Epistemology of material properties

This paper presents an epistemological approach to the investigation of material properties that is opposed both to phenomenalistic epistemology and recent linguistical and ontological accounts of matter/mass terms. Emphasis is laid on the inherent context dependence of material properties. It is shown that, if this is taken seriously, some deep epistemological problems arise, like unavoidable uncertainty, incompleteness, inductivity, nonderivableness. It is further argued that some widely held epistemological accounts, namely that of essentialism, constructivism, and pragmatism, all reveal some serious defects if related to the recognition of materials. In order to responsibly manage our material environment, a more realistic estimation of our epistemic abilities and prospects is suggested.
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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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