proper. This approach allows us to investigate some of the principles that drive theory formation in quantum chemistry. These ‘enabling theorems’ place certain limits on the explanatory latitude enjoyed by quantum chemists, and form a first step into establishing the relationship between chemistry and physics in more detail.
Keywords Explanation  Theory formation  Quantum chemistry
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DOI 10.1007/s10698-009-9075-8
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Carl G. Hempel (1966). Philosophy of Natural Science. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,Prentice-Hall.

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