It is like an irony of the history of science that philosophy of chemistry emerged at a time when disciplinary research became increasingly replaced with transdisciplinary problem-orientated research. From bio-medical research via materials science to nanotechnology, chemists and chemical approaches are strongly involved in these areas. If the boundaries of the philosophies of science were to be defined by the boundaries of classical disciplines, we would not only get into demarcation troubles but also miss some of the most fascinating recent (...) research fields. One such field is the study of the dynamics of the stratosphere, which in the 1970s, by the calculations of two chemists, turned from marginality to the greatest importance to securing future conditions of life. (shrink)
Among the sciences, chemistry plays an eminent role in that it has its own traditional industry. The chemical industry is not only the main employer for graduated chemists. Since the public is more aware of industrial chemistry than of academic chemistry, the industry also represents the public image of the whole profession - and that is terribly bad due to environmental concerns.
Nowadays it is well known among historians of science that Francis Bacon, one of the modern defender of the experimental method, owed much of his thoughts to the chemical or alchemical tradition (cf. e.g., Gregory 1938, West 1961, Linden 1974, and Rees 1977). In fact, alchemy, particularly in the Arabic tradition, was always based on laboratory investigations by carefully examining the results of controlled manipulation of materials.1 It is also well known that Francis Bacon’s appeal to the experimental method was (...) severe criticism of scholasticism in philosophy of nature and, in particular, of authority as the basis of knowledge.2 If we compare philosophy of nature in the early 17th century with phi-. (shrink)
Referring to the Whig Party, the former political opponents of the Tories in Great Britain, British historian Herbert Butterfield once coined the term ‘Whiggish’ historiography for any account that looks at the past from the perspective of the present, as if the goal of the past were the achievement of the present. Thus, a ‘Whiggish’ history of science carefully ignores everything of the past that does not suit the idea of a steady growth of science towards the current state. Strangely (...) enough, that approach has been prominent in philosophy too, from Hegel to recent philosophy science, so that we could equally speak of ‘Hegelian historiography’. (shrink)
Along with the rapid worldwide advance of nanotechnology, debates on associated ethical issues have spread from local to international levels. However, unlike science and engineer- ing issues, international perceptions of ethical issues are very diverse. This paper provides an analysis of how sociocultural factors such as language, cultural heritage, economics and politics can affect how people perceive ethical issues of nanotechnology. By attempting to clarify the significance of sociocultural issues in ethical considerations my aim is to support the ongoing international (...) dialogue on nanotechnology. At the same time I pose the general question of ethical relativism in engineering ethics, that is to say whether or not different ethical views are irreconcilable on a fundamental level. (shrink)
This chapter combines rhetorical with conceptual analysis to argue that the concept of convergence of technologies is a teleological concept that does not describe or predict any recent past, present, or future development. Instead it always expresses or attributes political goals of how future technology should be developed. The concept was already fully developed as a flexible rhetorical tool by US science administrators to create nanotechnology (as nano-convergence), before it was broadened to invent the convergence of nano-, bio-, info-, and (...) cogno-research (NBIC-convergence). Analyzing the use of “convergence” in various US reports, such as in convergence did, does, can, will likely, will necessarily, should, and ought to happen, sheds new light on how science policy avoids public debates about goals and values in deliberating the future, which poses new challenges to STS. (shrink)
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 Â– materials, molecules, and molecular models Â– 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, EcoÂ’s approach helps us understand that and how aesthetic experience can be a driving force in chemical research. (shrink)
Ostwald (born September 2, 1853, Riga, Latvia, Russia; died April 4, 1932, at his private estate near Leipzig, Germany) almost single-handedly established physical chemistry as an acknowledged academic discipline. In 1909, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria, and reaction velocities. Ostwald was graduated in chemistry at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) and appointed professor of chemistry in Riga in 1881, before he moved from Russia to Germany on the chair (...) in physical chemistry at the University of Leipzig in 1887. For about twenty years he made Leipzig an international center of physical chemistry: by establishing an instruction and research laboratory that attracted virtually the whole next generation of physical chemists; by editing the first journal of the field (Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie); and by writing numerous textbooks. In 1906, he retired from university and devoted the rest of his life to various topics, including the history and philosophy of science, color theory, painting, the writing of textbooks and popular books about science, the international organization of science, and the formation of an artificial language for the international exchange of ideas. Since his master degree thesis in 1876, Ostwald followed the general approach of applying physical measurement and mathematical reasoning