Aristotelian chemistry: A prelude to Duhemian metaphysics

In 1904 Joachim published an influential paper dealing with 'Aristotle's Conception of Chemical Combination' which has provided the basis of much more recent studies. About the same time, Duhem developed what he regarded as an essentially Aristotelian view of chemistry, based on his understanding of phenomenological thermodynamics. He does not present a detailed textual analysis, but rather emphasises certain general ideas. Joachim's classic paper contains obscurities which I have been unable to fathom and theses which do not seem to be fully explained, or which at least seem difficult for the modern reader to understand. An attempt is made here to provide a systematic account of the Aristotelian theory of the generation of substances by the mixing of elements by reconsidering Joachim's treatment in the light of the sort of points which most interested Duhem.The work described in this paper was undertaken with a view to providing a basis for presenting, evaluating and criticising Duhem's understanding of what was for him modern chemistry. This latter project will be taken up on another occasion. I hope the present paper will be of some value to a broader philosophical readership in so far as it provides a fairly clear conception of matter which might be called Aristotelian, even if it is not precisely Aristotle's, and raises certain clear problems of interpretation. It may also be of interest to historians of chemistry in suggesting an analysis of the old chemical notion of a mixt independent of atomic theories
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DOI 10.1016/0039-3681(95)00047-X
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