Using the notorious bridge law “water is H 2 O” and the relation between molecular structure and quantum mechanics as examples, I argue that it doesn’t make sense to aim for specific definition(s) of intertheoretical or interdiscourse relation(s) between chemistry and physics (reduction, supervenience, what have you). Proposed definitions of interdiscourse and part-whole relations are interesting only if they provide insight in the variegated interconnected patchwork of theories and beliefs. There is “automatically” some sort of interdiscourse relation if different (...) discourses claim to have something to say about the same situation (event, system), which is the basis of (contingent) local supervenience relations, which, proper empirically support being provided, can be upgraded to ceteris paribus bridge laws. Because of the ceteris paribus feature, and the discourse dependence of event identification, there is at best only global supervenience of the “special sciences” on the physical (and of parts of physics on other parts of physics). (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In this paper I expand Eric Scerri’s notion of Popper’s naturalised approach to reduction in chemistry and investigate what its consequences might be. I will argue that Popper’s naturalised approach to reduction has a number of interesting consequences when applied to the reduction of chemistry to physics. One of them is that it prompts us to look at a ‘bootstrap’ approach to quantum chemistry, which is based on specific quantum theoretical theorems and practical considerations that turn quantum (...) ‘theory’ into quantum ‘chemistry’ proper. This approach allows us to investigate some of the principles that drive theory formation in quantum chemistry. These ‘enabling theorems’ place certain limits on the explanatory latitude enjoyed by quantum chemists, and form a first step into establishing the relationship between chemistry and physics in more detail. (shrink)
This article provides an overview of the origins and development of green chemistry. Aiming to contribute to the understanding of green chemistry, basically from a historical point of view, this overview argues that contextual influences and the user friendliness of the term are drivers for the explosive growth of green chemistry. It is observed that political support for its development has been significant, in which the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was a formal political starting-point, but informally (...) the origins of green chemistry go back to before 1990. US EPA played an important role in all this, but did not solely contribute to the growth of green chemistry. (shrink)
The traditional ontology within which chemistry has developed involved various versions of a general substance/attribute scheme. Recently this has been challenged by two versions of Dynamism. One version is derived from the writings of A. N. Whitehead and the other from several sources, including G. Leibniz and I. Kant. Both involve the idea of flux of actual occasions. Unlike the former scheme, the latter involves a foundation of causal powers and the energetics of field theory. The situation has been (...) made more interesting because of the revival of trope theory, based on an ontology of particularized attributes. This notion is claimed to resolve philosophical problems about the nature of universals and of substances through the introduction of spatial and temporal sequences of tropes. While trope theory seems, at first sight, to work as an attractive alternative to substance/attribute close inspection shows that it is beset with difficulties that are more problematic that the dynamist ontology based on casual powers, dispositions and affordances. (shrink)
Organic chemists have been able to develop a robust, theoretical understanding of the phenomena they study; however, the primary theoretical devices employed in this field are not mathematical equations or laws, as is the case in most other physical sciences. Instead it is diagrams, and in particular structural formulas and potential energy diagrams, that carry the explanatory weight in the discipline. To understand how this is so, it is necessary to investigate both the nature of the diagrams employed in organic (...)chemistry and how these diagrams are used in the explanations of the discipline. I will begin this paper by characterizing some of the major ways that structural formulas used in organic chemistry. Next I will present a model of the explanations in organic chemistry and describe how both structural formulas and potential energy diagrams contribute to these explanations. This will be followed by several examples that support my abstract account of the role of diagrams in the explanations of organic chemistry. In particular, I will consider both the appeal to ‘hyperconjugation’ in the explanation of alkene stability and how the idea of ‘ring strain’ was developed to explain the relative stability of cyclic compounds. (shrink)
After Heitler and London published their pioneering work on the application of quantum mechanics to chemistry in 1927, it became an almost unquestioned dogma that chemistry would soon disappear as a discipline of its own rights. Reductionism felt victorious in the hope of analytically describing the chemical bond and the structure of molecules. The old quantum theory has already produced a widely applied model for the structure of atoms and the explanation of the periodic system. This paper will (...) show two examples of the entry of quantum physics into more classical fields of chemistry: inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Due to their professional networking, George Hevesy and Michael Polanyi found their ways to Niels Bohr and Fritz London, respectively, to cooperate in solving together some problems of classical chemistry. Their works on rare earth elements and adsorption theory throws light to the application of quantum physics outside the reductionist areas. They support the heuristic and persuasive value of quantum thinking in the 1920–1930s. Looking at Polanyi’s later oeuvre, his experience with adsorption theory could be a starting point of his non-justificationist philosophy. (shrink)
