Challenges to the Structural Conception of Chemical Bonding

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):932-946 (2008)
The covalent bond, a difficult concept to define precisely, plays a central role in chemical predictions, interventions, and explanations. I investigate the structural conception of the covalent bond, which says that bonding is a directional, submolecular region of electron density, located between individual atomic centers and responsible for holding the atoms together. Several approaches to constructing molecular models are considered in order to determine which features of the structural conception of bonding, if any, are robust across these models. Key components of the structural conception are absent in all but the simplest quantum mechanical models of molecular structure, seriously challenging the conception’s viability. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania, 433 Cohen Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104‐6304; e‐mail:
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    Paul Needham (2013). Hydrogen Bonding: Homing in on a Tricky Chemical Concept. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (1):51-65.
    Paul Needham (2014). The Source of Chemical Bonding. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 45:1-13.
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