to chemical issues. One of his major research topics was the chemical affinity of acids and bases. To that end, he studied the point of equilibrium in reactions systems where two acids in aqueous solution compete with each other for reaction with one base and vice versa. Because chemical analysis would have changed the equilibria, he skillfully adapted the measurement of physical properties to that problem, such as volume, refractive index, and electrical conductivity. From his extensive data he derived for each acid and base a characteristic affinity coefficient independent of the particular acid-base reactions. To understand the different chemical affinities, Ostwald drew on a new, but then hardly accepted and not yet fully developed, theory advanced by Svante Arrhenius. According to this theory of electrolytic dissociation, electrolytes like acids, bases, and salts dissociate in solution into oppositely charged ions to a certain degree, such that at infinite solution dissociation is complete.. (shrink)
There is the popular notion according to which the world is built up in a hierarchical order, such that combining entities from the lower level results in entities of the next higher level, and so on. It seems beyond doubt in this view that the entities at the lowest level are some subatomic particles, to be followed at the next levels by atoms, molecules, biological organs and organisms including humans, and eventually societies. Accordingly, a scientific discipline is assigned to each (...) level, resulting in a disciplinary hierarchy that starts with physics and goes via chemistry, biology, and psychology to sociology. This popular notion has its merits as it assures us that both the world and our scientific knowledge are perfectly ordered in a harmonious but hierarchical manner. It provides philosophical food to discuss the interfaces between the ontological levels or disciplines in terms of reduction, emergence, supervenience, and so on. And it appeals to some philosophers who are interested in science but unable to read the about two million scientific publications per year, because it allows them to focus on the handful of publications in what is supposed to be the fundamental level of Everything. The hierarchical picture became popular in the 19th century just when most of our scientific disciplines emerged in a process of horizontal diversification, when each discipline carved out and established its own specific subject matter, methodology, theories, and problems and rejected just the idea of the hierarchical dependencies between the disciplines (Stichweh 1984). Despite its anachronism at the time of its popularization, the hierarchical picture was appealing to all those who felt lost in the exploding fields of science and who were yearning for the good old days in which a simple metaphysical scheme could provide order to the entire world. It is more than likely that the hierarchical picture is appealing still nowadays for the same reasons. It would not be worthwhile to discuss the anachronistic hierarchical picture, if it had not such a great appeal to many philosophers.1 In this paper I discuss only one particular problem of the hierarchical picture, the lack of matter or stuffs2 in the ontological hierarchy, which actually consists in a series of structures or forms.. (shrink)
The birth of a new discipline, called 'physical chemistry', is sometimes related to the names OSTWALD, ARRHENIUS and VAN'T HOFF and dated back to the year 1887, when OSTWALD founded the Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie . But as many historians have pointed out, the phrase 'physical chemistry' was widely used before that and the topics under investigation partially go back to Robert BOYLE's attempts to connect chemistry with concepts of mechanical philosophy. The idea of a sudden birth of physical (...) chemistry in 1887 seems to be a founder myth. But there is no doubt that in the late nineteenth-century there was a rapid growth of research in fields now understood as physical chemistry: chemical thermodynamics, electrochemistry, photochemistry, spectroscopy, chemical kinetics etc. (shrink)
The artificial creation of life arises both strong fascination by scientists and strong concerns, if not abhorrence, by critics of science. What appears to be the crowning achievement of synthetic biology is at the same time considered a major evil. That conflict, which perhaps epitomizes many of the cultural conflicts about science in Western societies, calls for a deeper analysis. Standard ethical analyses, which would try to relate such conflicts to a difference in fundamental values, are difficult to apply here, (...) because it is unclear what the underlying values of such emotions as fascination and abhorrence are. These emotions or affects, rather than just referring to what is morally right or wrong, seem to be rooted in our cultural heritage of desires and taboos of transgression. My analysis in this paper is primarily of historical nature. By investigating ideas about the creation of life from the earliest times to the present, I aim to clarify the cultural origins of those emotions. I argue that both the fascination and the abhorrence regarding the creation of life have a common religious basis. Moreover, unlike many commentators of 19th-century mad-scientist classics, from Mary Shelley to H.G. Wells, I argue that this basis has no ancient model in religious or mythological traditions but emerged only in the 19th century from an exchange between science and religion. As long as these emotions dominate public debates, ethical deliberations about synthetic biology are likely to be neglected. (shrink)