The autonomy of chemistry and the legitimacy of the philosophy of chemistry are usually discussed in the context of the issue of reduction of chemistry to physics, and defended making use of the failure of reductionistic claims. Until quite recent times a rather widespread viewpoint was, however, that the failure of reductionistic claims concerns actually epistemological aspect of reduction only, but the ontological reduction of chemistry to physics cannot be denied. The new problems of the autonomy (...) of chemistry in the context of reductionism seem to be ontological and metaphysical. In the present paper it is argued that there is no need for some kind of metaphysical-ontological underpinning for rejection of the secondary positions of chemistry and philosophy of chemistry with respect to physics and philosophy of physics. The issue can be elucidated in terms of the philosophy of science accepting practical realism (also known by other names). (shrink)
By analysing a contemporary criticism to the so called “mathematical chemistry”, we discuss what we understand by mathematizing chemistry and its implications. We then pass to ponder on some positions on the subject by considering the cases of Laszlo, Venel and Diderot, opponents to the idea of mathematization of chemistry. In contrast, we analyse some scholars’ ideas on the fruitful relationship between mathematics and chemistry; here Dirac and Brown are considered. Finally, we mention that the mathematical– (...) class='Hi'>chemistry relationship should be considered beyond the mere aspect of whether chemistry is or not able to be mathematized. This discussion is based upon opinions by Kant and Comte, the first one having two positions on chemistry based upon mathematics and the latter mooting the idea of doing chemistry with mathematical spirit. (shrink)
This paper first queries what type of concept of emergence, if any, could be connected with the different chemical activities subsumed under the label ‘quantum chemistry’. In line with Roald Hoffmann, we propose a ‘rotation to research laboratory’ in order to point out how practitioners hold a molecular whole, its parts, and the surroundings together within their various methods when exploring chemical transformation. We then identify some requisite contents that a concept of emergence must incorporate in order to be (...) coherent from the standpoint of the scientific practices involved. In this respect, we finally propose a relational form of emergence which pays attention to the constitutive role of the modes of intervention and to the co-definition of the levels of organization. No metaphysical distinction between the higher and basic levels of organization is supposed, but only a plurality of modes of access. Moreover, these modes of access are not construed as mere ways of revealing intrinsic patterns of organization but, on the contrary, are considered to be active elements on which the constitution of those patterns depends. What is at stake in this paper is therefore not an ontological form of emergence but an agnostic one which fits what chemists do in their daily work. (shrink)
The fundamental concept of structured chemical system has been introduced and analysed in this paper. This concept, as in biology but not in physics, is very important in chemistry. In fact, the main chemical concepts (molecule and compound) have been identified as systemic concepts and their use in chemical explanation can only be justified in this approach. The fundamental concept of “environment” has been considered and then the system concept in mechanics, chemistry and biology. The differences and the (...) analogies between the use of the systemic approach in these disciplines have been analyzed and correlated to the general problem of reductionism and complexity perspectives. The inanimate–animate dichotomy can be reconsidered in this new approach. Since the chemical systemic concepts of molecule and compound can be dated to the nineteenth century, chemistry can be considered the first true systemic science and its historical evolution can be a model for other sciences (such as the humanities) where the systemic concepts are important. (shrink)
This study discusses the relationship between Green Chemistry and Environmental Sustainability as expressed in textbooks and articles on Green Chemistry authored by their promoters. It was found that although the Brundtland concept of Sustainable Development/Sustainability has been mentioned often by green chemists, a full analysis of that relationship was almost never attempted. In particular, green chemists have paid scarce attention to the importance of The Second Law of thermodynamics on Environmental Sustainability and the consequences of the limitations it (...) imposes on Green Chemistry, which are discussed in this paper. (shrink)
The many-faced relationship between chemistry and physics is one of the most discussed topics in the philosophy of chemistry. In his recent book Reducing Chemistry to Physics. Limits, Models, Consequences, Hinne Hettema (Reducing chemistry to physics. Limits, models, consequences, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groningen, 2012) conceives this relationship as a reduction link, and devotes his work to defend this position on the basis of a “naturalized” concept of reduction. In the present paper I critically review three kinds of (...) issues stemming from Hettema’s argumentation: philosophical, scientific and methodological. (shrink)
