Metaphor in Chemistry: An Examination of Chemical Metaphor


Authors
Farzad Mahootian
Fordham University (PhD)
Abstract
The function of metaphor in science has been labeled as decorative, persuasive, heuristic, instrumental, facilitating or obstructing. It has sometimes been regarded as inspiring, provoking, perverting or destroying rational thought. Metaphor’s positive role has been noted by philosophers, historians of chemistry, and science education researchers. It has been hailed as a descriptive and explanatory device that stimulates and shapes concept development. I discuss how metaphor functions in science generally, then refine this idea through an examination metaphor’s role in chemical thinking in three contexts: the history and philosophy of chemistry, laboratory research practice, and chemical education. I aim to show how metaphor is already operative in the chemist’s use of the concept of chemical element and that this understanding characterizes chemical thinking in general. The chapter concludes with a discussion of a specifically chemical understanding of metaphor.
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