Based on bibliometric methods, this paper describes the global institutionalization of nanotechnology research from the mid-1980s to 2006. Owing to an extremely strong dynamics, the institutionalization of nanotechnology is likely to surpass those of major disciplines in only a few years. A breakdown of the relative institutionalizations strengths by the main geographical regions, countries, research sectors, disciplines, and institutional types provides a very diverse picture over the time period because of different national science policies. The results allow a critical assessment (...) of the different science policies based on the relative institutionalizations strengths as well as the conclusion that the institutionalization process has run out of control of individual governments who once induced the development. (shrink)
It would seem that philosophy of chemistry emerged only recently. Since the early 1990s philosophers and chemists began to meet in many different countries to discuss philosophical issues of chemistry – at first in isolated national groups but soon cultivating international exchange through regular meetings and the publications of two journals (Hyle and Foundations of Chemistry) devoted to the philosophy of chemistry. While the social formation is indeed a recent phenomenon that is still in progress, the philosophical topics have a (...) much longer history that in some cases predates chemistry. One could even argue that ancient Greek natural philosophy started with profoundly chemical questions about the elemental constitution of the world and about how to provide reason to the sheer unlimited material variety and its wondrous changes in which, for instance, water becomes solid or gaseous; wood turns into fire, smoke, and ashes; stones change into metals; food transforms into the human body; or certain materials convert a sick body into a healthy body. In fact there is an almost continuous philosophical tradition focused on such questions. Because Aristotle’s natural philosophy, which was centered on his theory of elements, was influential far into the 18th century, it provided the basis for much of chemical philosophy. (shrink)
Of all the scientific disciplines chemistry seems to be particularly concerned about its public image. Indeed, popular associations with chemistry range from poisons, hazards, chemical warfare, and environmental pollution to alchemical pseudo-science, sorcery, and mad scientists. Despite repeated campaigns for convincing the public that chemistry would bring health, comfort, and welfare, chemists frequently meet with hostility in popular culture. As student enrollment numbers has been shrinking, chemistry departments have been closed in several countries. Also in humanist culture chemistry has a (...) very low profile; philosophers in particular keep to their traditional neglect of anything related to chemistry. Of course, chemists have always been complaining about their low prestige, the lack of public acknowledgment of their achievements, and the misguiding popular associations with chemistry, such that we now have a long record of complaints of almost two centuries. More recently, in response to their public image, chemists have tried to launch slogans such as ‘green chemistry’ or even dropped the term ‘chemistry’ altogether and adopted more fashionable labels such as ‘materials science’, ‘molecular science’, or ‘nanotechnology’. Surprisingly or not, chemists have never translated their complaints into serious research programs to understand the public image of chemistry in its cultural and historical contexts. To be sure, chemical societies and, particularly, the chemical industry have commissioned many reports for promotional or marketing purposes. Yet, such reports usually scratch only on the surface and may well have recommended one or the other camouflage tactics. Even the recent boost of academic research in Public Understanding of Science (PUS) has virtually excluded chemistry and, instead, focused on topics such as ‘Frankenfood’ and genetic engineering. The failure to deal with chemistry in PUS studies is more serious than the traditional neglect in the humanities, because stereotypes of chemistry have dominated the popular image of science in general.. (shrink)
There is a particular irony that chemistry – the most visual, tactile, and pungent of sciences – is rarely associated with modern notions of aesthetics and science. Indeed, as any examination of aesthetics and modern science reveals, physics, rather than chemistry or biology, is considered the paradigm because of its extraordinary ability to comprehend and communicate through the symbolic language of mathematics. Echoing Heisenberg’s 1970 essay, "The Meaning of Beauty in the Exact Sciences", this perspective on physics takes the inherent (...) abstraction of quantum mechanics and relativity as the result of the physicists’ search for beauty in nature. (shrink)
Due to the rapid development and ubiquitous impact of modern technology, many people feel that nature is in danger of becoming extinct. From the 13th century until today, philosophers and theologians have been seeking advice from Aristotle to define both nature and technology in a way that the former restricts the latter. In this paper, I reconsider three corresponding theses usually attributed to Aristotle. 1) Technology imitates nature, such that there is no place for authentic human creativity. 2) Technology in (...) supplementing and completing nature fulfils but the inherent aims of nature. 3) There is an ontological hiatus between natural things and artifacts such that technology cannot reproduce or change natural things. I argue that 3) is inconsistent with 1) and 2) and that Aristotle’s writings support none of the three theses in general. Instead, his proper concept of technology places little restrictions on technological innovation. While the putative ontological hiatus has been most influential in the history of chemistry/alchemy, Aristotle himself rather holds a relative distinction that he levels out just in the realm of chemistry. Moreover, the case of genetic engineering shows that current problems are beyond the scope of Aristotelian theory. Rather than presenting solutions, I argue that claiming Aristotle’s authority to support criticism of modern technology does justice neither to Aristotle nor to the complexity of today’s problems. (shrink)