Chemistry and physics are two sciences that are hard to connect. Yet there is significant overlap in their aims, methods, and theoretical approaches. In this book, the reduction of chemistry to physics is defended from the viewpoint of a naturalised Nagelian reduction, which is based on a close reading of Nagel's original text. This naturalised notion of reduction is capable of characterising the inter-theory relationships between theories of chemistry and theories of physics. The reconsideration of reduction also (...) leads to a new characterisation of chemical theories. This book is primarily aimed at philosophers of chemistry and chemists with an interest in philosophy, but is also of interest to the general philosopher of science. (shrink)
By the 1960s many, perhaps most, philosophers had adopted 'physicalism' – the view that physical causes fully account for mental activities. However, controversy persists about what counts as 'physical causes'. 'Reductive' physicalists recognize only microphysical (elementary-particle-level) causality. Many, perhaps most, physicalists are 'non-reductive' – they hold that entities considered by other 'special' sciences have causal powers. Philosophy of chemistry can help resolve main issues in philosophy of mind in three ways: developing an extended mereology applicable to chemical combination; testing (...) whether 'singularities' prevent reduction of chemistry to microphysics; and demonstrating 'downward causation' in complex networks of chemical reactions. (shrink)
Using the Public Value Mapping framework, I address the values successes and failures of chemistry as compared to the emerging field of green chemistry, in which the promoters attempt to incorporate new and expanded values, such as health, safety, and environmental sustainability, to the processes of prioritizing and conducting chemistry research. I document how such values are becoming increasingly public. Moreover, analysis of the relations among the multiple values associated with green chemistry displays a greater internal (...) coherence and logic than for conventional chemistry. Although traditional chemistry research has successfully contributed to both economic and values gains, there have been public values failures due to imperfect values articulations, failure to take a longer-term view, and inertia within a system that places too much emphasis on science values. Green chemistry, if implemented effectively, has potential to remedy these failures. (shrink)
This comprehensive volume marks a new standard in scholarship in the still emerging field of the philosophy of chemistry. With selections drawn from a wide range of scholarly disciplines, philosophers, chemists, and historians of science here converge to ask some of the most fundamental questions about the relationship between philosophy and chemistry. What can chemistry teach us about longstanding disputes in the philosophy of science over such issues as reductionism, autonomy, and supervenience? And what new issues may (...)chemistry bring to the forefront now that it has joined physics and biology as a serious topic for philosophical reflection? This newest addition to the prestigious Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science series marks the true arrival of philosophy of chemistry within the corpus of the philosophy of science. (shrink)
There is now a considerable body of published work on the epistemology of modern chemistry, especially with regard to the nature of quantum chemistry. In addition, the question of the metaphysical underpinnings of chemistry has received a good deal of attention. The present article concentrates on metaphysical considerations including the question of whether elements and groups of elements are natural kinds. It is also argued that an appeal to the metaphysical nature of elements can help clarify the (...) re-emerging controversies among chemists regarding the placement of the elements hydrogen and helium in the periodic system and the question of whether there exists a best form of the periodic table. (shrink)
The philosophical analysis of chemistry has advanced at such a pace during the last dozen years that the existence of philosophy of chemistry as an autonomous discipline cannot be doubted any more. The present paper will attempt to analyse the experience of philosophy of chemistry at the, so to say, meta-level. Philosophers of chemistry have especially stressed that all sciences need not be similar to physics. They have tried to argue for chemistry as its own (...) type of science and for a pluralistic understanding of science in general. However, when stressing the specific character of chemistry, philosophers do not always analyse the question ‘What is science?’ theoretically. It is obvious that a ‘monistic’ understanding of science should not be based simply on physics as the epitome of science, regarding it as a historical accident that physics has obtained this status. The author’s point is that the philosophical and methodological image of science should not be chosen arbitrarily; instead, it should be theoretically elaborated as an idealization (theoretical model) substantiated on the historical practice of science. It is argued that although physics has, in a sense, justifiably obtained the status of a paradigm of science, chemistry, which is not simply a physical science, but a discipline with a dual character, is also relevant for elaborating a theoretical model of science. The theoretical model of science is a good tool for examining various issues in philosophy of chemistry as well as in philosophy of science or science studies generally. (shrink)
Of Minds and Molecules is the first anthology devoted exclusively to work in the philosophy of chemistry. The essays, written by both chemists and philosophers, adopt distinctive philosophical perspectives on chemistry and collectively offer both a conceptualization of and a justification for this emerging field.
