The creators of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics developed a conception of processes which bears on metaphysical discussions of change, occurrents, and continuants and merits the attention of contemporary analytic metaphysicians. It concerns the macroscopic domain, from which metaphysicians normally take their examples, and is unjustly ignored on the grounds that it is not ‘fundamental science’. Why this often-voiced view should disqualify just thermodynamics, and not the broad range of considerations normally raised, is a moot point. But even if there were (...) an adequate reductive argument, that wouldn’t eliminate the ontological claims. It is argued that processes cannot be defined as changes in the state of enduring objects, but should be considered autonomous entities. The relational character of processes involving several continuants is developed, alongside their mereological features and their relation to space and time. Some aspects of the historical development of the notions of reversible and irreversible processes in thermodynamics are taken up in the course of the discussion, but the paper is not concerned with the mathematical foundations of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics. 1 Introduction2 Change3 Distinguishing Processes from States4 Causings5 The Relational Character and Mereological Structure of Processes6 Concluding Comments. (shrink)
I criticize the treatment of natural kinds as some sort of object, advocated in a recent paper by Alexander Bird. The arguments he gives for regimenting an illustrative statement featuring chemical kinds in his preferred manner are not conclusive, and his criticisms of an alternative strategy involving universally quantified sentences fail. This is important because of the widespread but poorly supported assumption that expressions of natural kinds should be treated as singular referring terms.
New perspectives on Pierre Duhem’s The aim and structure of physical theory Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9467-3 Authors Anastasios Brenner, Department of Philosophy, Paul Valéry University-Montpellier III, Route De Mende, 34199 Montpellier cedex 5, France Paul Needham, Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden David J. Stump, Department of Philosophy, University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA Robert Deltete, Department of Philosophy, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122-1090, USA Journal Metascience (...) Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796 Journal Volume Volume 20 Journal Issue Volume 20, Number 1. (shrink)
According to microessentialism, it is necessary to resort to microstructure in order to adequately characterise chemical substances such as water. But the thesis has never been properly supported by argument. Kripke and Putnam, who originally proposed the thesis, suggest that a so-called stereotypical characterisation is not possible, whereas one in terms of microstructure is. However, the sketchy outlines given of stereotypical descriptions hardly support the impossibility claim. On the other hand, what naturally stands in contrast to microscopic description is description (...) in macroscopic terms, and macroscopic characterisations of water are certainly possible. This suffices to counter the claim that microdescriptions are necessary. Whether it counters the impossibility claim depends on whether all macroscopic descriptions are stereotypical (stereotypical descriptions presumably being macroscopic). In so far as systematic import of “stereotypical” can be determined, it would seem not. But some macroscopic characterisations have definite affinity with everyday knowledge, which presumably stands in conflict with the spirit of the impossibility claim. Since what is characterised are properties expressed by predicates like “is water”, the necessity of identity has no bearing here, and matters of interpretation pose problems for claims to the effect that science fixes the extension of “water” as ordinarily understood. (shrink)
‘Water is H 2 O’ is naturally construed as an equivalence. What are the things to which the two predicates ‘is water’ and ‘is H 2 O’ apply? The equivalence presupposes that substance properties are distinguished from phase properties. A substance like water (H 2 O) exhibits various phases (solid, liquid, gas) under appropriate conditions, and a given (say liquid) phase may comprise several substances. What general features distinguish substance from phase properties? I tackle these questions on the basis of (...) an interpretation of a theorem of thermodynamics known as Gibbs' phase rule which systematically relates these two kinds of feature of matter. The interpretation develops the idea that the things substance and phase predicates apply to are quantities of matter which sustain mereological relations and operations and exploits these mereological features in distinguishing the two kinds of property. Gibbs' phase rule is a macroscopic principle applicable for macroscopic intervals of time. Bringing intervals of time into the picture calls for a more detailed consideration of the relation between macroscopic equilibria and the corresponding dynamic equilibria at the microlevel and throws into question the simple idea that quantities can always be regarded as collections of molecules. The account provides some insight into how the continuous, macroscopic conception of matter (‘gunk’) is reconciled with the discrete microscopic conception and illuminates the interpretation of substances present in mixtures. (shrink)