Die folgende Bibliographie wurde erstellt auf Anregungen mehrerer Autoren aus der ehemaligen DDR auf der vom APC organisierten Diskussionsrunde „Perspektiven der Philosophie der Chemie“ im November 1995 in der Humboldt-Universität Berlin (s. Mitteilungsblatt 1 (1995)). Im Sinne einer „unzensierten“ Bestandsaufnahme soll sie einen Überblick über chemiephilosophische Aktivitäten der DDR für sowohl systematische Anknüpfungen als auch philosophiehistorische Forschungen bieten. Unter den ebenfalls zahlreich vorliegenden chemiehistorischen Arbeiten sind nur ausgewählte begriffs-, theorien- und disziplinenhistorische sowie philosophiehistorisch relevante Texte berücksichtigt. Ebenfalls aufgenommen sind einige (...) chemiedidaktische Texte mit weltanschaulich-philosophischen oder erkenntnistheoretischen Inhalten. Das thematische Spektrum ist zwar weitgehend auf theoretisch-philosophische Fragen beschränkt, aber hierin durchaus weit gefächert. Hinsichtlich der wissenschaftlichen Originalität und Qualität sind ganz beträchtliche Differenzen festzustellen. Es bleibt dem Leser überlassen, zwischen den zahlreichen Kurzbemerkungen und Paraphrasierungen „offizieller“ Grundsätze des dialektischen Materialismus diejenigen Forschungsarbeiten zu selektieren, die eigenständig reflektierend chemiephilosophisches Neuland beschreiten und eine Grundlage für weitere Forschungen darstellen sollten. Die Bibliographie wurde z.T. aus Angaben der Autoren, überwiegend jedoch durch eigene Recherchen in Bibliographien, den Inhaltverzeichnissen diverser Zeitschriften sowie den Katalogbeständen der Deutschen Bibliothek Leipzig erstellt. Die Angaben sind zum größten Teil kontrolliert und vervollständigt. Mein Dank gilt Prof. Dr. Hubert Laitko (Berlin), Prof. Dr. Gustav Kertscher (Mühlhausen), Dr. Alfred Neubauer (Berlin), Dr. Reinhardt Pester (Berlin), Dr. habil. Horst Remane (Halle), Dr. Wolf-Dietrich Sprung (Rostock) für die Bereitstellung von Veröffentlichungsverzeichnissen sowie insbesondere Prof.. (shrink)
Aristoteles hat in seiner berühmten Abhandlung über die Lust eine Einteilung der Philosophenmeinungen bezüglich der Lust vorgenommen.2 Die einen, sagt er, halten die Lust für das höchste Gut; die anderen meinen, daß die Lust ganz und gar schlecht sei. Unter den Lustgegnern nennt Aristoteles wiederum zwei Gruppen. Die einen lehnen die Lust aus Überzeugung ab, die anderen nur aus pädagogischen Gründen. Manchen liegt das Thema so am Herzen, daß sie, wie Aristoteles bemerkt, aus pädagogischen Gründen wider bessere Einsicht argumentieren.
Wer sich heute kunsttheoretisch mit der Farbfeldmalerei beschäftigt, wird kaum umhin kommen, sich mit dem Verhältnis zwischen Kunsttheorie und Kunstpraxis ganz allgemein auseinanderzusetzen. Denn mit der theoretischen Thematisierung der Farbfeldmalerei etabliert sich erst eine uns heute vertraute Form der Kunsttheorie als Kunstkritik in einem ganz spezifischen sozio-historischen Kontext.
Among the sciences, chemistry plays an eminent role in that it has its own traditional industry. The chemical industry is not only the main employer for graduated chemists. Since the public is more aware of industrial chemistry than of academic chemistry, the industry also represents the public image of the whole profession - and that is terribly bad due to environmental concerns.
Chemistry is by far the most productive science concerning the number of publications. A closer look at chemical papers reveals that most papers deal with new substances. The rapid growth of chemical knowledge seriously challenges all institutions and individuals concerned with chemistry. Chemistry documentation following the principle of completeness is required to schematize chemical information, which in turn induces a schematization of chemical research. Chemistry education is forced to seek reasonable principles of selectivity, although nobody can have an overview any (...) more. Philosophical evaluation of the growth of chemical knowledge proves that at the same time chemical ‘nonknowledge’ increases more rapidly. An analysis of reasons, why chemists are making new substances at all, shows that the proliferation of new substances is for the most part an end in itself. The present paper finally argues for the need of a rational discourse among chemists on the aims of chemistry. (shrink)
Zu Beginn eines wissenschaftlichen Projekts – manchmal schon bei dessen Beantragung – sind Wissenschaftler mit der Frage konfrontiert, wie sie sich öffentlich sichtbar präsentieren. Ein griffiger Name (am besten ein eingängiges Akronym) und ein Logo müssen her, um Website, Visitenkarte, Briefkopf, Plakate und Poster zu zieren. Wer Peinlichkeiten vermeiden will, beauftragt gleich einen Werbedesigner für die visuelle Präsentation. Doch woher weiß der Designer, wie Wissenschaft visuell dargestellt wird? Weiß der Wissenschaftler das nicht viel besser? Der Wissenschaftler kennt all die Dinge (...) im Detail, die typisch für seine spezielle Forschung und Disziplin sind. Der Designer weiß hingegen Bescheid, was im Allgemeinen als typisch für Wissenschaft oder für die jeweilige Disziplin gehalten wird. Im besten Fall setzen sich beide zusammen und finden einen Mittelweg – einerseits zwischen allgemeinem und speziellem Wissenschaftsbild und andererseits zwischen dem, was in der Wissenschaft als typisch gilt, und dem, was öffentlich für wissenschaftstypisch gehalten wird. Der kompromissbereite Wissenschaftler wird vielleicht mit leichtem Unbehagen auch solchen Bildern zustimmen, die er als Platitüden oder überzogene Klischees empfindet, solange sie seinem Projekt öffentliche Aufmerksamkeit einbringen. So wird das öffentliche Bild der Wissenschaft nicht nur in jedem Einzelfall, sondern auch ganz allgemein zwischen unterschiedlichen Interessen und visuellen Kulturen ausgehandelt. Seit piktographische Designerprodukte in großen Datenbanken online verfügbar und nach Stichworten durchsuchbar sind (zum Beispiel in clipart.com), lässt sich das öffentliche Bild der Wissenschaft recht gut qualitativ und quantitativ untersuchen.1 Dabei fällt zunächst auf, dass die meisten klassischen Wissenschaftsdisziplinen stereotypische Piktogramme besitzen, die für typisch gehaltene Gegenstände darstellen. Ein Zirkel und mathematische Formeln sind eindeutige Symbole der Geometrie beziehungsweise der Algebra, ein Fernrohr repräsentiert die Astronomie, Knochen oder Schädel sind unverkennbare Indikatoren der Anatomie, die Biologie wird meist durch ein Mikroskop darstellt und so weiter.. (shrink)