Given the rich diversity of research fields usually ascribed to chemistry in a broad sense, the present paper tries to dig our characteristic parts of chemistry that can be conceptually distinguished from interdisciplinary, applied, and specialized subfields of chemistry, and that may be called chemistry in a very narrow sense, or 'the chemical core of chemistry'. Unlike historical, ontological, and 'anti-reductive' approaches, I use a conceptual approach together with some methodological implications that allow to develop (...) step by step a kind of cognitive architecture for chemistry, which basically contains: (1) systematic chemical knowledge on the experimental level; (2) clarification of chemical species; (3) chemical classification systems; (4) theoretical foundation through the chemical theory of structural formulas. In a succeeding paper the results will be checked for resisting physicalistic reduction. (shrink)
The paper shows epistemological, methodological and ontological peculiarities of chemistry taken as a classificatory science of materials using experimental methods. Without succumbing to standard interpretations of physical science, chemical methods of experimental investigation, classification, reference, theorizing, prediction and production of new entities are developed one by one as first steps towards a philosophy of chemistry. Chemistry challenges traditional concepts of empirical object, empirical predicate, reference frame and theory, but also the distinction commonly drawn between natural science and (...) technology. Due to its many peculiarities, I propose to treat chemistry philosophically as a special type of science, apart from other sciences. (shrink)
Discussing the relationship of mathematics to chemistry is closely related to the emergence of physical chemistry and of quantum chemistry. We argue that, perhaps, the most significant issue that the 'mathematization of chemistry' has historically raised is not so much methodological, as it is philosophical: the discussion over the ontological status of theoretical entities which were introduced in the process. A systematic study of such an approach to the mathematization of chemistry may, perhaps, contribute to (...) the realist/antirealist debate. To this end, in this paper we briefly discuss Lewis' introduction of fugacity and activity to his chemical thermodynamics and more fully analyze the issues surrounding the appropriation of resonance by Linus Pauling into quantum chemistry, particularly as these issues arose in organic chemistry as discussed by George W. Wheland. (shrink)
In the past few hundred years, science has exerted an enormous influence on the way the world appears to human observers. Despite phenomenal accomplishments of science, science nowadays faces numerous challenges that threaten its continued success. As scientific inventions become embedded within human societies, the challenges are further multiplied. In this critical review, some of the critical challenges for the field of modern chemistry are discussed, including: (a) interlinking theoretical knowledge and experimental approaches; (b) implementing the principles of sustainability (...) at the roots of the chemical design; (c) defining science from a philosophical perspective that acknowledges both pragmatic and realistic aspects thereof; (d) instigating interdisciplinary research; (e) learning to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic aspects of scientific knowledge and methodology, and promote truly inspiring education in chemistry. In the conclusion, I recapitulate that the evolution of human knowledge inherently depends upon our ability to adopt creative problem-solving attitudes, and that challenges will always be present within the scope of scientific interests. (shrink)
In many Western science systems, funding structures increasingly stimulate academic research to contribute to practical applications, but at the same time the rise of bibliometric performance assessments have strengthened the pressure on academics to conduct excellent basic research that can be published in scholarly literature. We analyze the interplay between these two developments in a set of three case studies of fields of chemistry in the Netherlands. First, we describe how the conditions under which academic chemists work have changed (...) since 1975. Second, we investigate whether practical applications have become a source of credibility for individual researchers. Indeed, this turns out to be the case in catalysis, where connecting with industrial applications helps in many steps of the credibility cycle. Practical applications yield much less credibility in environmental chemistry, where application-oriented research agendas help to acquire funding, but not to publish prestigious papers or to earn peer recognition. In biochemistry practical applications hardly help in gaining credibility, as this field is still strongly oriented at fundamental questions. The differences between the fields can be explained by the presence or absence of powerful upstream end-users, who can afford to invest in academic research with promising long term benefits. (shrink)
This two-part paper is about the possibility of analyzing the content of chemistry from a gender perspective. The first part provides an example of what such an analysis would look like. The second part is an outline of the theoretical perspective that makes the analysis possible. The example is the model of the ideal gas, the cornerstone of the theory of matter in chemical thermodynamics. I argue that this model is built on fundamental philosophical assumptions (Platonic idealism, hierarchy among (...) states of matter, atomism/individualism, and the negligence of interrelationships among parts and of their embodiment) that have been problematized by feminist scholarship. The same patterns are evident in the treatment of ideal and real solutions in chemical thermodynamics. I argue that it is possible to imagine a theory that utilizes different philosophical ideas and which therefore would be more compatible with feminist values. (shrink)
Livings things are so very strange -- The quest for a theory of life -- Understanding 'understanding' -- Stability and instability -- The knotty origin of life problem -- Biology's crisis of identity -- Biology is chemistry -- What is life?
Popper's critical rationalism is widely accepted under scientists and philosophers of science as a proper method for the reconstruction of scientific theories. On occasion of the application of the Popperian ideas for the reconstruction of chemistry by Akeroyd the flaws of the critical rationalist approach are criticised and a methodical alternative is proposed, involving the operational definition of scientific terms.