In response to difficulties in understanding the notion of chemical substance at issue in Gibbs’ phase rule, there is a long tradition of reformulating the simple statement of the rule. The leading idea is to rewrite the rule with a term for the number of substances actually present and to introduce additional terms making explicit the various kinds of restrictions which in the original formulation are taken to be incorporated into Gibbs’ notion of the number of independent substances. Although the (...) number of independent substances cannot in general be interpreted as the number of substances actually present, it is not an entirely derivative concept as the authors of the reformulations sometimes seem to presuppose. In particular, it is doubtful whether the number of substances actually present is a clearly delimited concept which can be determined prior to the application of the phase rule. In that case, the phase rule provides a useful source of information for the determination of the number and nature of the substances actually present in a mixture which should be properly reflected in an adequate interpretation of Gibbs’ notion of independent substances. For this purpose, I propose a mereological interpretation of the way independent substances are related to the substances actually present which makes sense of the fact that the former are not uniquely fixed but can be chosen from the latter in several ways. (shrink)
A view of individuals as constituted of quantities of matter, both understood as continuants enduring over time, is elaborated in some detail. Constitution is a three-place relation which can't be collapsed to identity because of the place-holder for a time and because individuals and quantities of matter have such a radically different character. Individuals are transient entities with limited lifetimes, whereas quantities are permanent existents undergoing change in physical and chemical properties from time to time. Coincidence, considered as a matter (...) of occupying the same place, is developed, alongside sameness of constitutive matter, as a criterion of identity for individuals. Quantities satisfy the mereological criterion of identity, applicable to entities subject to mereological relations and operations such as regions of space and intervals of time. A time-dependent analogue of mereological parthood is defined for individuals, in terms of which analogues of the other mereological relations can be defined. But it is argued that there is no analogue of the mereological operation of summation for individuals. (shrink)
In a recent critique of the doctrine of emergentism championed by its classic advocates up to C. D. Broad, Jaegwon Kim (Philosophical Studies 63:31–47, 1999) challenges their view about its applicability to the sciences and proposes a new account of how the opposing notion of reduction should be understood. Kim is critical of the classic conception advanced by Nagel and uses his new account in his criticism of emergentism. I question his claims about the successful reduction achieved in the sciences (...) and argue that his new account has not improved on Nagel’s and that the critique of emergentism he bases on it is question-begging in important respects. (shrink)
Late nineteenth‐century opponents of atomism questioned whether the evidence required any notion of an atom. In this spirit, Duhem developed an account of the import of chemical formulas that is clearly neutral on the atomic question rather than antiatomistic. The argument is supplemented with specific inadequacies of atomic theories of chemical combination and considerably strengthened by the theory of chemical combination provided by thermodynamics. Despite possible counterevidence available at the time, which should have tempered some of Duhem's concluding remarks, there (...) was no atomic theory of chemical combination, which is wholly a product of the twentieth century. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, SE‐106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
In this article we critically evaluate Robin Le Poidevin's recent attempt to set out an argument for the ontological reduction of chemistry independently of intertheoretic reduction. We argue, firstly, that the argument he envisages applies only to a small part of chemistry, and that there is no obvious way to extend it. We argue, secondly, that the argument cannot establish the reduction of chemistry, properly so called.