Eine philosophische Auseinandersetzung mit der Chemie ist so neu,1 daß die meisten Philosophen gegenwärtig Schwierigkeiten haben dürften, überhaupt eine thematische Verbindung zwischen beiden Fächern herstellen zu können, was auf ähnliche Weise übrigens auch auf Chemiker zutrifft. Daß dies nicht immer so war, wird sofort einsichtig, wenn man bedenkt, daß die chemische Frage nach der substantiellen Verschiedenartigkeit von Stoffen und ihren gegenseitigen Umwandlungsmöglichkeiten bereits zu den Grundfragen aller antiken Naturphilosophen gehörte. Es dürfte insbesondere dem theoretischen Ungenügen des Konzepts stofflicher Qualitäten nach (...) über 2000 Jahren zuzuschreiben sein, daß sich die neuzeitliche mechanische (Natur-)Philosophie gegen Ende des 17. Jahrhundert in nahezu konkurrenzloser Weise durchzusetzen vermochte, so daß jeder, der sich aufs moderne Philosophieren verstehen wollte, der Doktrin der primären (mechanischen) Qualitäten einschließlich der Reduktion jeder Veränderung auf Ortsveränderung anhängen mußte.2 Dieser Ansatz versprach auf einer theoretischen Ebene, mit einem Schlage alle Möglichkeiten stofflich substantieller Verschiedenheit und Veränderung in einen überschaubaren quantitativen Rahmen einzufangen. Diese Abwendung der Philosophie von den ursprünglichen chemischen Fragen beinhaltet drei für den vorliegenden Zusammenhang wichtige Kategorienverschiebungen. (1) Die Kategorie der substantiellen Verschiedenheit verliert ihre Bedeutung in bezug auf Stoffe.. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Alle Menschen streben nach Glück. Es dürfte schwierig sein, einen Philosophen zu benennen, der diesen Satz jemals ernsthaft bestritten hat. Auf der Basis eines solchen, fast einzigartigen und mehr als zweitausend Jahre haltenden philosophischen Konsenses, so möchte man meinen, konnte eine konstruktive Philosophie des Glücks gedeihen, die sich in der Ausgestaltung der Begriffe des Glücks und des Strebens differenzierte; eine Philosophie, die Antworten gibt auf die Fragen, ob bzw. auf welche Weise wir das jeweils erstrebte Glück erreichen können, und die (...) sich kritisch analysierend zu den wohlfeilen Glücksangeboten verhält, welche uns Werbeagenturen, (Ersatz-) Religionen und selbsternannte Seelenheiler aufdrängen; eine Philosophie, die uns beratend zur Seite stehen kann, wenn wir unsere Bedürfnisse, Lebenshaltungen, -erwartungen und -kontexte aufeinander abstimmen wollen. (shrink)
This paper traces the historical roots of the “mad scientist,” a concept that has powerfully shaped the public image of science up to today, by investigating the representations of chemists in nineteenth-century Western literature. I argue that the creation of this literary figure was the strongest of four critical literary responses to the emergence of modern science in general and of chemistry in particular. The role of chemistry in this story is crucial because early nineteenth-century chemistry both exemplified modern experimental (...) laboratory research and induced, due to its rapid growth, a ramification and fragmentation of knowledge that undermined former ideals of the unity of knowledge under the umbrella of metaphysics and religion. Because most writers considered contemporary chemistry an offspring of “wrong alchemy,” all four responses drew on the medieval literary figure of the “mad alchemist” to portray chemists. Whereas early writers considered the quest for scientific knowledge to be altogether in vain, later writers pointed out the narrow-minded goals and views specifically of chemistry. A third response moved that criticism to a metaphysical and religious level, by relating chemistry to materialism, nihilism, atheism and hubris. The fourth response, the “mad scientist,” elaborated on the hubris theme by attaching moral perversion to the “mad alchemist.”. (shrink)
Great expectations and promises rest on interdisciplinarity in nanoscale research. Yet, although many science and engineering disciplines actually began to engage in this field, it is only poorly understood what interdisciplinarity actually is and what factors hinder and promote it. Part I provides an introduction to interdisciplinarity, its cognitive and social elements, and its related concepts, such as multi- and transdisciplinary or super-interdisciplinary. Part II first presents empirical findings about the actual weakness of interdisciplinarity in current nanoscale research and then (...) discusses two of the main conceptual reasons for this. I argue that definitions of nanoscale research are too vague to provide interdisciplinary integration and that current nanotechnological visions include discipline-rooted and metaphysically opposed technological paradigms, such as ‘self-assembly’ vs. ‘atom-by-atommanipulation’, that pose strong barriers to interdisciplinary research. (shrink)
If you expect a nobel prize winner being a crank who can think of nothing but his subject, then read Roald Hoffmann's The Same and Not the Same and test your hypothesis. This book is about chemistry, to be sure - but in the broadest scope including sociology, psychology, ethics and philosophy of chemistry.
