Foundations of Chemistry 14 (3):235-243 (2012)

Authors
Joseph E. Earley
Georgetown University
Abstract
Intra-molecular connectivity (that is, chemical structure) does not emerge from computations based on fundamental quantum-mechanical principles. In order to compute molecular electronic energies (of C 3 H 4 hydrocarbons, for instance) quantum chemists must insert intra-molecular connectivity “by hand.” Some take this as an indication that chemistry cannot be reduced to physics: others consider it as evidence that quantum chemistry needs new logical foundations. Such discussions are generally synchronic rather than diachronic —that is, they neglect ‘historical’ aspects. However, systems of interest to chemists generally are metastable . In many cases chemical systems of a given elemental composition may exist in any one of several different metastable states depending on the history of the system. Molecular structure generally depends on contingent historical circumstances of synthesis and separation, rather than solely or mainly on relative energies of alternative stable states, those energies in turn determined by relationships among components. Chemical structure is usually ‘kinetically-determined’ rather than ‘thermodynamically-determined.’ For instance, cyclical hydrocarbon ring-systems (as in cyclopropene) are produced only in special circumstances. Adequate theoretical treatments must take account of the persistent effects of such contingent historical events whenever they are relevant—as they generally are in chemistry.
Keywords Synchronic  Diachronic  Isomers  Chemical structure  W*-algebra  Allene  Propyne  Propadiene  Philosophy of chemistry  Metastable  Potential energy surfaces
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DOI 10.1007/s10698-012-9146-0
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References found in this work BETA

Physicalism, or Something Near Enough.Jaegwon Kim - 2005 - Princeton University Press.
Ontological Reduction and Molecular Structure.Robin Findlay Hendry - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (2):183-191.
Synchronic and Diachronic Emergence.Paul Humphreys - 2008 - Minds and Machines 18 (4):431-442.

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Citations of this work BETA

A New ‘Idea of Nature’ for Chemical Education.Joseph E. Earley - 2013 - Science & Education 22 (7):1775-1786.
Ontological Status of Time in Chemistry.N. Sukumar - 2020 - Foundations of Chemistry 22 (3):353-361.
How Properties Hold Together in Substances.Joseph E. Earley - 2016 - In Eric Scerri & Grant Fisher (eds.), Essays in Philosophy of Chemistry. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 199-216.

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