In a recent article in this journal (Foundations of Chemistry, 7 (2005), 125–148) Lombardi and Labarca call into question a thesis of ontological reduction to which several writers on reduction subscribe despite rejecting a thesis of epistemological reduction. Lombardi and Labarca advocate instead a pluralistic ontology inspired by Putnam’s internal realism. I suggest that it is not necessary to go so far, and that a more critical view of the ontological reduction espoused by the authors they criticise circumvents the need (...) to resort to their radical alternative. (shrink)
Some points are made aboutsubstance properties in their role ofintroducing mass terms. In particular, twoconditions of distributivity and cumulativityof mass predicates expressing these propertiesare not the independent pair they first appearto be. A classification of macroscopicsubstance concepts is developed. This needs tobe complemented in some way by the introductionof a modal qualification reminiscent ofAristotle's distinction between actual andpotential presence of substances in a mixture. Consideration of the latter feature hasprompted Joe Earley to raise the question ofwhether there is any salt (...) in the sea. I try toargue that there is. (shrink)
Chemistry deals with substances and their transformations. School chemistry provides a picture of this in terms of small balls called atoms and ball-and-stick structures called molecules which, despite its crudity, has been taken to justifiably reflect a reductionist conception of macroscopic concepts like the chemical substances and chemical reactions. But with the recent interest in chemistry within the philosophy of science, an extensive and determined criticism has developed of the idea that the macroscopic world has been, or is likely to (...) be, reduced to microscopic theory. From this perspective, it is of interest to see macroscopic ontology treated autonomously. I try to take a first few steps towards spelling this out. It involves recognising entities falling into two broad categories: continuants-things which can have different properties at different times — and processes — things whose temporal parts may have different features, but which themselves stand in contrast to continuants in this respect. The character of each and their interrelations depends on their mereological structure of parts, the exploration of which is one of the prime purposes of the paper. (shrink)
Philosophers frequently cite Dalton's chemical atomism, and its nineteenth century developments, as a prime example of inference to the best explanation. This was a controversial issue in its time. But the critics are dismissed as positivist‐inspired antirealists with no interest in explanation. Is this a reasonable assessment?
During the 19th century atomism was a controversial issue in chemistry. It is an oversimplification to dismiss the critics' arguments as all falling under the general positivist view that what can't be seen can't be. The more interesting lines of argument either questioned whether any coherent notion of an atom had ever been formulated or questioned whether atoms were ever really given any explanatory role. At what point, and for what reasons, did atomistic hypotheses begin to explain anything in chemistry? (...) It is argued that 19th-century atomic accounts of constant proportions and isomerism had little to offer, whereas a non-atomic explanation of chemical combination was developed. Not until the turn of the century did atomism begin to do serious explanatory work in chemistry. (shrink)
The bulk of Duhem's writing which bears on the understanding of mixtures suggests he adopted an Aristotelian position which he opposed only to the atomic view. A third view from antiquity-that of the Stoics-seems not to be taken into account. But his lines of thought are not always as explicit as could be wished. The Stoic view is considered here from a perspective which Duhem might well have adopted. This provides a background against which his somewhat unorthodox Aristotelianism might be (...) understood. (shrink)
What are the criteria determining the individuation of chemical kinds? Recent philosophical discussion, which puts too much emphasis on microstructure, seems to presuppose a reductionist conception not motivated by the scientific facts. The present article traces the development of the traditional notion of a substance with the rise of modern chemistry from the end of the 18th century with a view to correcting this speculative distortion.
In this rejoinder to Eric Scerri's response to my first comment on his paper on the reduction of chemistry to physics, the main point concerns laws in chemistry. But other themes touched upon include the assumptions involved in ab initio calculations, the question of what is reduced to what on Scerri's view, and the significance he attaches to the term "naturalism".
Bodies as conceived in macroscopic theories are loosely spoken of as participating in processes. But are there any systematic reasons for regarding processes as part of the ontology of macroscopic theory? The present paper suggests that suitable motivation can be found within a project of describing a phenomenological, macroscopic ontology for equilibrium thermodynamics, and outlines some aspects of the interrelation between continuant bodies and processes.