Summary: Complementary to normative ethics of technology, the paper analyses the normative implications of human relations to nature on technology assessment by three different descriptive approaches. Historically, I determine the roots of normative relations to nature in alchemy. Historiographic-critically, I investigate how normative ideas of progress result from putting these relations to nature in a historical line. From the point of view of methodology of technology, I finally take the example of current drug research to show how different relations to (...) nature have become part of different research traditions and methods and thus guide research. (shrink)
Nanotechnology has from its very beginning been surrounded with an aura of novelty. For instance, on the 28 introductory pages of the report that prepared the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), Nanotechnology Research Directions (NSTC/IWGN 1999), we read 73 times the term “new”, 15 times “novel”, 7 times “innovation”, and 21 times “revolution”. The authors concede that one should distinguish between different nanotechnologies, because “Many existing technologies do already depend on nanoscale processes. Photography and catalysis are two examples of ‘old’ (...) nanotechnologies” (ibid, p. xxvi). One might conclude here that, if all the existing nanotechnologies are “old” nanotechnologies, “new” nanotechnologies do not yet exists but are only promises of the future. However, without further explanation and distinction between presence and future, they suggest that most nanotechnologies are or will be new. Furthermore, they claim that nanotechnology (in singular) is a generator of further new technologies, since “Nanotechnology will give birth to new fields that at present are only visions of leading researchers” (ibid., p. xviii). Whenever science managers speak of nanotechnology (in singular), sophisticated distinctions seem to give way to plain claims about the present and future novelty of nanotechnology. As the NNI director Mihail Roco wrote in a 2001 report, “A revolution is occurring in science and technology […] Nanotechnology will fundamentally transform science, technology, and society. In 10 to 20 years, a significant proportion of industrial production, healthcare practice, and environmental management will be changed by the new technology.” (Roco & Bainbridge, pp. 1, 19) When they put on their hats as science managers, scientists rarely reject but mostly support such novelty claim, as did for instance the chemists George Whitesides and Paul Alivisatos in the earlier report: “Nanostructures are the entry into a new realm in physical and biological science.” (NSTC/IWGN 1999, p.. (shrink)
Philosophie ist konkret und abstrakt. Sie ist konkret im Gespür für Probleme, die jeden – oder jeden in einem bestimmten Bereich – betreffen. Sie ist abstrakt in der kritischen Formulierung und Lösung von Problemen, indem sie von besonderen Bedingungen und Voreingenommenheiten abstrahiert. Philosophie erfordert Kreativität, Phantasie und die Bereitschaft zu Unkonventionellem in der Wahl der Problemzugangsweisen. Wie alle Wissenschaften ist sie als Methode lehr- und entwickelbar, sofern ein gewisses Talent vorhanden ist. Philosophie beginnt dort, wo Wissenschaftler nicht mehr weiter fragen. (...) Was heute Philosophie ist, kann morgen Wissenschaft sein – Naturwissenschaft, Sozialwissenschaft oder Geisteswissenschaft –, Philosophie hat keine Vorlieben. (shrink)
Historians of science, like all historians, know well that every account of the history of science is necessarily an interpretation of the history of science. It requires decisions on what is important and what not, it requires ordering, contextualizing, and interpreting the available material, and presenting the results in a final form that sounds plausible to readers. Because a majority of the readers of histories of science are scientists, the degree of plausibility and acceptability depends on what scientists expect from (...) the historiography of science. As a rule, scientists expect much, too much than historians of science can fulfill without giving up their scholarly standards. Indeed, many scientist wish to read entertaining stories that make science, or their discipline, look particular attractive and interesting to a broader public. They may have their personal heroes, schools, or nations that they expect to be duly honored and celebrated. They want historians to focus on what they consider essential in order to carve socio-historical identities of disciplines or subdisciplines. They like to see progress in the historical development with one or the other revolution. They are yearning for meaning of the historical whole, such that individual scientific activities, including their own, make sense in the whole, and that one can draw extrapolations from the past to provide directions and goals for the future. In order to meet all these expectations, a meta-narrative is required that professional historians are reluctant to adopt. And so scientists are inclined to write their own histories of science for personal satisfaction. In chemistry, the most powerful meta-narrative that satisfies all the mentioned and other historiographic needs of chemists is a story about “chemistry versus nature”. It was invented and is still cultivated by chemists alone, without support and without objections thus far, from historians of chemistry. While the story has provided strong metaphysical orientation to chemists, it has caused rather alienation and hostility outside of chemistry. In this paper I will provide a brief history of the meta-narrative “chemistry versus nature”.. (shrink)
