Aesthetics of Chemical Products: Materials, Molecules, and Molecular Models

Hyle 9 (1):73 - 104 (2003)
By comparing chemistry to art, chemists have recently made claims to the aesthetic value, even beauty, of some of their products. This paper takes these claims seriously and turns them into a systematic investigation of the aesthetics of chemical products. I distinguish three types of chemical products - materials, molecules, and molecular models - and use a wide variety of aesthetic theories suitable for an investigation of the corresponding sorts of objects. These include aesthetics of materials, idealistic aesthetics from Plato to Kant and Schopenhauer, psychological approaches of Ernst Gombrich and Rudolf Arnheim, and semiotic aesthetics of Nelson Goodman and Umberto Eco. Although the investigation does not support recent claims, I point out where aesthetics does and can play an import role in chemistry. Particularly, Eco's approach helps us understand that and how aesthetic experience can be a driving force in chemical research
Keywords Philosophy of Chemistry  chemistry and art  aesthetic theories  molecules  materials  molecular models
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Joachim Schummer (2003). The Notion of Nature in Chemistry. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (4):705-736.

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