Eric Scerri has proposed an account of how reduction might be understood in chemistry. He claims to build on a general aspect of Popper's views which survives his otherwise heavy criticism, namely adherence to actual scientific practice. This is contrasted with Nagel's conception, which Scerri takes to be the philosopher's standard notion. I argue that his proposal, interesting though it is, is not so foreign to ideas in the tradition within which Nagel wrote as Scerri would have us believe. Moreover, (...) actual scientific practice can be commandeered in support of a holistic conception which Popper contrasted with what he saw as the admirable strivings towards reduction in science. (shrink)
Duhem is often described as an anti-realist or instrumentalist. A contrary view has recently been expressed by Martin (1991) (Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist (La Salle, IL: Open Court)), who suggests that this interpretation makes it difficult to understand the vantage point from which Duhem argues in La science allemande (1915) that deduction, however impeccable, cannot establish truths unless it begins with truths. In the same spirit, the present paper seeks to establish that (...) Duhem is at any rate not the kind of anti-realist he is often presented as being, and that his views are like those Quine sees fit to call realist. An interpretation of Duhem's views on explanation and precision in science, and their bearing on the epistemological status of theory, is advanced which leads naturally into his critique of conventionalism. His attitude towards atomism, which should not be judged from a post-1925 perspective, is considered part of the unified view he strove after and appropriately called Duhem's physicalism, standing in contrast to the kind of reductionist conception usually associated with atomism. (shrink)
In 1904 Joachim published an influential paper dealing with 'Aristotle's Conception of Chemical Combination' which has provided the basis of much more recent studies. About the same time, Duhem developed what he regarded as an essentially Aristotelian view of chemistry, based on his understanding of phenomenological thermodynamics. He does not present a detailed textual analysis, but rather emphasises certain general ideas. Joachim's classic paper contains obscurities which I have been unable to fathom and theses which do not seem to be (...) fully explained, or which at least seem difficult for the modern reader to understand. An attempt is made here to provide a systematic account of the Aristotelian theory of the generation of substances by the mixing of elements by reconsidering Joachim's treatment in the light of the sort of points which most interested Duhem.The work described in this paper was undertaken with a view to providing a basis for presenting, evaluating and criticising Duhem's understanding of what was for him modern (i.e. 19th-century) chemistry. This latter project will be taken up on another occasion. I hope the present paper will be of some value to a broader philosophical readership in so far as it provides a fairly clear conception of matter which might be called Aristotelian, even if it is not precisely Aristotle's, and raises certain clear problems of interpretation. It may also be of interest to historians of chemistry in suggesting an analysis of the old chemical notion of a mixt independent of atomic theories. (shrink)
Aristotelian ideas are presented in a favorable light in Duhem's historical works surveying the history of the notion of chemical combination (1902) and the development of mechanics (1903). The importance Duhem was later to ascribe to Aristotelian ideas as reflected in the weight he attached to medieval science is well known. But the Aristotelian influence on his own mature philosophical perspective, and more particularly on his concern for logical coherence and the development of his ontological views, is not generally acknowledged. (...) There are, however, clear pointers in this direction in these two earlier books on the history of science, which are unashamedly written in such a way as to project the author's own view of what is important in the relevant areas. Thermodynamics was the pinnacle of Duhemian science, and its interpretation requires the reinstatement, in Duhem's view, of Aristotelian conceptions which have been unfashionable since the rise of certain ideas with the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The present paper is not primarily an exposition of these Aristotelian views of Duhem's, but an attempt to pursue the interpretation of a macroscopic, thermodynamical perspective on chemical substances from an elementary viewpoint in the spirit of Duhem (1902), sometimes being more definite than Duhem seems to be, and occasionally taking issue with him on certain points. Some of his leading ideas will determine the general approach, but views and problems will also be taken from modern textbooks in an attempt to lay down the general lines along which an explicit ontology--in Quine's sense--of macroscopic theory might be developed. (shrink)
Nancy Cartwright has drawn attention to how explanations are actually given in mathematical sciences. She argues that these procedures support an antirealist thesis that fundamental explanatory laws are not true. Moreover, she claims to be be essentially following Duhem's line of thought in developing this thesis. Without wishing to detract from the importance of her observations, it is suggested that they do not necessarily require the antirealist thesis. The antirealist interpretation of Duhem is also disputed. It is argued that Duhemian (...) points, often understood antirealistically, bear a realist construal, and that antirealist interpretations of Duhem typically run into problems of consistency or of reducing his position to absurdity. (shrink)