Reflections on the philosophy of chemistry and a rallying call for our discipline

Foundations of Chemistry 2 (3):195-205 (2000)
Biology in the popular mind remains tied to the doctrines of the struggle forsurvival and the survival of the fittest. Physics is linked to the heat deathof the universe – the inexorable march towards greater disorder,increasing entropy. Our field, on the other hand, focuses on orderedstructures, molecules and crystals, and their aggregates, and what holdsthem together. The philosophy of chemistry is centered on affinity,cohesion, the architecture of the very small, attraction, harmony, and, ifyou permit, beauty. Our discipline is the voice of the twenty-first century,a message, a clarion call of life, of hope. This paper addresses failures ofreductionist and deterministic claims in the face of the cussedness ofchemical facts. It will examine uncertainty principles, Edmund Whitaker'spostulates of impotence, Gerald Holton's themata, Isaiah Berlin's warning –and the wisdom of the Chinese. We can teach the world the need for humilityin the face of the wonder and mystery of our world
Keywords Philosophy   Chemistry/Food Science, general   Physical Chemistry   Philosophy of Science   History
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DOI 10.1023/A:1009946914577
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