Chemistry as the basic science

Foundations of Chemistry 23 (1):69-83 (2020)
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Abstract

The paper deals with the philosophy of science and technology from a new perspective. The analysis connects closely to the novel approach to scientific research called practical realism of the late Estonian philosopher of science and chemistry Rein Vihalemm. From his perspective, science is not only theoretical but even more clearly a practical activity. This kind of practice-based approach puts chemistry rather than physics into the position of the most typical science as chemistry has a dual character resting on both constructive-hypothetico-deductive and classifying-historico-descriptive types of cognition. Chemists deal with finding out the laws of nature just like the physicists do. However, in addition to this chemistry deals with substances or stuff that is rather an activity typical to natural history. The analysis of the dual character of chemistry brings forward the need to analyse philosophically also the reasons why physics has held the position of the model science so far. The problem unfolds in the context of practical realism. However, some earlier observations concerning the dual character of chemistry influenced us as well, i.e. by Friedrich Paneth, Michael Polanyi and Edward Caldin. More recently, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Jonathan Simon have given their own explanation of why and how chemistry has a dual character. From their perspective, chemistry is a perfect technical science as it aims at applications, literally at producing something new. Bensaude-Vincent and Simon call their approach operational realism. The latter, however, does not differ from practical realism.

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References found in this work

How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Order out of chaos: man's new dialogue with nature.I. Prigogine - 1984 - Boulder, CO: Random House. Edited by Isabelle Stengers & I. Prigogine.
Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.Michael Polanyi - 1958 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mary Jo Nye.

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