Whole-Parts Strategies in Quantum Chemistry: Some Philosophical and Mereological Lessons

Hyle: International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry 20 (1):141-163 (2014)
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Abstract

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.

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