Chemical ideas about the diversity of matter in terms of elements and compound substances and their transformations have been pivotal to any scientific or pre-scientific approach ever since. From ancient natural philosophy and alchemy to modern 19th-century chemistry, these ideas were made both the basis of philosophical systems and the target of critical reflection. After temporary interruption, when modern philosophy of science materialized as a discourse on mathematical physics, philosophy of chemistry emerged anew in the 1980s and is now a (...) flourishing field in which philosophers, chemists, and historians of chemistry are engaged. While many of the old philosophical issues have been rediscovered and discussed, new issues have appeared due to shifts of general philosophical foci, alliances with historians and sociologists of science, and the changes of chemistry and its role in society. (shrink)
There is a rapidly growing public interest in nanotechnology such that people increasingly buy various books to inform themselves about nanotechnology. This paper tries to measure the public interest focus on nanotechnology and its relation to the public interest in other fields of knowledge by applying a new method. I combine formal network analysis of co-purchase book data with traditional content analysis. The method is successful in identifying the books that the public reads to be informed about nanotechnology, in distinguishing (...) between different kinds and classes of books and thereby between different interest foci and readerships and their relations. The results suggest that nanotechnology is for many the first intense contact with science and technology and that they read a great variety of different kinds of books. Rather than on general introductions to current research written by scientists or science journalists, readers focus on forecasting and visionary literature including business guides, written by software entrepreneurs and business consultants. Unlike expert readers, who connect nanotechnology to other fields of science and engineering, the broader public connects it to visions about dissolving the human/machine distinction. Although the distinction between non-fiction and science fiction is still important for readers, border-crossing authors increasingly blur it. (shrink)
Man ist sie fast schon leid, die Rede vom „Chaos“, mit der wissenschaftspublizistisch versierte Forscher bemüht sind, sich ihren Anteil am hart umkämpften Markt der Forschungsmittel und -reputation zu sichern. Die inflationäre Verkündigung von „wissenschaftlichen Revolutionen“, „Paradigmenwechseln“ und „postmoderner Wissenschaft“ mag manchem Philosophen zwar insgeheim noch schmeicheln wegen der Gebrauchs- und Marktfähigkeit - und Autorität - philosophischer Termini. So recht zu glauben sind solche Botschaften jedoch selten. Aber welcher Philosoph wollte sich da ein sachgerechtes und kritisches Urteil erlauben, ob die (...) Inanspruchnahme philosophischer Begriffe an diversen aktuellen Forschungsfronten überhaupt angemesen ist? Wer könnte es andererseits besser, als jemand, der wie Theodor Leiber sowohl in Physik als auch in Philosophie promoviert ist und dessen überarbeitete Philosophiedisseration hier zur Diskussion steht? (shrink)
Since the publication of Part I of our joint special issue on Nanotech Challenges (see Techné 8.2 & Hyle 10.2), several international conferences have taken place that brought together scholars from the humanities and the social, natural, and engineering sciences to reflect on the challenges posed by nanotechnology. These included Nanotechnology in Science, Economy and Society , University of Marburg, 13-15 January 2005; Nano-Ethics, University of South Carolina, 2-6 March 2005; Nano Before There Was Nano , Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, (...) PA, 18-19 March 2005. In addition, numerous research groups worldwide, who used to investigate the science-technology-society interfaces, have put nanotechnology at the top of their agenda; international expert groups are being formed; and national centers will soon be established in the US and UK. (shrink)
Nowadays it is well known among historians of science that Francis Bacon, one of the modern defender of the experimental method, owed much of his thoughts to the chemical or alchemical tradition (cf. e.g., Gregory 1938, West 1961, Linden 1974, and Rees 1977). In fact, alchemy, particularly in the Arabic tradition, was always based on laboratory investigations by carefully examining the results of controlled manipulation of materials.1..