Part I presents a quantitative-empirical outline of chemistry, esp. preparative chemistry, concerning its dominant role in today's science, its dynamics, and its methods and aims. Emphasis is laid on the poietical character of chemistry for which a methodological model is derived. Part II discusses standard distinction between science and technology, from Aristotle (whose theses are reconsidered in the light of modern sciences) to modern philosophy of technology. Against the background of results of Part I, it is argued (...) that all these distinctions fail, because the underlying concepts of science are either out-dated, one-sided, or arbitrary. A deeper understanding of today's sciences requires, in particular, a philosopical investigation of chemistry. (shrink)
Henry Eyring's absolute rate theory explains the size of chemical reaction rate constants in terms of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and quantum chemistry. In addition it uses a number of unique concepts such as the 'transition state'. A key feature of the theory is that the explanation it provides relies on the comparison of reaction rate constant expressions derived from these individual theories. In this paper, the example is used to develop a naturalized notion of reduction and the unity of (...) science. This characterization provides the necessary clues to the sort of inter-theoretic linkages that are present in the theory of reaction rates. The overall theory is then further characterized as a theory network, establishing connections between non-reductive notions of inter-theory connections. This characterization also sheds new light on the unity of science. (shrink)
Molecular models are typical topics of chemical research depending on the technical standards of observation, computation, and representation. Mathematically, molecular structures have been represented by means of graph theory, topology, differential equations, and numerical procedures. With the increasing capabilities of computer networks, computational models and computer-assisted visualization become an essential part of chemical research. Object-oriented programming languages create a virtual reality of chemical structures opening new avenues of exploration and collaboration in chemistry. From an epistemic point of view, virtual (...) reality is a new computer-assisted tool of human imagination and recognition. (shrink)
Mathematical chemistry is often thought to be a 20th-century subdiscipline of chemistry, but in this paper we discuss several early chemical ideas and some landmarks of chemistry as instances of the mathematical way of thinking; many of them before 1900. By the mathematical way of thinking, we follow Weyl's description of it in terms of functional thinking, i.e. setting up variables, symbolizing them, and seeking for functions relating them. The cases we discuss are Plato's triangles, Geoffroy's affinity (...) table, Lavoisier's classification of substances and their relationships, Mendeleev's periodic table, Cayley's enumeration of alkanes, Sylvester's association of algebra and chemistry, and Wiener's relationship between molecular structure and boiling points. These examples show that mathematical chemistry has much more than a century of history. (shrink)
Historical research on John Dalton has been dominated by an attempt to reconstruct the origins of his so-called "chemical atomic theory". I show that Dalton's theory is difficult to define in any concise manner, and that there has been no consensus as to its unique content among his contemporaries, later chemists, and modern historians. I propose an approach which, instead of attempting to work backward from Dalton's theory, works forward, by identifying the research questions that Dalton posed to himself and (...) attempting to understand how his hypotheses served as answers to these questions. I describe Dalton's scientific work as an evolving set of puzzles about natural phenomena. I show how an early interest in meteorology led Dalton to see the constitution of the atmosphere as a puzzle. In working on this great puzzle, he gradually turned his interest to specifically chemical questions. In the end, the web of puzzles that he worked on required him to create his own novel philosophy of chemistry for which he is known today. (shrink)
This paper examines a facet of the rise of the Hughes-Ingold Theory of Nucleophilic Substitution in Organic Chemistry 1933-1942, arguing that the SN1/SN2 model of reaction mechanism used by Hughes and Ingold is an example of a fuzzy model. Many real world 'Fuzzy Logic' Controlling Devices gave better results compared to classical logic controlling devices in the period 1975-1985. I propose that the adoption of fuzzy principles in the Hughes-Ingold program 1933-1940 led to scientific advance at a time when (...) the rival programs, based on classical principles, had stalled owing to problems associated with the fuzziness of the data. I suggest also that there is an analogy between the success of second generation fuzzy logic controllers 1985-95 and the success of the successor Winstein model from 1956 onwards. (shrink)
