Mereology is the logic of part—whole concepts as they are used in many different contexts. The old chemical metaphysics of atoms and molecules seems to fit classical mereology very well. However, when functional attributes are added to part specifications and quantum mechanical considerations are also added, the rules of classical mereology are breached in chemical discourses. A set theoretical alternative mereology is also found wanting. Molecular orbital theory requires a metaphysics of affordances that also stands outside classical mereology.
This paper widens the scope of our previous paper (Harré and Llored in Found Chem 13:63–76, 2011) by scrutinizing how whole/parts relations are involved in the study of molecules. In doing so, we point out two mereological fallacies which endanger both philosophical and chemical inferences. We also further explore how the concept of affordance is related to our mereological investigation. We then refer to quantum chemistry in order to pave the way for a new mereological approach for chemistry.
This paper first queries what type of concept of emergence, if any, could be connected with the different chemical activities subsumed under the label ‘quantum chemistry’. In line with Roald Hoffmann, we propose a ‘rotation to research laboratory’ in order to point out how practitioners hold a molecular whole, its parts, and the surroundings together within their various methods when exploring chemical transformation. We then identify some requisite contents that a concept of emergence must incorporate in order to be coherent (...) from the standpoint of the scientific practices involved. In this respect, we finally propose a relational form of emergence which pays attention to the constitutive role of the modes of intervention and to the co-definition of the levels of organization. No metaphysical distinction between the higher and basic levels of organization is supposed, but only a plurality of modes of access. Moreover, these modes of access are not construed as mere ways of revealing intrinsic patterns of organization but, on the contrary, are considered to be active elements on which the constitution of those patterns depends. What is at stake in this paper is therefore not an ontological form of emergence but an agnostic one which fits what chemists do in their daily work. (shrink)
Mulliken proposed an Aufbauprinzip for the molecules on the basis of molecular spectroscopy while establishing, point by point, his concept of molecular orbit. It is the concept of electronic state which becomes the lever for his attribution of electronic configurations to a molecule. In 1932, the concept of orbit was transmuted into that of the molecular orbital to integrate the probabilistic approach of Born and to achieve quantitative accuracy. On the basis of the quantum works of Hund, Wigner, Lennard-Jones and (...) group theory, he suggested the fragment method to establish the characteristics of molecular orbital for polyatomic molecules. These developments make it possible to bring elements of thought on the relation between a molecular whole and its parts . An operational realism combined with the second law of thermodynamics can pave the way for interesting tracks in the mereological study of chemical systems. (shrink)
This paper aims to connect philosophy of chemistry, green chemistry, and moral philosophy. We first characterize chemistry by underlining how chemists: co-define chemical bodies, operations, and transformations; always refer to active and context-sensitive bodies to explain the reactions under study; and develop strategies that require and intertwine with a molecular whole, its parts, and the surroundings at the same time within an explanation. We will then point out how green chemists are transforming their current activities in order to act upon (...) the world without jeopardizing life. This part will allow us to highlight that green chemistry follows the three aforementioned characteristics while including the world as a partner, as well as biodegradability and sustainability concerns, into chemical practices. In the third part of this paper, we will show how moral philosophy can help green chemists: identify the consequentialist assumptions that ground their reasoning; and widen the scope of their ethical considerations by integrating the notion of care and that of vulnerability into their arguments. In the fourth part of the paper, we will emphasize how, in return, this investigation could help philosophers querying consequentialism as soon as the consequences of chemical activities over the world are taken into account. Furthermore, we will point out how the philosophy of chemistry provides philosophers with new arguments concerning the key debate about the ‘intrinsic value’ of life, ecosystems and the Earth, in environmental ethics. To conclude, we will highlight how mesology, that is to say the study of ‘milieux’, and the concept of ‘ecumeme’ proposed by the philosopher and geographer Augustin Berque, could become important both for green chemists and moral philosophers in order to investigate our relationships with the Earth. (shrink)
How do chemists assign numbers to chemicals properties? What do these numbers refer to? To answer these questions, we will first point out both the context-dependence of chemicals and the epistemic limitations of chemistry. We will then investigate how chemists use various procedures to stabilize measurements and how they use mixtures of samples as “references” in order to determine the amount of different chemicals in a sample. This study will enable us to query how it is possible for chemists to (...) change one factor while holding others constant at each step of the measurement procedure. This part of our work which will lead us to query the meaning of the ceteris paribus clause and the very possibility of making holistic inferences in the domain of chemistry. To conclude, we will highlight how methodological pluralism developed by chemists makes it possible for a relational type of consistency to emerge. (shrink)
In recent publications, Harré and Llored Challenges of cultural psychology, Routledge, London, pp 189–206, 2018a; Philosophy, 93:167–186, 2018b; The analysis of practices, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2019) take the role of philosophy of science as a digging out of the ‘hinges’, that are the tacit elements of a discipline. In this perspective, the philosophy of chemistry consists, at least partly, in making explicit the hinges on which chemistry turns and in examining their origins and logical status. In this (...) paper, we propose to query Harré and Llored’s research approach in the case study of the element chlorine. Whereas most early nineteenth-century textbooks define the element as the endpoint of chemical decomposition, the controversy surrounding the element chlorine reveals implicit criteria that surpass operational indivisibility. From 1810 onwards, Davy argued that chlorine was a simple substance; yet, even though it had been known to be indecomposable using the strongest instruments available, the widespread acceptance of chlorine took until 1816–1818. The main factor that contributed to the resolution of the debate was the discovery of iodine, an analogous element which provided new theoretical coherence between explanations of different phenomena :247–258, 1959). Thus, the idea that elements should qualitatively resemble each other is an implicit belief which appears to have been shared by many prominent chemists of the time, despite the fact that it was not stated as part of the definition of the chemical element. Could we assert that this idea was a ‘hinge’ around which the notion of chemical element revolved? Our talk will answer this question. (shrink)