("Consciousness of Time, Ecology, and Ethics") The paper investigates the impact of global environmental issues on our consciousness of time and vice versa. In Part I, I first analyze in detail how various kinds of temporal structure, such as linear progress, circularity etc., are built and what makes us select one of them as being universal. Part II discusses types of confusion and distortion of our consciousness of time due to global environmental issues. Since our consciousness of time is fundamental (...) to our way of perceiving and dealing with the environment, the topic has also an ethical dimension. In Part III, following Hans Jonas’ approach of ethics, I ask what kind of a consciousness of time is adequate for responsibly treating our environment. (shrink)
Die literarische Figur des verrückten Wissenschaftlers ist heute vor allem über Filme bekannt. Tatsächlich hat Hollywood diese Figur, die auf Englisch mad scientist genannt wird, seit seinen Gründungstagen mit zahlreichen Filmen zu einem eigenen Genre entwickelt: Ein älterer Mann mit zerzaustem Haar, Laborkittel und Brille arbeitet besessen und einsam in seinem Labor an einer großen Erfindung, mit der er die ganze Welt verändern will. Typischerweise ist dieser Wissenschaftler entweder gutwillig und naiv, nur naiv oder skrupellos. Ist er gutwillig und naiv, (...) dann will er die Welt retten oder zum Besseren wenden; doch in seiner Besessenheit und Engstirnigkeit verkennt er die Welt und die große Erfindung entgleist ihm und wird zu einer Bedrohung der Welt, bis am Ende ein guter Held die Gefahr bannt und die Welt rettet. Falls er nur naiv ist, dann entreißt ein Böser ihm die Erfindung im entscheidenen Moment, um die Welt zu bedrohen, bis am Ende der Gute die Sache wieder ins Reine bringt. Ist er hingegen skrupelos, dann treibt ihn seine Besessenheit dazu, immer größere Opfer für sein Werk zu erbringen, nicht nur, indem er sich selber gesundheitlich und finanziell aufreibt, sondern auch, indem er die Gesundheit und das Leben von Unbeteiligten aufs Spiel setzt. Treibt er dies zu weit, ohne rechtzeitig Reue zu zeigen, dann muss er am Ende um der Gerechtigkeit willen sterben, in der Regel als Opfer seiner eigenen besessenen Forschertaten. Die Figur des verrückten Wissenschaftlers ist heute so einschlägig, dass sie das öffentliche Bild der Wissenschaft in der westlichen Welt entscheidend mitgeprägt hat. Das ärgert natürlich die Wissenschaftler, die darum heftigst auf Hollywood schimpfen. Doch Hollywood hat nur aufgegriffen, stereotypisch vereinfacht und bilderreich ausgemalt, was Schriftsteller des 19. Jahrhunderts in fast allen westlichen Ländern in Form von Romanen, Theaterstücken, Kurzgeschichten und Gedichten vorgebildet haben. Denn der verrückte Wissenschaftler ist tatsächlich eine literarische Erfindung des 19.. (shrink)
Legal regulation has a substantial impact on the development of technologies. Depending on its scope, structure, and effectiveness, regulation can essentially shape the research, development, production, commercialization, and consumption of emerging technologies in various ways. The lack of regulation, or of corresponding enforcement, can lead to the infringement of rights, harm to workers, consumers, and the environment, and to the neglect of the public interest. On the other hand, too strict regulations, based on incomplete information or excessive caution, may equally (...) cause harm by omitting the potential benefits or by distorting and delaying the technological development. At the current stage, nanotechnologies affect many areas of law: occupational health and safety, environ-. (shrink)
According to ‘standard histories’ of nanotechnology, the colorful pictures of atoms produced by scanning probe microscopists since the 1980s essentially inspired visions of molecular nanotechnology. In this paper, I provide an entirely different account that, nonetheless, refers to aesthetic inspiration, First, I argue that the basic idea of molecular nanotechnology, i.e., producing molecular devices, has been the goal of supramolecular chemistry that emerged earlier, without being called nanotechnology. Secondly, I argue that in supramolecular chemistry the production of molecular devices was (...) inspired by an aesthetic phenomenon of gestalt switch, by certain images that referred to both molecules and ordinary objects, and thus symbolically bridged the two worlds. This opened up a new way of perceiving and drawing molecular images and new approaches to chemical synthesis. Employing Umberto Eco’s semiotic theory of aesthetics, I analyze the gestalt switch and the inspiration to build molecular devices and to develop a new sign language for supramolecular chemistry. More generally, I argue that aesthetic phenomena can play an important role in directing scientific research and that aesthetic theories can help understand such dynamics, such that they need to be considered in philosophy of science. (shrink)
Is chemistry primarily about things or about processes, about chemical substances or about chemical reactions? Is a chemical reaction defined by the change of certain substances, or are substances defined by their characteristic chemical reactions? What appears to be a play on words to the modern scientist, is actually one of the most fundamental ontological question since antiquity, prompted by the most radical change – the chemical change or the ‘coming-to-be and passing-away’ as Aristotle’s treatise on theoretical chemistry came to (...) be known. The question has bothered philosophers ever since, who were not satisfied with the much too simplistic answer of atomism, according to which the basic elements of nature are atoms. (shrink)