We begin by presenting William of Ockham's various formulations of his principle of parsimony, Ockham's Razor. We then define a reaction mechanism and tell a personal story of how Ockham's Razor entered the study of one such mechanism. A small history of methodologies related to Ockham's Razor, least action and least motion, follows. This is all done in the context of the chemical (and scientific) community's almost unthinking acceptance of the principle as heuristically valuable. Which is not matched, to put (...) it mildly, by current philosophical attitudes toward Ockham's Razor. What ensues is a dialogue, pro and con. We first present a context for questioning, within chemistry, the fundamental assumption that underlies Ockham's Razor, namely that the world is simple. Then we argue that in more than one pragmatic way the Razor proves useful, without at all assuming a simple world. Ockham's Razor is an instruction in an operating manual, not a world view. Continuing the argument, we look at the multiplicity and continuity of concerted reaction mechanisms, and at principal component and Bayesian analysis (two ways in which Ockham's Razor is embedded into modern statistics). The dangers to the chemical imagination from a rigid adherence to an Ockham's Razor perspective, and the benefits of the use of this venerable and practical principle are given, we hope, their due. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- Preface -- Acknowledgments -- Introduction, by Michael Weisberg and Jeffrey Kovac. -- 1 Trying to Understand, Making Bonds, by Roald Hoffmann -- Part 1: Chemical Reasoning and Explanation -- 2. Why Buy That Theory?, by Roald Hoffmann. -- 3. What Might Philosophy of Science Look Like If Chemists Built It?, by Roald Hoffmann -- 4. Unstable, by Roald Hoffmann -- 5. Nearly Circular Reasoning, by Roald Hoffmann -- 6. Ockham's Razor and Chemistry, by Roald (...) Hoffmann, Vladimir I. Minkin, and Barry K. Carpenter -- 7. Qualitative Thinking in the Age of Modern Computational Chemistry, or What Lionel Salem Knows, by Roald Hoffmann -- 8. Narrative, by Roald Hoffmann -- 9. Learning from Molecules in Distress, by Roald Hoffmann and Henning Hopf -- 10. Why Think Up New Molecules? by Roald Hoffmann -- 11. Protean, by Roald Hoffmann and Pierre Laszlo -- 12. How Should Chemists Think? by Roald Hoffmann -- Part 2: Writing and Communicating in Chemistry -- 13. Under the Surface of the Chemical Article, by Roald Hoffmann -- 14. Representation in Chemistry, by Roald Hoffmann and Pierre Laszlo -- 15.. The Say of Things, by Roald Hoffmann and Pierre Laszlo -- 16. How Symbolic and Iconic Languages Bridge the Two Worlds of the Chemist: A Case Study from Contemporary Bioorganic Chemistry, by Emily R. Grosholz and Roald Hoffmann -- 17 How Nice to Be an Outsider, by Roald Hoffmann -- 18. The Metaphor, Unchained, by Roald Hoffmann, -- Part 3: Art and Science -- 19. Art in Science? by Roald Hoffmann -- 20. Science and Crafts by Roald Hoffmann -- 21. Molecular Beauty, by Roald Hoffmann -- Part 4 Chemical Education -- 22. Teach to Search by Roald Hoffmann -- 23. Some Heretical Thoughts on What Our Students Are Telling Us, by Roald Hoffmann and Brian P. Coppola -- 24 Very Specific Teaching Strategies, and Why They Work, by Roald Hoffmann and Saundra Y. McGuire -- Part 5 Ethics in Science -- 25. Mind the Shade, by Roald Hoffmann -- 26. Science and Ethics: A Marriage of Necessity and Choice for this Millennium," by Roald Hoffmann -- 27. Honesty to the Singular Object, by Roald Hoffmann -- 28. The Material and Spiritual Rationales Are Inseparable, by Roald Hoffmann -- Index. (shrink)
This treatise presents thoughts on the divide that exists in chemistry between those who seek their understanding within a universe wherein the laws of physics apply and those who prefer alternative universes wherein the laws are suspended or ‘bent’ to suit preconceived ideas. The former approach is embodied in the quantum theory of atoms in molecules (QTAIM), a theory based upon the properties of a system’s observable distribution of charge. Science is experimental observation followed by appeal to theory that, (...) upon occasion, leads to new experiments. This is the path that led to the development of the molecular structure hypothesis—that a molecule is a collection atoms with characteristic properties linked by a network of bonds that impart a structure—a concept forged in the crucible of nineteenth century experimental chemistry. One hundred and fifty years of experimental chemistry underlie the realization that the properties of some total system are the sum of its atomic contributions. The concept of a functional group, consisting of a single atom or a linked set of atoms, with characteristic additive properties forms the cornerstone of chemical thinking of both molecules and crystals and Dalton’s atomic hypothesis has emerged as the operational theory of chemistry. We recognize the presence of a functional group in a given system and predict its effect upon the static, reactive and spectroscopic properties of the system in terms of the characteristic properties assigned to that group. QTAM gives physical substance to the concept of a functional group. (shrink)
The main aim of the paper is to reinforce the notion that emergence is a basic characteristic of the molecular sciences in general and chemistry in particular. Although this point is well accepted, even in the primary reference on emergence, the keyword emergence is rarely utilized by chemists and molecular biologists and chemistry textbooks for undergraduates. The possible reasons for this situation are discussed. The paper first re-introduces the concept of emergence based on very simple geometrical forms; and (...) considers some simple chemical examples among low and high molecular weight compounds. On the basis of these chemical examples, a few interesting philosophical issues inherent to the field of emergence are discussed – again making the point that such examples, given their clarity and simplicity, permit one to better understand the complex philosophical issues. Thus, the question of predictability is discussed, namely whether and to what extent can emergent properties be predicted on the basis of the component’s properties; or the question of the explicability (a top down process). The relation between reductionism and emergentism is also discussed as well as the notion of downward causality and double causality (macrodeterminism); namely the question whether and to what extent the emergent properties of the higher hierarchic level affect the properties of the lower level components. Finally, the question is analyzed, whether life can be considered as an emergent property. More generally, the final point is made, that the re-introduction of the notion of emergence in chemistry, and in particular in the teaching, may bring about a deeper understanding of the meaning of chemical complexity and may bring chemistry closer to the humanistic areas of philosophy and epistemology. (shrink)