Chemists do not aim at testing preconceptions or theoretical hypotheses only; they first and foremost produce and determine the object of chemical investigation: they learn through making. They never cease to create and stabilize heterogeneous devices, methods, models, and theories in order to act upon the world. Chemical bodies cannot be studied in isolation; their properties constitutively depend on what surrounds and acts upon them. Starting from the specificity of chemical practices, this paper investigates the meaning of consistency, inconsistency, and (...) that of the ceteris paribus clause, in this domain of science. In so doing, it defends the idea that studying what we call ‘a lack of consistency’ should always include the scrutiny of: the way a particular scientific practice is stabilized, and the ontological or pragmatic assumptions about the entities and processes upon which this practice revolves. (shrink)
This paper explores how chemists are transforming their own current background in order to act upon the world without jeopardizing life. In this respect, I will envisage science as both a system of propositions and a set of engaged practices. The scrutiny of chemical innovations will allow me to query the concepts of paradigm and that of scientific community . In doing so, I will connect the philosophy of science with the philosophy of technology so as to think about our (...) relation with the world. (shrink)
This volume connects chemistry and philosophy in order to face questions raised by chemistry in our present world. The idea is first to develop a kind of philosophy of chemistry which is deeply rooted in the exploration of chemical activities. We thus work in close contact with chemists. Following this line of reasoning, the first part of the book encourages current chemists to describe their workaday practices while insisting on the importance of attending to methodological, metrological, philosophical, and epistemological questions (...) related to their activities. It deals with sustainable chemistry, chemical metrology, nanochemistry, and biochemistry, among other crucial topics. In doing so, those chemists invite historians and philosophers to provide ideas for future developments. In a nutshell, this part is a call for forthcoming collaborations focused on instruments and methods, that is on ways of doing chemistry. The second part of the book illustrates the multifarious ways to study chemistry and even proposes new approaches to doing so. Each approach is interesting and incomplete but the emergent whole is richer than any of its components. Analytical work needs socio-historical expertise as well as many other approaches in order to keep on investigating chemistry to greater and greater depth. This heterogeneity provides a wide set of methodological perspectives not only about current chemical practices but also about the ways to explore them philosophically. Each approach is a resource to study chemistry and to reflect upon what doing philosophy of science can mean. In the last part of the volume, philosophers and chemists propose new concepts or reshape older ones in order to think about chemistry. The act of conceptualization itself is queried as well as the relationships between concepts and chemical activities. Prefaced by Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Roald Hoffmann, and by the President of the International Society for the Philosophy of Chemistry, Rom Harrè, this volume is a plea for the emergence of a collective cleverness and aims to foster inventiveness. (shrink)
Philosophers mainly refer to quantum chemistry in order to address questions about the reducibility or autonomy of chemistry relative to quantum physics, and to argue for or against ontological emergence. To make their point, they scrutinize quantum approximations and formalisms as if they were independent of the questions at stake. This paper proposes a return to history and to the laboratory so as to emphasize how quantum chemists never cease to negotiate the relationships between a molecule, its parts, and its (...) environment. This investigation will enable us to draw methodological conclusions about the role of history within philosophical studies, and to examine how quantum chemistry can clarify important philosophical and mereological issues related to the emergence/reduction debate, or to the way instruments and contexts are involved in the material making and the formal description of wholes and parts. (shrink)
In line with their previous studies dedicated to quantum chemistry (Gavroglu and Simões 1994, 2000; Simões and Gavroglu 1997, 2001), the last joint publication by Kostas Gavroglu and Ana Simões provides the readers not only with a fine-grained, rigorous, and highly valuable book on the history of science but also with stimulating epistemological insights about the way ‘in-between’ disciplines, to use the authors’ turn of phrase, emerge from the convergence of diverging ‘styles’ of research and heterogeneous practices. To make their (...) point, the authors divide their work into four main chapters before drawing epistemological and historiographical conclusions in the fifth and last part of their work. The first chapter entitled ‘Quantum Chemistry qua Physics: The Promises and Deadlocks of Using First Principles’ focuses mainly on German researchers’ contributions in the development of quantum chemistry. In this respect, it highlights four pioneering moments: (1) Walter Heitler and Fritz Lo. (shrink)
This paper aims to highlight how the philosophy of chemistry could be of help for rethinking Nature today. To do so, we will point out: the co-definition of chemical relations and chemical relata within chemical activities; the constitutive role of the modes of intervention in the definition, always open and provisional, of “active” chemical bodies; and the mutual dependence of the levels of organization in chemistry. We will insist on the way chemists tailor networks of interdependencies within which chemical bodies (...) and properties are context-sensitive and mutually determined by means of particular chemical operations or transformations. To conclude, we will show how the specific action of bodies upon the Earth at different scales of space and time, and how the relational definition of a chemical body, pave the way for a new understanding of Nature. (shrink)