What is an element? What is the periodic table? And what does quantum mechanics contribute to the question?

Foundations of Chemistry 14 (1):69-81 (2012)

Authors
Abstract
This article considers two important traditions concerning the chemical elements. The first is the meaning of the term “element” including the distinctions between element as basic substance, as simple substance and as combined simple substance. In addition to briefly tracing the historical development of these distinctions, I make comments on the recent attempts to clarify the fundamental notion of element as basic substance for which I believe the term “element” is best reserved. This discussion has focused on the writings of Fritz Paneth which are here analyzed from a new perspective. The other tradition concerns the reduction of chemistry to quantum mechanics and an understanding of chemical elements through their microscopic components such as protons, neutrons and electrons. I claim that the use of electronic configurations has still not yet settled the question of the placement of several elements and discuss an alternative criterion based on maximizing triads of elements. I also point out another possible limitation to the reductive approach, namely the failure, up to now, to obtain a derivation of the Madelung rule. Mention is made of some recent similarity studies which could be used to clarify the nature of ‘elements’. Although it has been suggested that the notion of element as basic substance should be considered in terms of fundamental particles like protons and electrons, I resist this move and conclude that the quantum mechanical tradition has not had much impact on the question of what is an element which remains an essentially philosophical issue
Keywords Element  Basic substance  Paneth  Quantum mechanics  Periodic table  Madelung rule
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10698-011-9124-y
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 39,545
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism.Tuomas Tahko - 2017 - In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Synthese Library. pp. 29-45.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Response to Vollmer’s Review of Minds and Molecules.Eric Scerri - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (2):391-398.
On the Rightful Place for He Within the Periodic Table.Octavio Novaro - 2008 - Foundations of Chemistry 10 (1):3-12.
Patching Physics and Chemistry Together.Robert C. Bishop - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):710-722.
The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.John G. Cramer - 1986 - Reviews of Modern Physics 58 (3):647-687.
Lavoisier and Mendeleev on the Elements.Robin Findlay Hendry - 2004 - Foundations of Chemistry 7 (1):31-48.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2011-10-17

Total views
47 ( #157,502 of 2,325,466 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #922,770 of 2,325,466 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature