What is a chemical property?

Synthese 155 (3):293 - 305 (2007)


Despite the currently perceived urgent need among contemporary philosophers of chemistry for adjudicating between two rival metaphysical conceptual frameworks—is chemistry primarily a science of substances or processes?—this essay argues that neither provides us with what we need in our attempts to explain and comprehend chemical operations and phenomena. First, I show the concept of a chemical property can survive the abandoning of the metaphysical framework of substance. While this abandonment means that we will need to give up essential properties, contingent properties can give us all the stability we need to account for chemical continuity as well as change. I then go on to show that this attention to clusters of contingent properties does not force us into the arms of an alternative process metaphysical framework either. Finally, I sketch a view I call particularism with respect to chemical properties on analogy with moral particularism. I conclude by sketching some of the implications for the field of philosophy of chemistry of my proposal that we abandon our interest in the metaphysical question of what chemistry is primarily about in favor of a broadly scientific particularism with respect to kinds and properties.

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Nalini Bhushan
Smith College

References found in this work

Naming and Necessity.S. Kripke - 1972 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (4):665-666.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 2003 - In John Heil (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.

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