The problem of the peculiarcharacter of chemical laws and theories is a central topic in philosophy of chemistry. Oneof the most characteristic and, at the sametime, most puzzling examples in discussions onchemical laws and theories is Mendeleev''speriodic law. This law seems to be essentiallydifferent in its nature from the exact laws ofclassical physics, the latter being usuallyregarded as a paradigm of science byphilosophers. In this paper the main argumentsconcerning the peculiar character of chemicallaws and theories are examined. The laws (...) ofchemistry are natural laws to the same extentas are the laws of physics. The law discoveredby Mendeleev is a normal law of nature. It isnot a law of physics, nevertheless, it is exactin the same philosophical sense as are the lawsof physics. The periodic system of chemicalelements was established by constructing anidealized system of idealized elements. Thefundamental idealization substantiated byexperimental chemistry was the chemicalelement as a place in the periodicsystem. (shrink)
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marks a period of transition between the vitalistic ontology that had dominated Renaissance natural philosophy and the Early Modern mechanistic paradigm endorsed by, among others, the Cartesians and Newtonians. This paper will focus on how the tensions between vitalism and mechanism played themselves out in the context of sixteenth and seventeenth century chemistry and chemical philosophy, particularly in the works of Paracelsus, Jan Baptista Van Helmont, Robert Fludd, and Robert Boyle. Rather than argue that (...) these natural philosophers each embraced either fully vitalistic or fully mechanistic ontologies, I hope to demonstrate that these thinkers adhered to complicated and nuanced ontologies that cannot be described in either purely vitalistic or purely mechanistic terms. A central feature of my argument is the claim that a corpuscularian theory of matter does not entail a strictly mechanistic and reductionistic account of chemical properties. I also argue that what marks the shift from pre-modern vitalistic chemical philosophy to the modern chemical philosophy that marked the Chemical Revolution is not the victory of mechanism and reductionism in chemistry but, rather, the shift to a physicalistic and naturalistic account of chemical properties and vital spirits. (shrink)
In 1931 eminent chemist Fritz Paneth maintained that the modern notion of “element” is closely related to (and as “metaphysical” as) the concept of element used by the ancients (e.g., Aristotle). On that basis, the element chlorine (properly so-called) is not the elementary substance dichlorine, but rather chlorine as it is in carbon tetrachloride. The fact that pure chemicals are called “substances” in English (and closely related words are so used in other European languages) derives from philosophical compromises made by (...) grammarians in the late Roman Empire (particularly Priscian [fl. ~520 CE]). When the main features of the constitution of isotopes became clear in the first half of the twentieth century, the formal (IUPAC) definition of a “chemical element” was changed. The features that are “essential” to being an element had previously been “transcendental” (“beyond the sphere of consciousness”) but, by the mid-twentieth century the defining characteristics of elements, as such, had come to be understood in detail. This amounts to a shift in a “horizon of invisibility” brought about by progress in chemistry and related sciences. Similarly, chemical insight is relevant to currently-open philosophical problems, such as the status of “the bundle theory” of the coherence of properties in concrete individuals. (shrink)
The foundations of modern organic chemistry were laid by the seminal work of Hughes and Ingold. The rise from being an interesting alternative hypothesis in 1933 to being the leading theory (outside the USA) in 1942 was achieved by a multiplicity of methods. This include:the construction of a new scientific notation, the rationalisation of some seemingly contradictory reported data, the refutation of the experimental work of one of their persistent critics, the use of conceptual arguments and also the achievement (...) of a score of successful predictions which exceeded the score of unsuccessful predictions. Within the USA it was felt that the Hughes/Ingold system, whilst representing a considerable advance, had achieved spectacular success in spite ofits attractively simple basic assumptions, and represented merely an interim stage on the way towards a more comprehensive theory. However,the flexible, simple notation was adopted without modification, leading to a change in the way practitioners of synthetic organic chemistry were, and still are, trained to think. In a conclusion the author claims that this historical episode does not lend any support to the philosophical position of Thomas Kuhn. (shrink)
