David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Foundations of Chemistry 14 (2):109-155 (2012)
In his classic work The Mind and its Place in Nature published in 1925 at the height of the development of quantum mechanics but several years after the chemists Lewis and Langmuir had already laid the foundations of the modern theory of valence with the introduction of the covalent bond, the analytic philosopher C. D. Broad argued for the emancipation of chemistry from the crass physicalism that led physicists then and later—with support from a rabblement of philosophers who knew as much about chemistry as etymologists—to believe that chemistry reduced to physics. Here Broad’s thesis is recast in terms more familiar to chemists. In the hard sell of particle physics, several prominent figures in chemistry—Hoffmann, Primas, and Pauling—have had their views interpreted to imply that they were sympathetic to greedy reductionism when in fact they were not. Indeed, being chemists without physicists as alter egos, they could not but side with Broad’s contention that chemistry, as a science that deals primarily in emergent phenomena which are beyond the purview of physicalism, owes no acquiescence to particle physics and its ethereal wares. Historically, among the most widely used expediencies in chemistry and materials science are additivity or mixture rules and their cohort transferability, all of which are devised and used under the mantle of naive reductionism. Here it is argued that while the transfer of functional groups between molecules works empirically to an extent, it is strictly outlawed by the no-cloning theorem of quantum mechanics. Several illustrative examples related to chemistry’s irreducibility to physics are presented and discussed. The failure of naive reductionism exhibited by the deep-inelastic scattering of leptons by A > 2 nuclei is traced to the same flawed reasoning that was the original basis of Moffitt’s ‘atoms in molecules’ hypothesis, the neglect of context, nuclei in the case of high-energy physics and molecules in the case of chemistry. A non-exhaustive list of other contexts from physics, chemistry, and molecular biology evidencing similar departures from the ideal of additivity or reductionism is provided for the perusal of philosophers. Had the call by the mathematician J. T. Schwartz for developments in mathematical linguistics possessed of a less single, less literal, and less simple-minded nature been met, perhaps it might have persuaded scientists to abandon their regressive fixation with unphysical reductionism and to adapt to new methodologies that engender a more nuanced handling of ubiquitous emergent phenomena as they arise in Nature than is the case today.
|Keywords||Broad Emergence Reduction Chemistry Quantum mechanics No-cloning theorem Additivity rules Transferability Deep-inelastic scattering|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Immanuel Kant (2007/1951). Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Journal of Philosophy. Blackwell Pub. Ltd.. 507-508.
Mark Steiner (1998). The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem. Harvard University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Rein Vihalemm (2011). The Autonomy of Chemistry: Old and New Problems. [REVIEW] Foundations of Chemistry 13 (2):97-107.
Hinne Hettema (2008). Is Quantum Chemistry a Degenerating Research Programme? Logic and Philosophy of Science 6 (1):3-23.
Mario Bunge (1982). Is Chemistry a Branch of Physics? Journal for General Philosophy of Science 13 (2):209-223.
Gabor Pallo (2011). Early Impact of Quantum Physics on Chemistry: George Hevesy's Work on Rare Earth Elements and Michael Polanyi's Absorption Theory. [REVIEW] Foundations of Chemistry 13 (1):51-61.
Mario Castagnino (2010). Matters Are Not so Clear on the Physical Side. Foundations of Chemistry 12 (2):159-166.
Davis Baird, Eric R. Scerri & Lee C. McIntyre (eds.) (2006). Philosophy of Chemistry: Synthesis of a New Discipline. Springer.
Hinne Hettema (2009). Explanation and Theory Formation in Quantum Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 11 (3):145-174.
Lee McIntyre (1999). The Emergence of the Philosophy of Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 1 (1):57-63.
A. T. Balaban (2005). Reflections About Mathematical Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 7 (3):289-306.
S. H. Vollmer (2003). The Philosophy of Chemistry Reformulating Itself: Nalni Bhushan and Stuart Rosenfeld's of Minds and Molecules: New Philosophical Perspectives on Chemistry. Philosophy of Science 70 (2):383-390.
Robert C. Bishop (2005). Patching Physics and Chemistry Together. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):710-722.
Robert Bishop (2005). Patching Physics and Chemistry Together. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):710-722.
J. van Brakel (1999). On the Neglect of the Philosophy of Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 1 (2):111-174.
Zack Jenkins (2003). Do You Need to Believe in Orbitals to Use Them?: Realism and the Autonomy of Chemistry. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1052-1062.
Added to index2011-11-08
Total downloads128 ( #9,903 of 1,692,915 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #78,896 of 1,692,915 )
How can I increase my downloads?