A review of the chemical education research literature suggests that the term constructivism is used in two ways: experience-based constructivism and discipline-based constructivism. These two perspectives are examined as an epistemology in relation to the teaching and learning of the concept of idealization in chemistry. It is claimed that experience-based constructivism is powerless to inform the origin of such concepts in chemistry and while discipline-based constructivism can admit such theoretical concepts as idealization it does not offer any unique (...) perspectives that cannot be obtained from other models. Chemical education researchers do not consistently appeal to constructivism as an epistemology or as a teaching/learning perspective and it is shown that, while it draws attention to worthwhile teaching/learning strategies, it cannot be considered as foundational to chemical education research and tends to be used more as an educational label than as an undergirding theory. (shrink)
If chemistry is to be taught successfully, teachers must have a good subject matter knowledge (SK) of the ideas with which they are dealing, the nature of this falling within the orbit of philosophy of chemistry. They must also have a good pedagogic content knowledge (PCK), the ability to communicate SK to students, the nature of this falling within the philosophy and psychology of chemical education. Taking the case of models and modelling, important themes in the philosophy of (...)chemistry, an interview-based study was conducted into the SK and PCK of a sample of teachers in Brazil. This paper focuses on the results of the university chemistry teacher sub-sample in that enquiry, analyses their SK and PCK, and speculates on the implications of this for the education of school teachers. Finally, it suggests approaches to the professional development of university chemistry teachers that place an emphasis on the philosophy of chemistry. (shrink)
After a long period of neglect, the philosophy of chemistry is slowly being recognized as a newly emerging branch of the philosophy of science. This paper endorses and defends this emergence given the difficulty of reducing all of the philosophical problems raised by chemistry to those already being considered within the philosophy of physics, and recognition that many of the phenomena in chemistry are epistemologically emergent.
The drive towards clean technology in the chemical industry with an increasing emphasis on the reduction of waste at source requires a level of innovation and new technology that the chemical industry is beginning to adopt. The greenchemistry revolution provides an enormous number of opportunities to discover and apply new synthetic approaches using alternative feedstocks; ecofriendly reaction conditions, energy minimizations and the design of less toxic and inherently safer chemicals. In this review exciting opportunities and some successful (...) examples of greenchemistry in practice are described. While developments in the 20th century have brought various social and economic benefits to the people but these changes have also caused a range of environmental problems at both local and global levels. Over recent years, sustainable development has been accepted by government, industry and the public as a necessary goal for achieving social, economic and environmental objectives (Uark, 1999). Within this, greenchemistry (www.chemsoc.org/gen) plays a key role in maintaining and improving quality of our life and preserving natural environments. The term ‘GreenChemistry’ was first coined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1990s and major interest in greenchemistry in the US began in earnest with the passage of the ‘Pollution Prevention Act’ of 1990. Thus GreenChemistry becoming a formal focus of the EPA in 1991. (shrink)
In this paper we present a semantic analysis of the application of didactic constructivism to chemical education. We show that the psychological basis of constructivism yield, when applied to chemistry, an internalist semantics for the chemical names. Since these names have been presented as typical examples of an externalism for kind terms, a fundamental incompatibility ensues. We study this situation, to conclude that it affects chemical education at every level. Finally, we present a preliminary analysis of this problem from (...) the point of view of physics. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant has built up a dualistic epistemology that seems to fit to the peculiarities of chemistry quite well. Friedrich Paneth used Kant’s concept and characterised simple and basic substances which refer to the empirical and to the transcendental world, respectively. This paper takes account of the Kantian influences in Paneth’s philosophy of chemistry, and discusses pertinent topics, like observables, atomism and realism.
A personal account is presented for the present status of mathematical chemistry, with emphasis on non-numerical applications. These use mainly graph-theoretical concepts. Most computational chemical applications involve quantum chemistry and are therefore largely reducible to physics, while discrete mathematical applications often do not. A survey is provided for opinions and definitions of mathematical chemistry, and then for journals, books and book series, as well as symposia of mathematical chemistry.
This paper analyses Richard Bader’s ‘operational’ view of quantum mechanics and the role it plays in the the explanation of chemistry. I argue that QTAIM can partially be reconstructed as an ‘austere’ form of quantum mechanics, which is in turn committed to an eliminative concept of reduction that stems from Kemeny and Oppenheim. As a reductive theory in this sense, the theory fails. I conclude that QTAIM has both a regulatory and constructive function in the theories of chemistry.